Friday, 9 August 2013

looking at AFGHANISTAN

We've heard the word Afghanistan regularly, on the TV news, for many years now but what do we know about the country?.  I remember reading a book about people crossing mountains to Pakistan and more recently watched a Ross Kemp TV show of his time with the British army, and that's a sad introduction to a country.

We've heard of Persian carpets and Afghanistan is one place where they are produced. In the 1960's knitted wool rugs and blankets were called Afghans, and Afghan dogs became the fashionable pet.  In Australian history, it was Afghan camels and their handlers who helped to explore and develop South Australia and the outback.

 But, movies and books set in Afghanistan are usually sad, verging on depressing, because of their history. The Kite Runner, both a movie and a book, is certainly worth reading and the movie is a view of daily life. 

The little coffee shop of Kabul, and The Kabul Beauty School, were written by an American woman who lived in Kabul. I was told to read them as works of fiction as there has been some controversy over her claim that they are true stories.

The Dressmakers of Khair Khana, is about daily life for city women under the Taliban and worth reading. The women start their own business at home, making clothes, which interested me. It seems printed textiles are not available and most clothing is plain dyed fabric decorated with bead work. 

A list of other books, which I have not read, can be found on line. And, now that I've been browsing I plan to read The Sewing Circles of Serat -  about sewing groups used as a front for educating women.

Below is part of a letter from an Australian, deployed in Afghanistan this year.  The photos are from other service sources.

2013 - from Afghanistan:

A little about our deployment. Our rotation arrived in Afghanistan in early May and for the majority we are expected to stay until the closure of the much publicised multinational base Tarin Kot.  We are expected to be home for Christmas and that's all I ask really. Although I am prepared to stay until I have to.

The weather is hot, dry, very sandy and exceptionally dusty in Tarin Kot. I also had the pleasure of visiting Kandahar very recently for two days. I couldn't believe it, but it was even hotter there. The second day it reached 48 degrees. I'm so glad I was only passing through. 

The country side is very hilly (or should I say mountainous).They are huge. I haven't seen anything of their size before. Spectacular. Occasionally you see green, you then know there is a river running nearby. Where there is water there are generally houses running along it, the houses are flat roofed and are in a compound type structure. This I've only seen from the air, moving off base doesn't happen for me. 

The accommodation here is good, we are in large buildings which we refer to as Bunnings buildings as they are like massive green sheds. The rooms are small, I share with two other ladies. We sleep in bunk beds, so we have two sets of bunks and I cupboard and shelf each. This leaves us enough floor space to get changed etc. I don't think I've ever slept in a bunk bed, even as a child. I am the lucky one though, as I have the bottom bunk and no-one above me.

The shower facilities are quite good. We are however limited to two minute showers, due to the water availability and the ability of the sewage system to handle it. 

The food is great with large quantities and variety, including fresh fruit and vegetables. This will change though as we get closer to leaving and handing the base over to the Afghans.

I hope I haven't rambled on too much and have given you a rough insight into life as I see it in Afghanistan. Once again, I thank you for your continued support to the Australian Defence Personnel.

TK 2012


And a few facts and figures to help your understanding, with a brief history of Afghanistan at the bottom.

The map: bordered on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, on the extreme northeast by China, on the east and south by Pakistan, and by Iran on the west.  The country is split east to west by the Hindu Kush mountain range, rising in the east to heights of  7,315 m (24,000 ft). Except in the southwest, most of the country is covered by high snow-capped mountains, traversed by deep valleys.Total Size: 647,500 square kmWorld Region:  Asia - Coordinates: 33 00 N, 65 00 ETerrain: mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest. Lowest Point: Amu Darya 258 m  Highest Point: Nowshak 7,485 mClimate: arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers.Major cities: KABUL (capital) 3.5 million, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif,  Charikar and Herat. 


National name: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Afghanestan.
Currency: Afghani (AFA)
Major Industries: small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement; hand woven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper.
Agricultural Products: opium, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins.
Natural Resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones
Major Exports: opium, fruits and nuts, hand woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems 

Major Imports: 
capital goods, food, textiles, petroleum products
Arable land: 12.13%.
Agriculture: opium, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins. Unemployment: 35%,
Labour force: 15 million; agriculture 80%, industry 10%, services 10%.
Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulphur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.
Industry: small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement; hand woven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper.
Exports: opium, fruit and nuts, hand woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semiprecious gems.
Imports:  capital goods, food, textiles, petroleum products.
Major trading partners: Pakistan, India, U.S., Germany.


Telephones: main lines in use: 140,000; mobile cellular: 13 million.
Radio broadcast stations: AM 21, FM 5, shortwave 1.
Television broadcast stations: about 7.
Internet users: 1,000,000.

The People

Government: Islamic republic 
National Symbol: lion 
Languages : Afghan Persian or Dari (official) 50%, Pashtu (official) 35%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%, much bilingualism 
Nationality: Afghan(s) 
Ethnicity: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, others 4%.Religion: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi'a Muslim 19%, other 1%
Literacy rate: 28.1%

A Brief History:
Afghanistan is surrounded by larger more-powerful nations and has changed hands over the centuries as new empires made war with each other, often using Afghanistan as the battle field.

Prior to Alexander the Great entering the area in 328 BC, Afghanistan was under the rule of the Persian Empire. Over the next thousand years invaders took over the country on the way to other places, including the Huns, Turks, Arabs, and finally the Mogol invasion by Genghis Khan in 1219.

The area was led by various warlords and chiefs all vying for power until Ahmad Shah Durrani came into power in 1747. He helped to unite the people and create Afghanistan.

In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. They backed the Karmal Regime. The geography of the country made it a difficult place to have a war.  The rebels harassed and fought the Soviet troops over several years, making it tough for the country to have peace. In 1989 the Soviet Union had enough of the fighting and withdrew.
Suddenly there wasn't anyone in charge. The country went into anarchy, various warlords took over and in the 1990's the Taliban came into power. They began training and harbouring terrorists.  In 2001 the United States - with the United Nations - decided to do something about it.  This war is ongoing.


Afghan Hound

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