On 20 January 2014, a fight broke out between three people in the main thoroughfare of the bazaar of Bamyan, near the Azizi Bank. Before long, a hundred men had become involved in this altercation: they included inhabitants of the city but there were also men from surrounding areas—Asiyab, Shahidan, and Jagrakhil—and Fatmasti, the home town of the three protagonists located ten minutes’ drive away on the road to Shashpul. What were they quarrelling about? Presumably a bag of money that one of them was taking to deposit at a bank. But as the subject of the dispute has vanished, and no one seems to want to talk about it today, it would be better to ask why the conflict intensified in
The small town of Fatmasti is home to some 300 families. Since the 1970s, it has been the scene of 74 tragic deaths—martyrs for some, victims of murders for others—often within the same family, involving a series of vendettas. The residents of Fatmasti sometimes call themselves Hazara and sometimes Parsiwan, and claim they are Sabzevari from Iran. Their story is mentioned in the mausoleums of Mir Hashem Agha and Seyed Ali Yakhsuz Bamyan, the two main pilgrimage sites in the city. ‘The Hazaras are descendants of Genghis Khan the Mughal, but our origins date back to the dynasty of Key, a dynasty of aria (Aryans),’ says Khalifa Aziz,1 the babeh kalan (the grandfather of the place), who no longer lives in Fatmasti and has lost most of his family in conflicts between cousins (mama and khala). Most of these violent deaths occurred during the jihad against the Soviets and the ‘war of the commanders’ (1992–96), during which his family split between supporters of Hizb-i Nasr—later absorbed by the Hizb-i Wahdat of Mohammad Ali Mazari—and the Hizb-i Harakat-i islami of Ayatollah Asef Mohseni. But the intra-family conflict was rooted in land demarcation (polvan), a process that has usually involved placing brothers-in-law (baja in Dari or yazna in Pashto) in competition with one another. The general opinion was that it was intensified by two factors specific to this time of war: the flow of arms and the political exile or economic emigration that were forced upon the men. So this was a war between cousins, fuelled by marital disputes. Tellingly, the men were the protagonists of the violence, but women cast an ubiquitous shadow. They contributed, indirectly, to the production of the society and its conflicts.
The village of Fatmasti, then, is a compendium of the complex social affiliations and political issues in contemporary Afghanistan, especially the central region of the Hazarajat on which we will be focussing. We will see that foreign aid provided since 2001 for the (re)construction of the Afghan state has paradoxically intensified the ‘ethnicisation’ and sectarianisation of economic and political relations, in total contradiction with the criteria of good governance advocated by the donors. Conflicts apparently related to tradition and identity have become more common, and indeed point to more fundamental contradictions between the culturalist representation of Afghan society and the effects of the country’s integration into the world capitalist economy. Thus, viewing Islamic radicalisation, ethnic polarisation or tribal atavism as responsible for the social and political violence in Afghanistan gives an incomplete picture of the situation, as it ignores transformations in society and the new challenges of this supposedly traditional conflict. In addition, donors often use a naive language, trapped within general models and paradigms disconnected from the reality of the country whose problems they are attempting to solve.
2 The Primordial Experience of War
History, then, is essential if you want to understand Afghanistan. Ethnicity, language, tradition and even Islam cannot be considered as explanatory categories in themselves. We will start from the premise that the problems of
Before getting to the heart of the matter, it is worth mentioning the historical context in which foreign intervention in Afghanistan, one of the least developed countries in the world, has occurred. In 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan fomented a coup that helped overthrow the government of President Dawood Khan and triggered a Soviet occupation that lasted until 1989 (Andishmand, 2009; Roy, 1985). Since then the country has been shaken by a civil war (1989–96)—including the Battle of Jalabad in 1989 and the successive battles of Kabul ( jangha-ye kabol) between 1992 and 1996 (Qhodus, 2009; Azimi, 2012–2013; Dorronsoro, 2000)—and by foreign interventions. Afghanistan holds a sad record: in the 1990s, the country produced the highest number of refugees in the world.
