Friday, April 30, 2010

How do Hazaras find it easier to get rid of Tribalism?

Dear Rob,
Thank you for another good lesson about how the Americans found their new community out of many individuals who were in pursuit of individual asylum in a newly explored territory. Our impression of the characteristic of the tribal community is out of our common sense, while yours is out of scientific knowledge. We talk about our daily interaction and suffering, while you are talking about intellectual research. This is why that sometimes, we fail to really understand ourselves, and sometimes, you fail to comply your intellectual finding with the reality of the ground in Afghanistan. But, perhaps, we can remedy our conceptual gap with our joint discourse and collaboration.
As far as the Hazaras are concerned, I think their support for the new change has many reasons:
1) They support democracy because of the easy reason of devolution of power, suffrage, political participation, civil and human rights, coming out of being humiliated and discriminated against, etc.
2) They feel there is a unique possibility for them to raise their voice and get their message heard around the world.
3) Because of their historical suffering, nearly most of the Hazara literate people have assumed a leftist approach of the ideologies, both Communism and Islam. As you know, most of the first generation of the Hazara intellectuals favored Communism, either Soviet’s or Maoist types. Those who remained Muslim and opposed Communism because of its Materialistic Philosophy favored the leftist interpretation of Islam such as the thoughts of Dr. Ali Shariati or Khomeini. I wonder if you have studied about Dr. Shariati’s thoughts and legacies in the Shiite Muslim community. He was educated in the West and brought the huge impact on the visions of the Shiite about Islam. He had a socialist revolutionary approach of Islam and many generations both inside and outside of Iran absorbed his thoughts either directly or indirectly. In the coming years, the person who greatly influenced the literate community of the Hazaras is Dr. Abdul Karim Sorosh, who is one the great thinkers of the world and he propounded many radical interpretations about the religious issues. He is favoring democracy and is regarded as the main theoretical father of the Iranian current reformist movement. I can say that he is one of the beacons among the literate intellectual Hazaras, regardless of having studies in religious or secular schools.
4) One of the great impacts on the visions of the Hazaras was brought about by the leader of the Hazara community during the civil war: Abdul Ali Mazari. He was a clergy, but had a very deep ethnical-political vision for the struggles of the Hazaras. He was an exceptional charismatic leader. He became the first unique Hazara leader after their defeat to Emir Abdurrahman, around a century back. He changed all religious slogans of the Hazaras into political ones. He stood against Iranian pressure that supported Masoud government. He changed the religious leaders of the Hazaras. He brought all Hazaras, regardless of their ideological perspectives together and made the first political shelter for their common ethnical claims.
5) The role of the Hazara intellectuals has also been crucial in the easy transformation of the community. They have debated on different experiences of the people and published their views widely. They have contributed a major role in establishing and supporting schools and primary education, both for boys and girls. They have published books and journals through which the public opinion has been shaped.
6) Culturally, Hazaras do not have much restrictive view on the women. The women used to be the rulers of the community before they suffered their big defeat against Emir Abdurrahman in late 1880s. There have been tens of female leaders and landlords who were the focal point of their respective communities. Ladies used to ride horse and participate in public games. Hazara women do not have any distance with their male members of the family in farming, training livestock, etc. Falling in love had been common between Hazara youth with no major reaction from the families.
7) Wide migration of the Hazaras during Soviet’s occupation is another major reason to change their lifestyle. They went to Pakistan, mostly to Quetta, where mostly the secular Hazars lived. Hazaras of Pakistan had fled the massacres of Emir Abdurrahman and had sought asylum in British India of the time. Hazaras went to Iran where they found chance to send their kids to school and partially incorporate into Iranian civilized community. Many more Hazaras went to the Western countries and learned about modern norms of life…

Anyway, now the Hazaras have much lesser problem to getting out of their tribal system… Perhaps, we can follow the discussion…
Aziz Royesh

Why canHazaras get rid of Tribalism easier?

Dear Aziz,

You are quite right about how we, Americans, view a tribal community. We have no history of being one, having begun as a group of like minded refugees, our community was based on something quite different. Additionally, most of the groups were composed of individuals that may not have been related to one another. So we looked at the "common good" whatever that meant. Thus your conclusion of tribal being an outside matter is quite correct. Thank you for that, it is an important distinction that needs to be made. It also highlights a problem that we Westerns cannot understand, that we can only debate on tribalism. We always feel we can understand a concept. While we might understand it, we cannot experience it in the same manner and as such we will always be wide of the mark in our complete understanding.
As to the Hazaras, why do you think it is easier for them to get rid of the system? Does it have to do with the way they have been treated over the generations? Or is it something else?

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Tribalism is closely related to our existence and being...

