The Society and Its Environment

The Society and Its Environment

Nancy Hatch Dupree and Thomas E.Gouttierre, Authors

THE HOPE AND EXHILARATION felt among Afghans as the last Soviet troopsretreated from their country in early 1989 gave way to frustration withinmonths. Disparate Afghan groups had struggled valiantly against a common enemy,but the extent of the discord and rivalries which characterized their effortsbecame ominously evident.

Many of those who marveled at the determined and tenacious Afghan response tothe invasion of their country have questioned why these same people have turnedupon themselves with equal ferocity. Numbers of answers lie in the impact of theSoviet-Afghan War upon Afghan society.

The regional and internal conflicts that erupted after the end of the war arethe effects of that war. Islam as a measure of national identity is challenginga century of inroads by secular institutions. Traditional Afghan methods ofconflict resolution guided by the spirit of egalitarianism and respect forothers are being severely thwarted in an environment surfeited with modernweaponry supplied by outsiders pursuing a multiplicity of regional agendascentered on Afghanistan. Massive drug trafficking created during the warexacerbates the conflict. The persistent rise and fall of individuals forgingpower from these weapons and drugs fuel self-interests, preclude peace andstretch taut the fabric of the society.

Society in predominately Islamic Afghanistan is defined by a rich melange ofvariety reflecting its position at the hub of four great cultural zones. CentralAsia, China, the Indian subcontinent and the Iranian plateau extend to itsborders. Builders of empires, traders and pilgrims as well as those seekinghaven from upheavals in their own societies have come to this land throughoutthe centuries. Some merely passed through; others settled to make it theirhomeland. Whatever the manner of their arrival, each impressed their owncultural mores on the society.

The Afghan area thus evolved as a zone of cultural transition with a complexethnolinguistic population as varied as its geography which encompasses fertilemountain valleys in the east, plains and grasslands in the north, a centralmountain core, and deserts and semideserts in the west and southwest. Theinhabitants of these different areas take pride in these culturaldifferentiations and follow their own customs, distinct tribal norms, religiousvariations, divergent attitudes toward family and gender, and contrastingsubsistence life-styles.

As the twenty-first century approaches, all Afghans face the challenge ofrebuilding their civic society -- a struggle as daunting as their struggle wasagainst the Soviet Union.

Data as of 1997

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