On Afghan soil, poverty and the presence of weapons have combined to exacerbate land issues, intensify urbanisation and swell migration. Since 2002, the problems arising from this conjunction, far from being resolved, have worsened, especially when it comes to property (Adelkhah, 2013). The Karzai Administration has merely endorsed the overlapping and layering of laws and regulations handed down from prior periods, pragmatically using, to its advantage, the local balance of power between institutions, between social and ethnic groups, and between commanders. In reality, over and above the make-believe discourse presented to foreign donors, this policy has led to a centralisation of the land allocation process and then to land-grabbing on the part of those in power and their clientele, in their own names (or those of their families) and in the name of the state. From this point of view, the general relations maintained by both the dominant political class and the state with the mass of the population—especially with residents in rural, sedentary or nomad zones—is probably more important than the extent of interethnic or religious relationships, although they are often two sides of the same coin. The only major legislative reform in this area was passed in 2008 and aimed at the opening of the land market to foreign investors. Even if its application is still limited, this reform has created more problems than it has solved. It has absolutely not broken with the logics of accumulation of the national ruling class that controls the granting of agricultural and mining concessions, since this class still holds the keys to the market and the signing of contracts. If these foreign investments are indeed made, they will trigger the alienation of considerable
Despite the superposition of texts, the heterogeneity of proofs of ownership, the coexistence of often contradictory legal legitimacies, the fragmentation of the land, the tangle of ethnic identifications, and the extreme diversity of agricultural situations, this development has now been well documented, both by academic research and by experts (Adelkhah, 2013; Alden Wily, 2013a).4 But it is largely seen as a failure in ‘post-conflict’ management or as the result of the evanescence of a state that, in the absence of any ‘national sentiment’, is now ‘bankrupt’, succumbing to the dual pressures of a ‘corrupt’ political class and ‘tradition’. Certainly, the responsibilities of Afghan actors are substantial. However, had not the rot already set in because of the inconsistencies of foreign intervention? The basic problem lies, perhaps, in the idea or in the very principle of the aid in the name of which Afghan actors interact. The legacy of the violence of the years 1979 to 2001 and the painful memory they left did not miraculously disappear thereafter. The war is still very present in the minds of Afghans. It continues to provide the grammar and even the lexicon of day-to-day social life. In fact, it has formed the matrix of present-day Afghanistan, as a result of the population movements and the destruction and transfer of property that it caused. In addition, it has shaped the social consciousness of Afghans, who continue to zigzag between past and present in their daily conversations, if only because of the still visible traces of the battles of the 1980s and 1990s or the transformations of the landscape—especially in terms of urbanisation—that the conflict caused. The landscape has a mnemonic function and the war remains the great founding narrative of contemporary Afghanistan. It is all the more an active presence in that the belligerents were not abstract geopolitical entities such as communism, Islam, or the nation, but flesh-and-blood actors bound by close, and even intimate relations arising
3 The Invention of Ethnicity in the Hazarajat
This chapter is based essentially on two field surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 in the central region of the Hazarajat. To the extent that the name of this region refers to the idea of the Hazara ethnic group, it should be noted at the outset that ethnicity refers less to objective groups of belonging, with an origin and a clearly defined territory, than to categories by which actors define themselves (or are defined).6 According to Olivier Roy (1985), the war was a crucial vector of ethnic consciousness in Afghanistan. It endorsed our major groups that cannot be defined according to objective and unambiguous criteria: Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. By definition, these categories are historically situated. They are contextual, relational and relative: you are a Hazara in relation to the Pashtuns, the Tajiks, and the Sayyids, at a given historical moment that refers to a more or less distant and more or less traumatic past as well as to completely contemporary issues interpreted using the yardstick of this memory. Following Richard Tapper (1983), and in agreement with Olivier Roy (1985) and Alessandro Monsutti (2004 and 2005), we therefore disclaim any primordialist definition of ethnicity. Today, this definition stems in particular
Important as it is, the ethnic dimension should not be exaggerated. It is significant only through its inclusion in the political dimension, whether or not this is militarised. It is also mixed with the linguistic dimension that in many ways relativises it and opens new fields of conflict, especially between Dari speakers and Pashtun speakers. But the language dispute at least has the advantage of blurring or even diluting the binary inter-sectarian antagonism between Sunnis and Shi’ites, as well as interethnic oppositions.
