Afghanistan is a country in southwestern Asia. Afghanistan consists of mountains, scorching deserts, fertile valleys, and rolling plains. The country is a little smaller than Texas. It is landlocked, having no borders near water. The surrounding countries are Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran. Afghanistan is one of the world’s least developed countries in the world. Nomads make up a sixth of the population along with three-fourths of Afghanistan workers who farm the land. Kabul is the largest city and also the capital of Afghanistan.
Ninety-nine percent of Afghans are Muslims. One common link among them is their religion, Islam. The major population consists of 20 ethnic groups which are then separated into several different tribes. Most ethnic groups have different languages and different cultures which makes it really hard for Afghanistan to develop into a unified modern nation. This leads to the troubles they have had over the centuries. They have suffered foreign interference by Russia and Great Britain. A bitter struggle over power in the country tore Afghanistan. The purpose of this paper will reveal Afghanistan’s people their history and the current events which contribute to the country’s conditions.
Afghanistan can be divided into three regions-the northern plains, the central mountains, and the southern plateau. The northern plains have some of the most fertile land in Afghanistan, the country’s major agricultural area. However, because rainfall is scarce, only river valleys and regions where water is available can be cultivated.
Afghanistan’s mountain ranges are an extension of the Himalayan Mountains and cover about two-thirds of the country; this forms the backbone of Afghanistan’s central mountains. The Kuh-e-Baba Mountains, which rise to almost 17,000 feet, are not the highest peaks of Afghanistan. The mountains with the highest elevation are found near the northeastern border with Pakistan and rise to 24,557 feet. In the twentieth century alone, more than a dozen earthquakes have occurred in the area around Kabul. The Northeastern part of the highlands is the most active. Within the past few months a new earthquake has again damaged this area.
The 320-mile Kabul River is a vital source of water here, as its tributaries irrigate some of the most productive agricultural land in the country.
The southwestern region consists primarily of desert and semi desert. The largest deserts here are the Registan, Dasht-i-Margo, and Dasht-i-Khash. These barren areas cover over 40,000 square miles, and lie between 1,500 and 2,000 feet about sea level. The entire region is bisected by the Helmand River, which flows from the Hindu Kush to Lake Helmand.
Afghanistan has very severe winters and extremely long, hot summers. The climate is influenced more by high altitude than by latitude. From December to March the air masses come from the cold continental north, bringing very cold weather and snow to the mountains.
From June to September Afghanistan is very hot and dry. In summer nights it can be very cold. Very little rain falls at lower altitudes, and the plains are extremely dry. Rainfall in the country averages about seven inches a year. The southwest is even more arid. Along the Iran-Afghanistan border, the wind commonly causes sandstorms. In the southwestern deserts, the temperature difference between day and night can be very extreme. In the summer, water freezes at night, despite noon temperatures of up to 120 F. Only in areas like Kabul, which are at higher altitudes and are sheltered, is the climate relatively pleasant. Kabul’s yearly temperature ranges between 23 F and 77 F.
Less than 1% of Afghanistan is forested. The forests thrive mainly in the mountains and include pine, cypress, oak, juniper, laurel, barberry, hazelnut, and wild almond. Pine trees are the most prized tree; some structures are built from this wood.
In Hindu Kush, animals are typical of the nearby Himalayas. They include the snow cock, ibex, brown bear, snow leopard, piping hare, and sometimes even the Siberian tiger. The northern plains have the fauna of the steppes. In the western desert roam gazelle, coursers, flamingos, and swallow plovers. Camels are native to the region, mostly found in the mountains.
Kabul has been an important city throughout the ages because of its amazing location at the center of these vital crossroads. In the 19th century, Kabul was captured twice by the British during the Anglo-Afghan wars. 6,000 feet above sea level, on a well-sheltered plateau, Kabul is the largest city in the country, with an estimated population of about two million. Because of the altitude, Kabul’s climate is similar to that of Denver, Colorado-invigorating with brilliant sunshine and thin, clean air. The summers are dry, with rain in spring and heavy snowfall in the winter.
On the southern part of the Kabul River are parts of the old city, a collection of flat-roofed houses packed closely together. The boulevards in the newer sections of Kabul are broad and paved with asphalt. They carry an incredible mixture of traffic: trucks, buses, jeeps, and automobiles move alongside camels, donkeys, and horse carts.