Dear Rob,
Talking about the essence of tribal community is an interesting issue. Perhaps the impression about that is not the same between an Afghan and an American. You are talking about tribalism as an outsider matter, but we are talking about that as something closely related to our existence and being. You can only debate on tribalism, but we are breathing that and we have to balance all parts of our life with that.
The image of tribalism is the main characteristic of the Afghan community. All it suffers and does, is deeply related to its tribal vision, traditions, custom, and overall culture. Religion is also a tribal one, here. Culture is the core of existence of communities. People look at everything through their cultural eyes. They interpret and contemplate everything mixed with their cultural feelings. The degree of being more or less tribal is the only difference between different ethnic communities here.
The problem of the Pashtun community seems a bit more. They have ruled a tribal system of political power for more than two and a half centuries. Now they have to preserve that power too, based on tribal ethnocentric assumptions. You can look at the Hazaras, as a comparative example: they have suffered from brutalities of the despotic anti-democratic governments. Now getting rid of this system is an opportunity for the Hazaras. Hence, they easily find it convenient to support democratic process, secular types of systems, civil society, human rights and other civil norms of life. This is for their own benefit. With such a choice, they not only lose nothing, but can gain a lot. You can find it as a catalyzer variable in the tribal institutions of the Hazara community.
However, it doesn’t mean that the Hazaras are not enjoying tribalism. They have only the chance of stepping ahead of it; while this is a bit more problematic for the Pashtuns.
The discourse on religious issues is also viewed from this perspective. Pashtuns feel that only rigid interpretations of Islam can help them preserve their existing/historical privileges, while the Hazaras find it more affordable to cross fanatical religious views to reach a better standard of life. You can find a very interesting division inside the Shiite community the majority of which is the Hazaras. The non-Hazara clergies are the forerunners to preserve old traditional religious rites and rituals, while most of the Hazara clergies prefer to support changes and reforms in their religious viewpoints and behaviors. The reason is that the power and influence of the non-Hazara clergies can continue only through traditional religious views, while the Hazara clergies think that traditional religious interpretation would push them back to the past.
Looking forward to getting your views before stepping further…
Aziz Royesh
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Can "Tribal" be used adnunct to an ethnic grouping...?

Thank you for the detailed response. I would like to reply to all, but I think it might be better to break it down into a dialogue corresponding to each of your numbered points. I also wish to thank you for the enlightenment that you are providing. My exposure to input in Afghanistan was not as comprehensive as I would have liked and you are providing me with additional information for which I am very appreciative.

1. "The question of picking and choosing between Islam and Pashtunwali is not an easy one. This is the question of entity and identity." I must confess that I had not approached this topic from the view of entity and identity. When I do it makes it much easier to understand. In the States there is a concerted effort to divorce religion from the government, often confusing the question of entity and identity. We mix the two and do not understand that distinction. This causes great consternation as too much time is spent trying to separate the two. Do you think that the term "tribal" can be used adjunct to an ethnic grouping or do we maintain tribal instincts and incorporate them into other groupings? The reason I ask, your point about how the tribal influence impacts groups extends to groups here that are based on a political belief system, specifically the subgroups we have, i.e. conservatives, liberals, extreme right wing, etc. What makes me ask is that I see close correlation in your statement "They explicitly find themselves in the quagmire of sin and guilt. They feel this is the end of the world! They do not know what will happen with their defiance, but they do not doubt of being on the right way"(although they are not referring to religion) and the statements and actions of such people here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

the controvery between Islamwali and Pashtunwali...

Dearest Rob,
I am sorry for being late in replying your kind and educative words. Actually I am using a GPRS connection which is too slow and every two three days I face an interruption or failure in the system. Anyway, this is my notes on your last words. Sorry if it is a bit too long!

Dear Rob,
1) The question of picking and choosing between Islam and Pashtunwali is not an easy one. This is the question of entity and identity. Islam is a religion. They refer that to the ordinance of Allah. They feel proud to being a Muslim, one who is chosen by Allah and bestowed by Allah. You know having a definition and interpretation about the ordinance and will of Allah is always controversial. Everyone can claim something and regard that as concrete. This is the characteristic of religious beliefs. All religions inculcate righteousness to their followers. This can easily result to dogmatism. Religious fanaticism is a well-known phenomenon. Hatred, inflexibility, arrogance, etc are common among all religious creeds.

In this regard, tribal culture is the same as the religion. Tribal dogmatism is also dividing the world into right and wrong, black and white. When these two dogmatism merge and get incorporated, it becomes difficult to clearly distinct the border of religion and culture.

Now the Pashtun community is the battlefield between harsh conflicting systems of values. They do not seem to submit to the modern system of values. Besides, they do not seem to have the chance and capability to preserve their tribal entity in the face of modern challenges. Burning schools or reaction to the women participation is an embossed pattern. This is not a natural reaction. You could not expect such a reaction 30 years ago, at the end of Monarchy regime. But now, it is shown widely. It is an indication of the harsh choice between their religious-tribal entity/identity. They explicitly find themselves in the quagmire of sin and guilt. They feel this is the end of the world! They do not know what will happen with their defiance, but they do not doubt of being on the right way: They fight for Allah, they die for Allah and they are sure that they will be awarded by Allah in hereafter.

2) There is an explicit lack of religious discourse among the Pashtun community. You cannot find even one single book which would be containing a serious debate on Islam and its relation with the exigencies of the modern world. They have never debated on the importance of beard-controlling campaign or robbing women from their ordinary rights in connection with their Islamic view. This is a major problem. Now, you as the people from the modern world, find it hard to open a discourse with them. You cannot contemplate their words and they cannot yours. There is a completely two different world. This can be noted as the conceptual gap. Money, war, threats, tolls, patronizing, caressing, intimidating, … nothing can really work there. It is not irony that they claim the rule of Sharia but never explain that to any one. They order you to merely obey and nothing else!

