Where is Afghanistan?

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
About the author
Khaled Hosseini (Hor-say-nee)
• 1965 was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. His
mother was a teacher and his father a
• 1976 his father was posted to Paris, France
and the family moved there till 1980, when
at the age of 15, his family sought asylum in
the USA, due to the Communist coup in
• Having lost all their property in Afghanistan,
they lived on welfare and food stamps while
Hosseini's father worked multiple jobs to
become financially stable.
• Graduated in medicine and is a practising
• He now lives in Fremont, California, with his
wife and two children.
• His second book is called, A Thousand
Splendid Suns.
Is it autobiographical?
Hosseini states:
• ‘The story line of my novel is largely fictional. The
characters were invented and the plot imagined.
However, there certainly are, as is always the case with
fiction, autobiographical elements woven through the
narrative. Probably the passages most resembling my
own life are the ones in the US, with Amir and Baba
trying to build a new life. I, too, came to the US as an
immigrant and I recall vividly those first few years in
California, the brief time we spent on welfare, and the
difficult task of assimilating into a new culture. My
father and I did work for a while at the flea market and
there really are rows of Afghans working there, some of
whom I am related to.’
Hosseini ‘wanted to write about Afghanistan before
the Soviet war because that is largely a forgotten
period in modern Afghan history’.
‘For many people in the west, Afghanistan is
synonymous with the Soviet war and the Taliban.’
He explains: ‘I wanted to remind people that
Afghans had managed to live in peaceful anonymity
for decades, that the history of the Afghans in the
twentieth century has been largely peaceful and
Kabul before the war
• Hosseini has ‘very fond
memories of childhood in
Afghanistan, largely because
[his] memories, unlike those
of the current generation of
Afghans, are untainted by
the spectre of was,
landmines, and famine.’
• He has fond memories of
kite fighting in the winter
time, Westerns with John
Wayne at Cinema Park, big
parties at home in Wazir
Akbar Khan, picnics in
His inspiration for the text
• Relationships: When Khaled was young (in
grade three), he taught the family’s Hazara
cook to read and write.
• Memories: Fond recollections of pre-Soviet
era childhood in Afghanistan.
Literature: Persian stories and poems,
characters and themes
presented in
John Steinbeck’s
The Grapes of Wrath.
The Setting
• Afghanistan
• Terrain – rocky and dry, mountainous in the
central part of the country
Where is Afghanistan?
Afghanistan on the world map
• Climate – hot summers, cold winters
• Geography – land locked completely; borders
Iran, Pakistan, China Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
and Tajikstan
• USA- 1980’s Fremont California
Introduction to Afghanistan
• An ethnically (nationalities) diverse country.
• As of July 2007, there are approx. 32 million
people estimated to live in Afghanistan.
• Pashtu and Dari are considered the official
languages of Afghanistan and are spoken by 85%
of the people.
• there are 8 major ethnic groups in Afghanistan
• 30 other minor languages are also spoken in
Introduction to Afghanistan
• About 99% of the population is Muslim (a person
who follows the Islamic faith). Of these Muslims,
84% belong to the Sunni sect.
• There has been a long history of an ethnic
hierarchy within Afghanistan. It has created
imbalances in wealth, influence and education
within its society.
• Traditionally Pashtuns have dominated the
country because they are the presumed majority
of the population.
• As a result, many of the other ethnic groups have
not had a strong voice within the society.
Ethnic Population in Afghanistan
• Pashtun 44%
• Tajik 25%
• Minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkman,
Baloch) 13%
• Hazara 10%
• Uzbek 8 %
Ethnic groups
• Pashtuns:
– Prior to the 1979 Soviet
invasion they were the largest
ethnic group in Afghanistan.
