Wars and conflicts have made Afghanistan lose its cultural and traditional history. Can it preserve what is left?


The culture of Afghanistan could not be protected when the US troops along with their allied forces invaded the country following the September 11 attacks. The landlocked nation was not given a chance to protect its cultural legacy. One element of their culture that the US forces also experienced was bravery in combat. They consider escapism to be below their integrity. Nake M. Kamrany, professor of economics at the University of Southern California, in his article Cultural Imperative of Afghanistan writes, “Afghans do have a propensity to settle differences with enemies if they regard such a settlement as being fair. Generally superb bargainers, they are, at times, stubborn and inflexible — adhering to a position, even if unreasonable, to the bitter end.”

The culture of Afghanistan remained active for over three thousand years. It first emerged in 500 BCE during the Achaemenid Empire also called the First Persian Empire.

Afghanistan, a tribal society, pursues an Islamic culture with traces of Persian elements creating a subculture that became a symbol of the Afghan nationals. The Turko-Persian and Indo-Persian cultures have influenced the growth of the Afghan culture as a whole. Afghanistan’s culture was undermined when the US troops invaded the country. The blend of Western and Eastern values presented a new ideology that the locals wanted to dilute while adhering to their age-old customs and traditions.

In March 2001 the Taliban destroyed various Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley. They were a part of the UNESCO World Heritage. This was perhaps the first instance when the Taliban decided to create their history by erasing the rudiments from their past – no matter how historic they may be.

“Afghan culture is under attack,” said Afghan-born Bahar Jalali, Ph.D, during an interview in 2021. She is a visiting associate professor of history at Loyola University Maryland. When commenting on the culture of Afghanistan, she said, “Afghanistan is located at the confluence of four geographic zones — Central Asia, South Asia, Middle East, and Far East via a border with China. It has been called the Heart of Asia. Therefore, Afghan culture is very rich and diverse, reflecting the country’s distinctive geography and ethnography. As a multi-ethnic country with two official languages, Afghan culture is syncretic. It was once a major centre of Buddhism. Afghanistan also had thriving Jewish, Armenian, and Sikh/Hindu communities. Due to the recent Taliban seizure of power, the last remaining Jew was forced to leave the country. So, we lost our Jewish community, which dates back centuries. Similarly, the last remaining Sikhs were evacuated to India after the Taliban took power. We feel an enormous sense of loss. As a historically diverse land, Afghanistan’s true culture is at odds with attempts to impose Islamic fundamentalism and extremism on the country. This is why we have seen mass protests and demonstrations recently in the country against the imposition of Taliban rule.”

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