3) Islam doesn’t serve as the overarching political mentor. But as a religion, Islam is also full of paradoxical orders and ideas. In Islam you have the overwhelming stress on liberty, even liberty in believing in God; you also have the compulsory points which dictate everything according to the ordinance of God. I have had a wide research on Islam and other religious doctrines for more than 20 years. Still I am following my studies in this subject. It has always been interesting, educative and inspiring for me. I am teaching civic educations in my school and have authored series of textbooks on Humanism, Human Rights, Democracy, interpretation of Quran, ethics, etc. The question is the irrational dogmas which have overcome Islam. These dogmas can only get cleared by rational logical discourses. When you do not let even one word to be said, how can you define and settle the dogmas?

4) Zakat or other decrees of Islam related to the social affairs are not the core of Islam. This is clearly stated and defined by Quran itself. You have the mother verses, which are regarded as the beacons and core of guidance to Allah. They are called as “Mohkamat” (the most firm and solid ones). Among these are the faith to Allah, the order to apply justice, the respect to the Man as the Caliph of Gad, the equality of all before Allah and divine ordinance, the obedience only to Allah, the freedom in faith, the respect to all religions as the wills of Allah, the tolerance and forgiveness for the sake of Allah, etc….
You have the other verses which are called as “Motashabihat” and they are the orders which are looking at the realities and exigencies of time. Zakat is not the firm order, but it is an order which was regarded to help remedy the class division in the community. But remember, this is not the one and only order in this regard. You have many more: there are firm verses which ask to “Infaq”. Infaq means that you should bestow your wealth and belongings to the needy people if you do not need them right now. Even there are verses which states that if you save something which you do not need, while there are others who are in need of them, you will be punished by the fury of Allah.

The other word is Jihad. Jihad doesn’t mean fighting. Jihad means endeavor and effort on the way of Allah. Even it is said that learning and getting education is the best Jihad. The prophet Mohammad has a well-known quote saying that: “expressing one right word in the face of a tyrant monarch is the highest Jihad”. There is another saying of the prophet which says: “Hekmat (knowledge/deep knowledge) is the lost treasury of the faithful. He seeks and gets that even though if it is at the hands of “Kafir” (infidel).” This is a clear word which encourages the faithful to seek knowledge. If you are going to get knowledge, this is the prime need. So you have to be friend of “infidel” to get your desired knowledge. You cannot get knowledge by force or suicidal attacks….

These are the examples which show different controversial points in Islam and of course you cannot solve them without having a logical open-minded discourse.
Now, all Muslims are levying tax. They do not think if they are committing any crime. It is an example that modern findings are not something that the Muslim community can easily ignore.
In Islam you are not obliged to conduct a sensitive debate about the separation of Church and State. They can be addressed through Islamic discourses too… Perhaps this would be another critical issue that can be talked about in detail….

5) Yes, our school is primarily Hazaras. Our school is located in PD13, Kabul. It is in the western part of the city where more than two millions Hazaras are settled in two districts (6 and 13). The statistic is claimed by the municipality of Kabul and it seems to be nearly right. Our school is right at the far-ending side of the district 13 which is called “Dashti Barchi”. The Hazaras have suffered a lot throughout the tyrannical history of Afghanistan. So they are very happy to have the chance which is given to them after the fall of the Taliban. They can go to school, participate in political process, express themselves in the environment of freedom of press and freedom of expression, etc.

Last year a number of fanatical clergies stormed our school blaming it as the “center of Christianity and secularism”. It was a harsh moment. They were calling for the burning of the school and execution of the teachers. But the school and the community passed this harsh attack quite easily and successfully. They had attacked our school because some of our students and female teachers had protested against a controversial law which was designed by a fanatical clergy. This law was termed as the “rape law” in the Western press. It was regarded as insulting and defaming the women. The president bypassed Parliament and stipulated the law to attract the support of the fanatical clergies for his elections. However, the school and its supporting community stood firm and continued their work. Finally the law was revised by the Ministry of Justice and they brought more than 70 major amendments, one chapter and 17 articles were completely removed.

It was a good example of how the Hazara community has come a long way ahead in terms of their religious-cultural viewpoints. You can follow the story of that incident in my personal weblog which is linked to different international press:

Aziz Royesh

Does Islam serves as the overarching political mentor?

Dear Aziz,

I agree with you completely, I was looking to see how an Afghan saw these guys operations. I find it very interesting that they seem to pick and choose between Islam and Pashtunwali. Is it that they are looking for an answer to allow them to do what they want (i.e. the conflict between tribes and the prohibition of fighting a Muslim)?

I find your insight very helpful. While I am very much interested in Afghanistan, I fear I have come to the table to late to understand everything. This is why I try to maintain dialogue with the folks I have come to work with who are Afghan.

As to the interaction of Islam and the community. Does this occur because Islam serves as the overarching political mentor? It is very commendable that Islam retains its obligation toward the poor through the Zakat (at least in some areas). A major issue in our country has been the separation of church and state. With this separation the government generally assumes responsibilities that were previously found in religious orders, i.e. the schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc.

If I remember correctly, I believe you said your school was primarily Hazara. How do they view the conflict that is occurring. I have a number of Hazara friends, I have always found them to be very inquisitive, much more so than the other ethnic groups.