From the nineteenth century onwards, the modern Afghan state was formed on the basis of an Anglo–Russian agreement creating a buffer state between the two empires, on a vector of Hanafi rite Pashtun and Sunni elements to which the other ethnic groups and Islamic legal schools (Nizari and Jafari) were subordinated, not to mention the Hindus and Sikhs, who were completely marginalised or expelled after the breakup of the British Raj in 1947. The Hazaras, Shi’ites of the Jafari rite, were the big losers in this process until 1979, and the Hazarajat became the cursed land of their subjection in the 1891–93 war—even though Kafiristan (now Nuristan), in the east, and Turkestan, in the north and north-east, were also conquered by force and colonised by the new Pashtun dynasty (Ghobar, 2011, 483ff. and 490ff.).
The Hazarajat is a historical area that has never been an administrative unit.7 Until the constitutional revision of 1964, it was essentially divided between
Before the ‘iron rule’ of Abdurrahman (1880–1901), the founder of modern Afghanistan, the Hazarajat had never been politically unified and was ruled by tribal leaders (amir). From the reign of Sher Ali Khan (1863–79) onwards, the so-called Kuchi Pashtun nomads raided the region to lead their flocks in transhumance to the high mountain pastures. Under the pretext of fighting the ‘heresy’ that existed in this region, Abdurrahman decided to conquer it, after driving its population to revolt in 1891 by subjecting it to an intolerable tax burden and plundering its land and herds, carrying out many arrests and deporting part of its population to Kabul. This military campaign of 1891–93 resulted in massacres, but it also had serious consequences for the future of this region, colonised through the almost total deportation of the Pashtun Kuchi Ghilzai. The Hazaras who survived and remained in the Hazarajat—many of them took refuge in the Iranian city of Mashhad, in the city of Quetta in the British Raj, and in Russia—were enslaved and stripped of their land, including pastures.
Only after the Soviet invasion—which, despite the presence of a small garrison in the town of Bamyan, left the Hazarajat virtually unaffected, as this deprived region offered little of interest and the resistance there was strong and immediate (Mohaghegh, 1984)—could the Hazaras begin to free themselves from the Pashtun, Tajik and Sunni yoke. First, they were able to interact with the central government thanks to the appointment as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Babrak Karmal (1981–88), Mohammad Najibullah (1989–91) and finally Soltanali Keshtmand, a Hazara from Fouladi, a woluswali from the wilayat of Bamyan, whose parents had been deported to Kabul by Abdurrahman (Keshtmand, 2009). In 1987, under the influence of Tehran, armed groups claiming to be acting more or less for the Islamic Republic of Iran—the Sazman i-Nasr group, close to Ayatollah Montazeri, and the Sapah-i Pasdaran group, close to the Revolutionary Guards—united as a Council for the Alliance (Shura-i ittifaq), based in the district of Yakawlang, and this eventually gave birth to a political party. The Hizb-i Wahdat was created in Bamyan in 1989 and its presidency was entrusted to the charismatic Abdul Ali Mazari (Dorronsoro, 2000, 158ff. and 240ff.; Monsutti, 2005: 92ff.; Roy, 1985; Mo’aseseye farhangi
After the assassination of Abdul Ali Mazari by the Taliban in 1995, Hizb-i Wahdat split into two factions. One, led by Abdul Karim Khalili from Behsud (Wardak), joined the Northern Alliance of Commander Dostom; the other, led by Mohammed Akbari from Waras (Bamyan), allied with the Taliban but also with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The two sides confronted one another until 1998, when the Taliban conquered the Hazarajat after subjecting it to a harsh economic blockade. They quickly entrusted the administration of the region to the supporters of Mohammed Akbari. But Abdul Karim Khalili’s men continued to resist, launching an unsuccessful offensive on Bamyan in May 1999. The fighting claimed many lives and led to the destruction of almost one-fifth of the city’s buildings, including the bazaar. Almost all of the population, some 13,000 families, fled, and Tajik traders took over the bazaar. Building on the victory of the Taliban, the Kuchis returned to the region to try to recover their property and land rights. In January 2001, fighting duly resumed in the district of Yakawlang, causing a new exodus of the Hazaras under the pressure of Taliban reprisals—a mass killing (qatl-i ‘am) that remains intensely present in regional memory.
