Culture / First Drafts

Afghanistan: More than just a country at war

Afghanistan, or “the Islamic Republic of Aghanistan” as it is officially called, is the 42nd most populous and the 41st largest nation in the world – or so says Wikipedia.
But how large it is, how many people there live, and especially, how these people live, those are facts we hardly ever hear about.
No, when Afghanistan is mentioned in the news, it is always about war: bombings, shootings, soldiers, deaths, strategies.

Researching it, I only now begin to realize how little I know about this country or its people, its history or its culture. If I am honest, I don’t even know to trust the news about the War: who knows what is really going on, and if everything the world should know is really going public?

So here’s for a bit of Wikipedia-research. The name “Afghanistan” translates to “Land of the Afghans”. The term “Afghan”, historically, means the same as “Pashto Speaker” and refers to one of the main ethnic groups in the country: the Pashtun. There are 14 different ethnic groups listed in the National Anthem, among them the Hajik, the Hazara, the Uzbek and others. This answers nothing: What sets them apart? How is life in Afghanistan?

Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing of the Afghan culture, except what popular media has represented to me. Books like “The Kite Runner” or “A Thousand Splendid Suns” from Khaled Hosseini have made it into best-selling lists in the West and probably give some idea what it is like to be brought up in the chaos of war. And while both of them are truly captivating reads, this does not answer many questions – especially about the future.

As a business student, I am also curious about the Afghan Economy. How is it keeping up? According to the Asian Development Bank, 36% of its population were living below the national poverty line in 2008. This sounds like a resounding “Not good!” to the above question.

But are these the only problems the country faces? – Hardly.
There are other problems we never hear about. Among them, for example, environmental problems.

This picturesque landscape is one of the high mountain lakes of Band-e Amir. And, though being a place where high hopes for Tourism are pinned on, it is currently in danger from the climate change.

In conclusion, I have to admit the following quote by Howard Jacobsen from the “Independent” to be true:

“The first step on the road to wisdom is admitting that you don’t know anything”

We, in the Western countries, have a very high standard of life, in comparison with many other countries. But this gives us also a high responsibility.
We should make it our business to know more about the people who inhabitate the same planet as we, even though their concerns seem thousands of miles away.

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