I will read you post in more detail and put together a reply. I must say that I cannot overstate my appreciation for your thoughts.


None of them can be regarded as the most dangerous!

Dear Rob Dodson,

Actually none of these figures can be regarded as the most dangerous one. They are dangerous because they enjoy all kinds of support from their social, cultural and religious stance in the Afghan community. They are not doing anything by their individual power. They are doing that because they have followers who share their view and belief, and willingly apply their command. This is a question of complex mentality among the Afghan population.

One would say that the lack of democratic institutions can provide room for the people like Mullah Omar, Haqani or Hekmatyar. They are mostly enjoying political agendas which are based on ethnocentric assumption. The religion is mostly used as a cover to support this agenda. You have well pictured the feud between Haqani and Zadran. What is that to do with religion? You can find the roots of rivalry between Mullah Omar and Karzai too in their tribal attachments. You are aware of the relation between different Pashtun tribes. In their general standpoint, they have the same feud and animosity towards the other ethnic communities which is the characteristic of all tribal communities. They are marginalized in their limited worldview. They confine the world to their own findings. They find it difficult to accept pluralistic viewpoints. This is why that they do change to Mullah Omar, Haqani or Hekmatyar. This is why that they easily spray acids to the faces of girls, behead the teachers or commit suicidal attacks.

Their fanatical view of Islam is also an interesting story. You know the in-breeding relations between tribal culture and religion. Both has linkage points to come together and easily merge to each other. In this incorporation, culture always plays a central role and remains as the core of the composition. Religion initially plays a role of the cover but gradually they seem as the same. We have a saying in Farsi that: culture is the most astringent phenomena in the human relations. This is true. Culture can sit back, but never dies. Culture is capable of being transformed into different shapes. Islam and Pashtunwali have amazingly incorporated with each other. Islam has lots of points which were the reflections of the Arabian culture. They came and easily found their sisterhood with the ones in the Pashtun community. Through centuries, now it is difficult for you to really distinct what is Islamwali and what is Pashtunwali. This story can be followed in all the Islamic communities. This is the characteristic of the religion: they do not push the culture back. They only find their way of incorporation and interactions with the culture. This is why that you don't have one type of Islamic interpretation. In Pakistan, you can easily find the difference of Panjabi Islam and Patanic Islam. You can find different view on the women issue all claiming to be Islamic. Likewise, inside Afghanistan, all other ethnic communities are Muslims. You have Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmans, Baluchs, and others who make the overwhelming majority of the population. Even inside Pashtun intellectuals who have culturally shifted, you find people who enjoy quite different view about Islam, about women, about human rights, about having relation with the rest of the human community.

Mullah Omar and the likes are reflecting that type of Pashtun culture which is the most tribal and traditional one. Yes, they are currently the majority of the Pashtun community, but it does not mean that they are the whole.

In the meantime, there is another point which has helped Mullah Omar and his likes to be the main figures of the insurgent movement in the Pashtun community: the notion of having Totalitarian regime based on ethnocentric assumption. This has helped the insurgent groups to continue their influence and growth. Even at the time of the Taliban ruling, you could see that nearly all Pashtun figures stood behind Mullah Omar and supported his brutal anti-democratic regime. If there was some to criticize Taliban, it was because of their shortcomings in the face of the international relations, not because of the non-democratic entity of their regime.

Anyway, it would be difficult to mention any of these three guys as the most or least dangerous. They have their own model of living and talking politics. Any of them can be changed to each other as well as they can reproduce lots of other people like themselves.


Information on the Oil theory behind the Taliban!


Interesting statement......Soviet estimates from the late 1970s placed Afghanistan's proven and probable oil and condensate reserves at 95 million barrels. Not much in the way of oil. So what is the meaning of "Oil controversy"?

As to the pipeline, in December 1997, three Taliban ministers went to Texas to hear what Unocal had to offer if they agreed to let a gas pipeline be built from Turkmenistan through Afghan territory to Pakistan. "They are just going to Texas to talk. They are not supposed to sign any agreements on the gas pipeline,'' Mutta Wakil, a Taliban spokesman said from the Taliban headquarters in southern Kandahar. "If any agreements are reached they will be signed in Afghanistan.''

By early 1998 a Unocal led consortium had made a deal with the Taliban to construct an Afghanistan pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. On the question of the Afghanistan route "the most obvious drawback of a proposed pipeline from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, to Pakistan and down to the Arabian Sea is that there is still a civil war going on in Afghanistan."

Nevertheless, all factions in the civil war signed agreements supporting the proposed pipeline, according to Bob Todor, executive vice president of Unocal.

The Unocal led Centgas consortium consisted of the following companies.

Unocal Corporation (US), 46.5 percent

Delta Oil Company Limited (Saudi Arabia), 15 percent

The Government of Turkmenistan, 7 percent

Indonesia Petroleum, LTD. (INPEX) (Japan), 6.5 percent

ITOCHU Oil Exploration Co., Ltd. (CIECO) (Japan), 6.5 percent

Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. (Korea), 5 percent

The Crescent Group (Pakistan), 3.5 percent

The 48-inch diameter pipeline was to extend 790 miles (1,271 kilometers) from the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, generally follow the Herat-to-Kandahar Road through Afghanistan, cross the Pakistan border in the vicinity of Quetta, and terminate in Multan, Pakistan, where it would tie into an existing pipeline system. Turkmenistan was to construct a pipeline that will link with the CentGas line at the border and stretch approximately 105 miles (169 kilometers) to the Dauletabad Field. A potential 400-mile (644-kilometer) extension from Multan to New Delhi also was under consideration. (source,

Finally, as to war, Afghanistan has been in a state of war for the past thirty years. There are generations of Afghans who only know of conflict. Afghanistan has fallen victim, often to outsider, the British, the Mongol, even the Macedonians.