Historically, the Loya Jirgah was the most powerful legislative body in Afghanistan. It was composed of:
• The president and the vice-president;
• Members of the Meli Shura, of the National Assembly;
• The general prosecutor;
• The Council of Ministers
• The attorney-general, his or her deputies, and members of the attorney general’s office;
• The chairperson of the Constitution Council;
• The heads of the provincial councils;
• Representatives from each province, according to the number of their representatives in the Wolasi Jirgah, or House of Representatives, elected by the people in a general secret ballot;
• A minimum of 50 people from among prominent political, scientific, social, and religious figures appointed by the president.
The president was the head of the state and was elected by a majority vote of the Loya Jirgah for a term of seven years. Any Muslim citizen of Afghanistan who is more than 40 years of age was able to be elected president. No person had been allowed to serve for more than two terms. The president exercised a wide range of executive powers. He or she ratified the resolutions of the Meli Shura, appointed the prime minister, and approved the appointment of the ministers, judges, and army officials. The president was the supreme commander of the armed forces and was able to proclaim a state of emergency or declare war, with the consent of the Loya Jirgah.
But that all changed on September 27, 1996, when the ruling members of the Afghan Government were displaced by members of the extremist Islamic Taliban movement. After the beginning of the War Against Terrorism, now being waged in Afghanistan, a new leader was placed as the temporary head of the interim government. It is too soon to tell whether this leader will be able to pull the factions together and unify the country.
The Saur Revolution of 1978, the subsequent Soviet occupation, the unrelenting war waged by the mujahedin against the Soviets, the civil war that followed has crippled the country’s economy.
Although only a little over a tenth of Afghanistan’s land is arable, 70% of the population lives off the land. A large percent of the rest of the population rears sheep and goats. Farmers depend on rivers for irrigation. Wheat is Afghanistan’s chief crop. Their most profitable crop may well be opium from the poppies grown in the mountains near the northwest frontier provinces of Pakistan. Afghanistan produced 2,637 tons of opium in 1991.
Afghanistan is famous for its carpets. The wool and dyes are prepared locally, and the carpets are woven by hand.
Few Afghans are of a single ethnic descent. Over the centuries there has been a lot of intermarriage among the different groups in contact with each other in the same regions.
The villages in Afghanistan consist of houses built of bricks and plastered with a mixture of mud and straw which are topped off by flat roofs. Most houses have an enclosed compound that shelters the livestock and holds sheds for storage. Found here is the cooking area and the living area where the family works and plays.
Women in Afghanistan are required to observe the purdah. They must cover themselves so as not to be seen by any men other than those immediately related to them. Traditional Afghan women wear the chadri, a voluminous garment with only a slit or net for the eyes, over their normal clothes whenever they go outdoors. Since the Taliban rule girls had not been allowed to attend school or work outside the home.
Women in Afghanistan have traditionally held secondary roles in society. They must obey their husbands or fathers and must seek their permission in almost everything they do.
Together with Buddhism and Christianity, Islam is one of the three major religions of the world. Islam was founded by the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca in the seventh century. Afghanistan has been an Islamic state since 1992 when the various mujahedin groups succeeded in overthrowing the Soviet-backed President Rabbani. Over 90% of the population is Muslim. The two most important languages are Pushtu, and Dari, these are the two official languages of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is an extremely poor, landlocked country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising (sheep and goats). Economic considerations have played second fiddle to political and military upheavals during two decades of war, including the nearly 10-year Soviet military occupation (which ended 15 February 1989). During that conflict one-third of the population fled the country, with Pakistan and Iran sheltering a more than 6 million refugees. In early 2000, two million Afghan refugees remained in Pakistan and about 1.4 million in Iran. Gross domestic product has fallen substantially over the past 20 years because of the loss of labor and capital and the disruption of trade and transport; severe drought added to the nation’s difficulties in 1998-2000. The majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care. Inflation remains a serious problem throughout the country. International aid can deal with only a fraction of the humanitarian problem, let alone promote economic development. In 1999-2000, internal civil strife continued, hampering both domestic economic policies and international aid efforts.
Afghanistan has had a history of dramatic unfortunate events that have affected Afghans’ quality of life. The country is very poor and has an unsettled government with little opportunity for the people. Nature has not been a friend to Afghanistan with earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather conditions. Afghanistan was not a country known to everyone. But now the entire world is watching as the country struggles to exist. The purpose of this paper was to reveal Afghanistan’s people and their history, through my discussion of the past and current events in Afghanistan.