(Many left Afghanistan as
refugees, to live in Pakistan
when the Soviets invaded)
– Occupied most top and middle
level positions in Afghanistan’s
civil and military hierarchies
– Pashtu is their native language
– Consist mainly of Sunni Muslims
Ethnic groups
• Tajiks
– 25% of population
– Second largest ethnic group
– Identified with agriculture
and town life
– Mainly inhabit the fertile
eastern valleys
– A group that is considered to
have low income and like
many Hazaras, they are not
the highest on the social
ladder. However there are
Tajiks that are successful and
important members of the
• 10% of Afghanistan’s populatioin
• Reside in the mountainous
regions called ‘Hazarajat’
• Decendents of Genghis Khan,
who invaded Afghanistan in the
13th Centuary. Thus they are seen
as ‘invaders’ and not true
• Most Haxaras are Shi’ite Muslims
• Considered to be on the lower
socio-economic scale: servants,
• In 1997 the Taliban cut off access
roads out of Hazarajat in an
attempt to starve them to death
• In 1998 many were killed by the
• Have distinct physical features;
round face, broad nose and light
coloured almond shaped eyes.
(p 3, 8)
Hazara protest in Sydney
Historical events
1919-1929 - Afghanistan regains independence after third war against British
forces trying to colonise it. King Amanullah established diplomatic
relations with most major countries and modernised Afghanistan. This was
controversial, and alienated many tribal and religious leaders. He was
forced to abdicate in January 1929. Some of the things he changed were:
Abolishing the traditional Muslim veil for women , opening co-educational
1953 – General Mohammed Daoud becomes prime minister. Turns to Soviet
Union for economic and military assistance.
1973-Daoud then seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973. He abolished
the monarchy and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as the first
President and Prime Minister. He attempted to carry out badly needed
economic and social reforms, however, he had little success.
Historical events
1978 – General Daud is overthrown and killed in a coup
by leftist People’s Democratic Party (Communists).
1979 – Power struggle between leftist leaders, Hafizullah
Amin and Nur Mohammed Taraki. Amin won. Soviet
Union sends in troops to help remove Amin, who is
executed. An estimated 14,500 Soviet lives, and
1,000,000 Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the
Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Historical events
1980 – Babrak Karmal, leader of the People’s Democratic
Party Parcham faction is installed as ruler backed by
Soviet troops. Various Mujahedin troops fight Soviet
forces. US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia
supply money and arms to Afghanistan.
1986 – US begins supplying Mujahedin with Stinger
missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet
helicopter gunships. Babrak Karmal replaced by
1988 – Afghanistan, USSR, US and Pakistan sign peace
accords and Soviet Union begins pulling out troops.
Historical events
1989 – Last Soviet troops leave, but civil war continues as
Mujahadin push to overthrow Najibullah.
After the Soviet withdrawal, the country was left in anarchy. A
warlord situation arose, which left the country politically
unstable. The Taliban took advantage of this situation and
rose to power in the mid 1990s.
1991 – US and USSR agree to end military aid to both sides.
Mujahadin triumph.
1992 – Rival militias vie for influence.
1993 – Mujahideen factions agree on formation of government
with ethnic Tajik, Burhanuddin Rabbani, proclaimed president.
Historical events
1994 – civil war continue. Pashtun-dominated Taliban emerge
as a major challenge to the Rabbani government.
1996 – Taliban seize control of Kabul and introduce hard-line
version of Islam. Rabbani flees to join anti-Taliban Northern
1997 – Civil war between Taliban and Northern Alliance
breaks out. By the end of the year the Taliban controlled
90% of Afghanistan. Taliban recognized as legitimate rulers
by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Most other countries
continue to regard Rabbani as head of state.
Historical events
• The Taliban imposed an extreme interpretation of
Islam throughout the whole country. This was based
on the rural Pashtun tribal code. They committed
massive human rights violations, particularly against
women and girls, and minority populations (killed
4000 Shi’a Hazara ethnic group).
• In 2001, as part of the drive against relics of preIslamic Afghanistan, the Taliban destroyed two huge
Buddha statues carved into a cliff face outside of the
city of Bamiyan.