The Taliban were very reluctant to share power, and since their ranks were overwhelmingly Pashtun they ruled as overlords the 60% of Afghanistan which is home to other ethnic groups. At the national level, "all senior Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara bureaucrats" were replaced "with Pashtuns, whether qualified or not." Consequently, the ministries "by and large ceased to function." Along with being very strict, the Taliban were averse to debate on doctrine with other Muslims.

As they established their power the Taliban created a new form of Islamic radicalism that spread beyond the borders of Afghanistan, mostly to Pakistan. By 1998–1999 Taliban-style groups in the Pashtun belt, and to an extent in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, "were banning TV and videos ... and forcing people, particularly women to adapt to the Taliban dress code and way of life."

The Taliban ideology was not static. Before its capture of Kabul, members of the Taliban talked about stepping aside once a government of "good Muslims" took power and law and order were restored. The decision making process of the Taliban in Kandahar was modeled on the Pashtun tribal council (jirga), together with what was believed to be the early Islamic model.

However, as the Taliban's power grew, decisions were made by Mullah Omar without consulting the jirga and without Omar's visiting other parts of the country. He visited the capital, Kabul, only twice while in power. Taliban spokesman Mullah Wakil explained:

"Decisions are based on the advice of the Amir-ul Momineen. For us consultation is not necessary. We believe that this is in line with the Sharia. We abide by the Amir's view even if he alone takes this view. There will not be a head of state. Instead there will be an Amir al-Mu'minin. Mullah Omar will be the highest authority and the government will not be able to implement any decision to which he does not agree. General elections are incompatible with Sharia and therefore we reject them."

The Taliban government has been described as "a secret society run by Kandaharis ... mysterious, secretive, and dictatorial." They did not hold elections, as their spokesman explained:

The Sharia does not allow politics or political parties. That is why we give no salaries to officials or soldiers, just food, clothes, shoes and weapons. We want to live a life like the Prophet lived 1400 years ago and jihad is our right. We want to recreate the time of the Prophet and we are only carrying out what the Afghan people have wanted for the past 14 years.

The main characteristic of the Afghan community then is it resilience to survive. Having been in a state of conflict for centuries, both from without and within, their ability to survive is formidable.

all three groups are just as dangerous!

Dear Rob Dodson& Azizulah Royesh,

Sorry for the interruption…But I believe that all three groups are just as dangerous and if one may not seem as destructive in comparison to anothers', then one day they will undoubtedly fulfill this present gap. Although I do not comprise an eighth of the knowledge you both may have, I can’t help but to proclaim the potential that even the most passive-appearing of groups may have… “Mullah Omar's Taliban - the first and original group. Omar was adamant about not using suicide bombers and targeting civilians. I am afraid he lost that argument, first to Mullah Dadullah Lang, then to others. You are right of course on their strict view of the world, as well as the consequences of their Sharia Law courts. They still wish to keep things as of old, no schooling for girls, the Imam the principal person in the village, all as you so clearly stated. No kites, no music, all men must have bushy beards, no photos or drawings of people, and no sorcery. Worldwide, even social conservatives were horrified by punitive laws that made prisoners out of Afghan women.” The very fact that Mullah Omar was negating education for women and various other unjust –completely contradictory to Islamic law- regulation will introduce conflict to Afghanistan. The citizens will rebel and with rebellious actions correlates punishment… And the Taliban have been known for their severe tortures. However, I was wondering what you thought of the United States involvement in this issue? Specifically the American UNOCAL oil company’s support to the Taliban for the pipeline that would be built through Afghanistan. “Insider accounts published in the British, French and Indian media have revealed that US officials threatened war against Afghanistan during the summer of 2001. These reports include the prediction, made in July, that “if the military action went ahead, it would take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.” The Bush administration began its bombing strikes on the hapless, poverty-stricken country October 7, and ground attacks by US Special Forces began October 19.” America has been callous in its pursuit for “equality” and the end of the Taliban, but do you think America’s entrance into the war has truly made Afghanistan more peaceful or just contributed to the innocent death toll of children and women? Back to the main purpose of this thread… “The main characteristic of the Afghan community?” I believe what distinguishes Afghanistan from the rest of the world at the moment is the war occurring and the “Oil controversy”… Afghanistan, however in many eyes will remain the rich and geographically diverse landscape that fell victim to false interpretations of religion, dictatorship and greed…

-Omar Shawaf


which one is the most dangerous?

Dear Aziz,

A very interesting view, one that I had not contemplated but after reading must agree. These seem to be tied directly to the three view (based on leadership) perspective that is generally pervasive in the US government. Once that view is in hand, then one must apply the views listed above to further the analysis.

I agree with your assumption that group two is the problem set. I wonder why Hekmatyar would think that the people of Afghanistan would want him back after the destruction of Kabul. But he has been able to change his alliances to suit his situation as you so clearly point out.

