Lesson Tutor: Spotlight on Afghanistan

Spotlight on Afghanistan
By Melanie Marshall

Here are some discussion ideas about Afghanistan, which might be helpful in light of our current events.  During my research, I noticed that sometimes the facts differ, which is discouraging, but interesting.

Looking at a map, how  would Afghans go to the beach? 
Pakistan or Iran offers the closest beaches on the Arabian Sea, which is south. Iran also has the beach along the Caspian Sea to the Northwest.

Landlocked is a description of Afghanistan because of its lack of ocean

What countries border Afghanistan? 
Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China.

Do Afghans live in a desert? 
There have been 3 years of severe drought, leading to the term
desertification to describe the land.  Afghanistan does have lowland desert region in the south.  However, Afghanistan is mountainous in the northern, central and western areas.  Rainfall average is a slight 15″ in the Hindu Kush mountainous area, and that is the wettest part of Afghanistan.  The dry climate makes farming quite challenging.  Many Afghans try to farm, but the land doesn’t bear much fruit.  Incredible scenery gives Afghans pride, as well as mineral rich lands.  Much of the remaining forests are being cut down for fuel and building materials, leading to deforestation.  Natural hazards include damaging earthquakes in the Hindu Kush Mountains and flooding as well as drought.

What are some of their major cities? 
Kabul which is the capitol, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Herat, which is the largest refugee camp in the world.  Refugee means one who escapes invasion.

Look at the size and shape of Afghanistan.  How big does it appear to you? 
It is slightly smaller than the state of Texas.  The area total is
647,000 sq. km. with 0 sq. km. of water.  A river determined the northern border.

What is their language? 
35% speak Pashtu, and 50% speak Afghan Persian, otherwise known as Dari.

What is the flag of Afghanistan? 
The flag description is three equal horizontal bands of green, white and black with a gold emblem centered on the bands.  It includes an Islamic inscription and has two crossed scimitars.  Scimitars are curved Oriental swords with an edge on the convex side.
Flags courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.
The Taliban uses their own flag, which is a white one.  In our culture the white flag means surrender, but not from the Taliban’s
Flags courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.

Who are the Taliban? 
The Taliban are hard-line Islamic leaders who captured Kabul in 1996.  They consider their name to mean “Students of Islam.” The Soviet Union  had occupied Afghanistan from 1979 until ten years later when they were forced to withdraw. Civil War has continued ever sense among mujahidin factions, but the fundamentalist Islamic Talibans have seized most of the country. The Northern Alliance has managed to control the North part of Afghanistan.

What is the government type? 
There is no central functioning government, only that which is administered by factions. The Taliban say they are the legitimate government of Afghanistan, however the UN still recognizes the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, which the Taliban displaced.  There is no constitution.

What kind of life do you imagine the people live, if they have endured guerrilla warfare for all this time? 
The people live a rough life. Only about one third of the country can read and their life expectancy is 46 years.  There is little or no medical care or basic supplies such as food.  More than 5 million of Afghanistan’s 26 million people depend on international aid for survival. It is a war worn population.

Do the children get to play? 
The children are greatly affected by the poor living conditions and extreme rules by the Taliban.  Pop music, dancing videos and television is banned. Laughing and kite flying are against Taliban policy. Keeping pigeons as pets is not allowed.

The children are paid by passing drivers to throw dirt into potholes.  A
10,000 Afghani notes equals about 9 cents in American money, which is what they are paid.

Can they at least decorate their rooms the way they want? 
No posters or paintings are allowed because the Taliban is concerned about promoting idolatry.  There are no cell phones or Internet in use.

What is the education system like? 
Males are allowed to attend school up to the 6th grade, and females are not permitted to go to school.  Sometimes children are illegally taught in homes and other children are sent to a safer school in Pakistan to be educated.

Can you imagine the issues that might arrive with education limitations? 
Women are not ready to work, and the Taliban government only allows them to work in some hospital settings.  If the men are out fighting battles, it places a considerable strain economically on the families.  Women are not even allowed to be given rides in cars, much less to drive them.

What do they wear? 
High heeled shoes from Iran are the latest fashion, but women must cover themselves in billowing gowns from head to toe.  The gowns are called burkas.  It is difficult to see and hear underneath these cloaks.  Men are to wear their beards long enough to be held in a fist.  Barbers were imprisoned for cutting hair in the style that Leonardo di Caprio wore when he acted in the Titanic.

What other changes have occurred recently in their economy? 
Last July, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s leader, banned the poppy crop and it has been completely eradicated.  This was quite a feat, because Afghanistan was the world’s largest opium producer.  Opium is derived from poppies, and is a key ingredient in the illicit drug heroin.  Illicit means illegal.  Poppies are drought resistant and labor intensive, which provided employment for large numbers of the community.  The farmers have tried to cultivate wheat without much success.  There was no planned reduction of poppies, and the economy is devastated.  However, the Taliban has been enormously successful is curtailing the use of this drug worldwide. The economy is also dependent on raising livestock (sheep and goats) but with recent problems, even this has been impossible.

Vocabulary Words:

Hindu Kush

Multiple Choice review questions:

Choose the capitol of Afghanistan:

  1. Herat
  2. Kabul
  3. Kandahar
  4. Hindu Kush

Type of government which exists today:

  1. Warring factions
  2. communist
  3. democracy
  4. monarchy

Which natural disaster is likely to occur in Afghanistan?

  1. Hurricane
  2. tornado
  3. tidal wave
  4. earthquake

Which country does NOT border Afghanistan?

  1. China
  2. Pakistan
  3. India
  4. Iran

Afghanistan is about the size of:

  1. Rhode Island
  2. Louisiana
  3. Texas
  4. Alaska

Which is the most common livestock?

  1. Goats
  2. Horses
  3. Elephants
  4. Pigs

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