Remains of the Buddha statues
Historical events
1999 – United Nations imposes an air embargo
and financial sanctions to force Afghanistan to
hand over Osama bin Laden for trial (he had
bombed US embassies in Africa in 1998).
2001 – September 11 – Taliban attacks on USA
2001 – October 7 – US and Britain launch air
strikes against Afghanistan after Taliban refuse
to hand over Osama bin Laden. ‘War on
terror’ begins.
Current government
• 2004- after the fall of the Taliban, a new
Afghan constitution was adopted and in the
November 2004 election, Hamid Karzai was
elected President with more than 50% of the
popular vote.
• 2011- USA troops kill Osama Bin Laden in
Afghanistan today
• It ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world
• Average life expectance is only 46 years; child mortality rates
are 1 in 6
• Capital city Kabul is in ruins
• Diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria wreak havoc
• Inadequate medical services
• Problems are exacerbated by landmines
• No significant industry and commercial activity
• Many have left as refugees and as a result it lacks skills
• Poor education system, not enough trained teachers and
• Roads, transport, power and public services are unreliable and
Who is the Taliban?
• Gained strength in 1995
• Formed by Sunni Muslim Pashtun students,
intellectuals and disaffected Mujaheddin (holy
• Trained in Pakistan
• fundamentalists, committed to ‘Sharia Law’ (the
traditional Islamic law and moral code that
prescribes how Muslims should best conduct
their lives).
The Taliban
(Talib is Arabic for ‘Islamic student’)
• Under the Taliban’s rule, human
rights and civil liberties were
slowly peeled away.
• The Taliban instituted cruel and
inhumane treatment of those
who opposed them in order to
solidify their power over
Afghanistan’s citizens.
Taliban Rules for Women
• May not work
outside the home.
• May not participate
in any activity
outside the home
unless accompanied by
her husband or male
relative (no shopping,
• May not be treated by
male doctor.
• May not study at any
institutions, including
schools and
• Must wear the long veil
(burqa) which covers them
from head to toe.
• If found guilty of adultery,
will be publically stoned to
• May not laugh loudly – no
stranger should hear a
woman’s voice.
• May not wear high heels –
no man should hear a
woman’s footsteps.
Taliban Rules for Everyone
• No one can listen to • In any sporting event, no
one may clap.
• Anyone who converts from
• No one can watch
Islam to any other religion
television, movies or
will be executed.
• No citizen can have a • No burying of anyone who
was killed by the Taliban.
non-Islamic name.
Bodies must remain in the
• Men may not shave
streets as examples to
or trim their beards.
other ‘wrongdoers’.
• No one may fly kites.
Kabul before and after the Taliban
How does it relate?
In the beginning (chapters 1-4) of The Kite
Runner, the monarchy is still in place and the
country is relatively calm. However, chaos
starts to erupt as the king is overthrown by his
brother (chapter 5).
• In the second half of The Kite Runner, the
Taliban is in power, creating a much more
volatile and dangerous Afghanistan.
• A religion based on the interpretations of
God’s word by the prophet Muhammad found
in the Qu’ran (sometimes spelled Koran)
• Followers of Islam, Muslims, are devoted to
daily prayer (five times a day facing Mecca,
the holy city).
• Islam is divided into two denominations, Shia
and Sunni.
Divisions of Islam
Sunnis and Shi’a Muslims: what is the difference?
• Because of the differing views of these two groups, they
maintain a rather tense and hostile relationship.
• The Pashtun (majority) are typically Sunni, and the Hazara
(minority) are typically Shia.
• Thus, the racial differences are compounded by the
religious differences.
Religious composition is:
• Sunni Muslims 84%
• Shi’a Muslims 15%
• Others (Jewish, Hindu, Sikh) 1%
What does a harelip (cleft lip) look
like? (Hassan was born with a cleft lip
p 3)

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