Of the three leaders, which one do you see as the most dangerous?

Insurgent can be classified in four ranks....

Dear Rob Dodson,

Thank you for the good information.

Besides your classifications of the Taliban, one can see Taliban from another perspective too:

Taliban can be divided in to four groupings:

1) The ideological group who regard themselves as the guardians of Sharia and Divine law. They claim to have an apostleship to fight for the will of Allah. In their view, all who do not favor their belief are the pagans, anti-Muslims. They divide the whole world simply into faithful and Kafir. They do not let any room for the compromise and discourse on their beliefs. They see every thing either black or white. They are fighting against the current process in Afghanistan as part of their mission for a holy war (Jihad). They can get satisfied only when their divine mission is applied.

2) The totalitarian group who are looking at a monopolistic type of ruling based on ethnocentric assumptions. This group has only a mask of Taliban and Sharia but actually seek opportunity to bargain for more power and privileges. Their insurgency is because of their bad feeling towards the process which paves the way for the distribution of power and leaves no room for their arbitrary ruling. They can get satisfied when their demands for more power is answered.

3) The troublemakers who always profit from insecurity, anarchy and chaos. They are putting the mask of the Taliban to play highway-robbing and bandit. They are the opportunists who are profiting from the name of the Taliban and have made their mafia-type of gangsters. The drug traffickers and former Jihadi warlords are also in this group.

4) The people who are fed up with the corruption of the government and have been targeted by tribal feuds and retaliations. They are fighting because of their hatred against the officials and they seem to have no choice other than resorting to the gun for the sake of their own safety and security.

It seems that the major problem now is with the second group who can easily change face and turn from one side to other. They have double-sided game: Pashtunwali and Islamwali. Hekmatyar is mostly from the second group. He is an Islamist who is using Islam for his political agenda. He joined Shahnawaz Tanai to launch a coup against Dr. Najibullah, the last Communist statesman. He stood against General Dostum as a Communist and later made an alliance with him against Rabani and Masood. He left all his fronts for the Taliban out of his ethnic assumption and later joined Rabani and Masood to stand against Taliban. He is now against the international forces in Afghanistan but has always been ready to make a deal. Recently he sent his deputy and other fellows to conduct a negotiation with the government. Currently most of his former fellows are with the government. They have claimed high positions including Key cabinet posts and advisory team around President Karzai. The voice and tune of PK has dramatically changed after the influence of the Hekmatyar Hezbi Islami people has increased around him. They are the ones who do not believe in any thing other than arbitrary power.

Dear Rob,

I would be happy to have your comments on this perspective too. We might have time to follow the debate a bit closer and in detail.

Aziz Royesh

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Taliban are three distinct groupings...

Dear Aziz,

You are correct in their limited world view. A critical point with the Taliban is their lack of desire to be a global entity. Their focus is on Afghanistan. I look at the Taliban as three distinct groupings, each with a different approach to the insurgency, goals if you will.

Mullah Omar's Taliban - the first and original group. Omar was adamant about not using suicide bombers and targeting civilians. I am afraid he lost that argument, first to Mullah Dadullah Lang, then to others. You are right of course on their strict view of the world, as well as the consequences of their Sharia Law courts. They still wish to keep things as of old, no schooling for girls, the Imam the principal person in the village, all as you so clearly stated. No kites, no music, all men must have bushy beards, no photos or drawings of people, and no sorcery. Worldwide, even social conservatives were horrified by punitive laws that made prisoners out of Afghan women.

Jaluladdin Haqqani - settle old scores from the past. As a former Warlord, and a direct enemy to Pacha Khan Zadren, he targets the Paktika, Paktya, Khost Provinces, as well as the City of Kabul. His primary aim is to destroy the current government, remove those with whom he is feuding and regain some sort of leadership post. All types of attacks are fair for his group. His sons, especially Siraj continue his fight. A great deal of his activities are Badal - from Pashtunwali.

Hekmatyar - the most dangerous and evil one. He would be an angry fundamentalist dressed in black, throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women and assassinating local tribal leaders that might rival his power. He would unfeelingly sacrifice peasants for his cause, rocket the helpless civilians mixed in with his enemies, and his ruthless ambition would prevent the creation of a new peace. He is all of these things. As the most educated of the group, the HIG is also the most dangerous. They are willing to sacrifice anyone for their ambition, and have done so.

As to the brutality exhibited by the Taliban, I always wonder how much, when taken in conjunction with the other insurgencies in the area (as you mention) this is the result of training by the Pakistan ISI. I am not sure, but as you note there seems to be a great deal of similarities. Thus I think the base training is all from the same manual. Which also explains its presence in places such as the Philippines....Abu Sayyef Group, named for the Afghan Warlord, trained in the region.

As to the future. I feel the biggest obstacle for Afghanistan is the lack of infrastructure, primarily electrical power. I also think the Taliban knows this, thus their preoccupation with the Kajaki Dam. With electrical power, life can continue after the sun sets, schools don't have to close for the winter months, life would improve drastically. The next step is an irrigation and flood control program. Distributing the run off from the snow melting in the mountains, providing it to farmers to increase their crop yield all enable the Afghan to improve their quality of life.

