by Torange Yeghizarian
Most people think of the Taliban or Osama Bin Laden when they hear Afghanistan mentioned. But this landlocked country of 32 million has been thriving since 2nd century AD.
The beginning of modern Afghanistan can be dated to 1747, when Ahmad Khan Abdali was elected king of the Afghans in a tribal assembly in Kandahar. Because of its strategic location, Afghanistan has always been of interest to foreign powers, but its terrain is so rugged that no military campaign, dating back to Alexander the Great and the Soviet Russians has succeeded in fully subduing its population. Made up predominantly of Pashtuns and Tajiks, Afghanistan is also home to significant number of Uzbeks and other Central Asian nomadic tribal people. The official language is Dari and Pashto, and the majority population is reported to be Sunni Muslim.
Today, more than half of Afghanistan’s population is under 25 years old. Ashraf Ghani is the president and despite continuing Taliban insurgency and charges of government corruption, progress has been made, mainly through foreign aid, to improve Afghanistan’s economy, healthcare, education, transport, and agriculture. Women’s health and education in particular has improved significantly. Improved roads and steady electric power has led to increased number of television channels, estimated at 72. One of the most popular programs is Afghan Star, a local version of American Idol.
The Bay Area is home to a number of renowned Afghans and several NGOs that celebrate Afghan culture and contribute to Afghanistan’s continued progress. A four-block stretch in Fremont serves as the bustling cultural and commercial hub of Bay Area’s Afghan community, which at 40,000 is the largest concentration of Afghans outside Afghanistan. Clustered with Afghan specialty shops and restaurants, “Little Kabul,” as it is known, is a welcoming neighborhood with signs in Dari or Pashto, Afghan music blasting from car radios, and fresh naan baked daily.
MAY 6-29, 2016 at Thick House in San Francisco Thursdays–Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm