9 Crucial Tips to Understanding Afghanista
- Afghanistan is slightly smaller than the state of Texas and is landlocked, meaning it has no oceans, seas, or great lakes around it.
- Only 11% of the land is capable of producing crops, the rest is rocky desert or rugged mountains. People are concentrated along rivers, at the base of mountains, and on the northern plains.
- Afghanistan has 2 official languages, Dari and Pashto. Turkmen is also a widely spoken language. In addition to these 3, the 114 recognized ethnic groups speak 30 other languages.
- Most of the population (63.8%) in under the age of 24.
The Soviet invasion; which launched 37 years of war, chaos, brutal oppression and then more unending war, happened long before most Afghans were born.
What does this mean: The majority of the country is now trying to create something they have never experienced and can only imagine, a peaceful, stable democracy.
- As a crossroads of trade routes between Asia, Europe, the middle east and India, the people of Afghanistan have come under many rulers.
Afghanistan was established as one unified country in 1747, a few years before the US was born. Despite a brief attempt a British occupation, until recently Afghanistan has enjoyed many years of peace and relative prosperity. Kabul was even a tourist destination for Indians and Europeans, with fine cuisine and well known markets.
What does this mean: Resist the temptation to think of Afghanistan as a place which has never advanced beyond the stone age, or dehumanize the people by thinking of them as some primitive group. Counter the thought that “those people have been fighting for thousands of years.”
- The estimated population in Afghanistan as of 2015 is 32 million people.
There are, as estimated from WHO, 10 million landmines in Afghanistan.
Or look at it this way; out of 652,860 square kilometers of Afghanistan
118, 013 are known minefields or former battlefields.
I was out past our Northern gate at the Bagram Airbase, gate was a little bit of a stretch back then, it consisted of a guard tower with usually no more than 2 enlisted soldiers who pulled guard duty in shifts. Looking out over the vast rocky plain to the north I thought I saw 3 small shimmering figures. No, I thought, this area is clearly marked as a minefield and full of leftover unexploded small bombs. They shimmered their way into 2 boys and a girl, probably about 10 years old. I waved, shouting “no, no, mine.” I jumped around pointing to fence with the signs, the drawings of tiny mines and bombs.
One of the boys smiled and held a piece of unexploded ordinance high above his head, like a prize. Indeed, it was. If he could survive to make the sale, it would feed his family for several weeks. I walked on until I heard the faint boom, like a puff compared to the larger munitions. Land mine I thought. I turned and headed back to the hospital and met the children on their emergency department stretchers.
Afghanistan is a mine field for its newest generation, and they are walking through with their heads held high, smiles on their faces when they can, because this is their world and they accept it as a gift.
Could are youngest US generation burn through that level of despair and constant devastation to continue to evolve a stable and prosperous country?
What can we do to make sure our youth do have the tools, and an understanding of their civic responsibilities here and in the world?
Start small: This may seem ridiculously small, but try it anyway. When you go take a walk in your neighborhood on one of these beautiful spring days take a plastic bag with you and pick up trash along the way. You never know who you will inspire.
Work your way up: Volunteer. Pick something you enjoy, or something that challenges you. Commit to one time or as a regular gig. Read to children, converse with elders or clean up wetlands, something outside yourself that you do solely to participate in a dream of a better world.
Then we will start to understand the people of Afghaistan.
World Fact Book