I will finish at this point, I am enjoying the discussion and look forward to you insight.


Continued in...

What do you think about the cultural and religious aspect of Talibanism?

Dear Rob,
It is great, indeed.
Your positive insight is inspiring and educative. However:

You are right that Taliban are mainly active in the Pashtun community. But there are many similarities between the belief and approaches of the Taliban with similar groups, throughout the world. There are many who favor the same idea and patterns of behavior: fanaticism, rigidness, intolerance, hatred, violence, insolence, arrogance, etc.

It is clear that the Taliban have shown a lot deal of brutality and have opposed to all kinds of civil norms, but this is not limited and confined to them as the Pashtun insurgents. They are the same in Kashmir, in Yamen, in Darfur, in Philippine, in Iraq, in Pakistan, ...

I wonder if you could explain a bit more about the cultural and religious aspects of Talibanism and fanaticism. Don't you think that Taliban cannot be marginalized to only as wishing good government, providing security and safety? ... Taliban have not given such a pattern in their own six-years ruling (1995-2001), neither do they prove that claim in the areas that they are currently in semi control of. Do you think if they are right saying that with all suicidal attacks against civilian population? Do you think if they are right saying that with burning the schools, beheading the teachers, robbing women from their initial human rights, prejudice and discrimination against those who do not favor or support their types of worldview?

Looking forward to hearing more on the issue.

Aziz Royesh

Continued in....

Taliban focus on the ethnic portions of the coutnry...

eply by Rob Dodson on April 19, 2010 at 10:09pm
Dear Aziz,

I will try to answer your questions as best I can. It is my belief that the US created a vacuum in addressing the needs of the people after we removed the Taliban. As a result, the people, especially those living in rural areas, remained outside our effort to rebuild the country. Their daily lives had not changed and when the Taliban moved back into the vacuum created, they began to suffer. I think most people are more interested in living their lives without fear. I am also sure that whoever gives them that security and safety they will support. This is generally true in all insurgencies. The ability to overcome an insurgency lies in the ability to form a strong government that addresses the needs of the population. If that doesn't exist, insurgencies tend to grow. This lack of a credible central government also hampers the development of police and military forces, something needed to counter the insurgency.

The Taliban continue to focus on the ethnic portions of the country that correspond to theirs. If you look at the districts under Taliban influence, they are generally Pashtu. This works for them and against them. It gives them a base from which to operate, but it drives them from the other ethnic groups.

I see the phenomenon of the Taliban as an organization that wishes to provide a government without corruption, providing security and safety. There is a price for this, an in most of the Pashtu areas the population are willing to pay it. I think they wish to re-establish themselves as the government, however, I am not completely sure that they are willing to incorporate the lands normally associated with the other ethnic groups.

I hope this helps,
Continued in ...

What is your view on the current insurgencies going on in Afghanistan?

Dear Rob,

Sorry for being late in sending my regards to you and the rest of group fellows.

Can you please tell me about your view on the current insurgencies going on in Afghanistan and the roots of the hatred and violence which is spread in specific parts of the country?

What is your reaction to the War on Terror in Afghanistan?

How do you see the phenomenon of the Taliban? ... Who they are and what do they really want?...

Looking forward to getting your comments.
Aziz Royesh

continued in ...

How do you compare Afghans with your country fellows?

Dear Rob Dodson,

I am really impressed by the nice impression you have from your traveling in Afghanistan.

I think we can talk a lot about the geography or some humanistic characteristics of any community in a non-stop manner.

Now, we are living in an era which hardly gives us room for being regarded as an isolated island. Let's talk much about the things which may bring Afghan people closer to their fellows around the world or push them beyond.

I will be happy to have your comments in this regard too. Forgive me for repeated questions. It really impresses me to get your judgment about my country and my fellow Afghans. Through this, I am trying to open a way to cross the real pictures of ourselves to each other. Please make some comparison between your country fellows with the people you have come across in Afghanistan and then tell me if you are happy to continue your semi-expensive relationship with us for the future.

Aziz Royesh

Rob Dodson said:

Dear Azizulah,

Thank you for the kind reply. While growing up I lived in Turkey for three years and was very impressed by the hard working people I found there. I have found it to be much the same in Afghanistan. I enjoyed the time I spent in Kabul, getting out in the City and enjoying the people.

The history of Afghanistan is beyond comprehension. The pride of the native people and how they have defended their way of life against outsiders is to be commended. This has not been without its own trials, but the Afghan has remained and that impresses me.

One cannot say enough about the geography of the country. Traveling around I could not believe how different it is throughout. It has something for everyone. The mountains are majestic, the green fields are relaxing.

I will put together more and send it along.

continued in ....

What do you think is the main characteristic of the Afghan community?

The following discussion is the series of questions and answers between me and Mr. Rob Dodson who is a specialist in Afghan issues. Rob is now answering to the questions about Afghanistan in a Canadian school. Marefat High School is in a classrooms connection with the school and I am following a friendly debate with Rob about Afghanistan.

This is the beginning of the debate:

Dear Rob Dodson,
It is great to have you here for an educative discussion About some aspects of Afghan life.
I would be interested to seek you comments on the main characteristic of the Afghan community from your perspective.
It will be a good start for a discussion.
regards Continued in ...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Yale Fellowship Award

These days are the greatest days of my life. I have received a honorable award from the YALE World Fellows Program. The fellowship is for nearly six months starting from August 17th. Here is part of the letter which I got from the YALE fellows:

Dear Mr. Royesh:

Congratulations on your selection as a 2010 Yale World Fellow. You have been chosen from a very competitive and exceptionally well qualified group of over 600 applicants from more than 100 countries.

The 2010 Yale World Fellows Program will begin on August 18, 2010 and conclude on December 9, 2010. As you know, this is an intensive, full time program including a World Fellows Seminar, a Dinner Speaker series, and organized Fellow presentations, as well as access to courses throughout the University. Over the next few months we will be working together to create a challenging and interesting program that enhances the collective curriculum for all Fellows....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

partnership in transitional civics lesson

Students from a Philly high school and an Afghan minority group will share words and images as part of a transnational civics lesson
By Mary Sneyd
July 18, 2009, 5:00AM

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. (McClatchy-Tribune)

It is the last place where you'd expect to find a school that teaches about civic rights -- and has links to Philadelphia's National Constitution Center.

But after driving an hour from central Kabul, over potholed roads jammed with trucks, cars, motorbikes and carts, and then maneuvering along a narrow, rutted dirt track and through wheel-deep puddles of water, we reached the Marefat school.

The two-story, pale-green, concrete building is built around a courtyard, with a balcony opening onto second-story classrooms. The school, which runs from the primary grades through high school, is the brainchild of Aziz Royesh, a largely self-taught, indefatigable, 39-year-old Afghan.

Royesh spent his youth fighting the Soviet occupation. But he was determined to expose a post-war generation to a different way of thinking about the world, and to unfamiliar concepts such as human rights, democracy and nonviolent struggle in lieu of war.

Royesh, a compact man with a large smile and a neat, black beard, set up his first schools in the Afghan refugee camps of Pakistan. Six years ago, he moved to Kabul and started the Marefat school in a poor neighborhood populated by Hazaras, members of a minority ethnic group of Mongol descent who are Shiite Muslims in a majority-Sunni country. Not surprisingly, the Hazaras have often been subject to persecution.

The determined Royesh got local people to donate land and began the school in a bombed-out building. Gradually, locals in the neighborhood -- which had no school -- contributed bricks, iron and labor; new classrooms went up every year. "They understood that we were helping them change the destiny of their kids," Royesh said. Continue reading ...

High school at heart of rift among Shiites

Jared Ferrie, Foreign Correspondent

* Last Updated: August 26. 2009 11:50PM UAE / August 26. 2009 7:50PM GMT

KABUL // Tucked into a neighbourhood on the western edge of the capital, a high school has become a symbol for the political divide between members of Afghanistan’s Shiite minority. When some students and staff protested a recently passed law, which critics say condones marital rape, about 35 men showed up and smashed windows and threatened to burn the school down.

“They stormed the school and cried for my execution,” said Aziz Royesh, a founder of the Marefat High School, recalling the attack in mid-April.

He escaped through a back door and police arrived to stop the violence.

“After that, they continued their [propaganda] against the school through their mosques, through their TV channels,” Mr Royesh said.

The “they” he referred to are followers of the Ayatollah Asif Mohseni, a conservative cleric who was educated in Iran and has built a sprawling mosque and madrasa complex in Kabul.

Most Shiites in Afghanistan are members of the Hazara ethnic group, which accounts for about 10 per cent of Afghanistan’s population. They are considered to be more progressive than most Afghans when it comes to the role of women. Bamyan, where most Hazaras live, is the only province with a female governor. Continue reading in ...

Life has improved after the fall of the Taliban

Aziz Roeesh is the principal of Marefat High School in Kabul

Marefat High School in Kabul provides accelerated courses for

Life has improved after the fall of the Taleban. This is the first time that the people are engaged and participating in political affairs and there are lots of changes.

We can see these changes in education, we can see it in the daily life of the people and even the trust of people in the government.

In our school we have an accelerated learning programme which is especially useful for girls. We have great community support for that scheme and people send their daughters to us even at the ages of 18 and 20 to start from class one and learn their ABC.

We can also upgrade some of these students and some of the girls passed from class one to grade 12 in five years. Others have already graduated from school and are attending university

Last year 62% of our students were girls. They went to university. They were able to gain entrance

That is a great change. Original source BBC

Hazaras Hustle to Head of Class in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — For much of this country’s history, the Hazara were typically servants, cleaners, porters and little else, a largely Shiite minority sidelined for generations, and in some instances massacred, by Pashtun rulers.

But increasingly they are people like Mustafa, a teenager who has traveled a rough road but whose future now looks as bright as any in this war-ravaged country. His course reflects the collective effort of the Hazara, who make up 10 to 15 percent of the population, to remake their circumstances so swiftly that by some measures they are beginning to overtake other groups.

Like many Hazaras of his generation, Mustafa, now 16, fled Afghanistan with his family in the mid-1990s. They settled in Quetta, Pakistan, living with other Hazara refugees outside the Taliban’s reach and getting a taste of opportunities long out of their grasp.

After the 2001 American invasion, his family returned, not to their home in impoverished Daykondi Province, but to Kabul, where his uneducated parents thought Mustafa and his siblings would get better schooling. “There was no opportunity for studying in Daykondi,” he said. Continued ...