In November 2001, the Hazarajat moved on to a new stage in its history. The Taliban left the area following the us intervention, giving the Hazaras
Within a century, the formation of the state and the social phenomena that came with it—such as urbanisation, emigration, and the confiscation or redistribution of land—had resulted in the sorrowful construction of a Hazara identity seen as an ethnic, even racial fact. Since the late nineteenth century, the Hazaras had indeed been considered Mongols by Tajik, Pashtun and Sayyid elites, and some of their physical characteristics, such as their flat noses, had been the subject of daily jokes. Various factors contributed to this ‘invention of ethnicity’. First, the Shi’ite religious awakening of the 1960s, related to the Iraqi and Iranian holy places and under the influence of Ayatollah Mir Ali Ahmad Hojjat10 and Sayed Esmael Balkhi.11 Second, the flowering in Iran of a Hazara literature of resistance (Olszewska, 2009). Third, a musical renaissance, promoted by Radio Hazarahgi in Quetta from 1975 onwards. And lastly, the fact that in 2002 the us military intervention paradoxically allowed the celebration
De facto, the formation of the state also turned the Shi’ite branch into the subordinate religion in an Afghanistan that was presumed to be Sunni, although the constitution did not mention any religious distinction and confined itself to making Hanafi Islam the state religion. Since 2008 and under the new 2004 constitution, the law on personal status—ahwal-i shakhsiya—has allowed Hazaras to resort to fiqh jafari when both parties are Shi’ites.12 Nevertheless, the ethnicisation of the Hazaras is now undergoing an interesting development that tends to separate it from Shi’a Islam. Indeed, some Sunni Hazaras, assembled in council, demand this dual ethnic and religious affiliation and are now—surprisingly—well received by Shi’ite Hazaras pleased to see their ranks being swelled in anticipation of an ethnically connoted electoral competition and to have one foot in the camp of the majority religious affiliation, which allows them to interact with other identity groups on equal terms (Bouda, 2015). Ethnicisation is therefore a process whose outcome is less a well-defined Hazara than a ‘Hazarification’ of heterogeneous or hybrid populations such as the Hazaras of Pashtun culture or the ‘mixed’ or ‘mixed race’ (doraga) Hazaras.13 In all ethnic groups, then, a distinction is drawn between original Hazaras (asli) and those to whom Hazara identity is ascribed (wasli), which makes it possible for the ‘authenticity’ and ‘native status’ of families to be claimed or contested.
Hazaras and Shi’ites do not constitute a homogeneous group. Beyond their different backgrounds and inequalities in terms of education, wealth, and gender, they have been divided politically since the 1978 coup. As we have said, some joined the Sazman-i Nasr of Mohammad Abdul Ali Mazari while others supported the Hizb-i harakat of Ayatollah Mohseni (Mohaghegh, 1984), thus leading to the break-up of the Hizb-e Wahdat a few years after its establishment. After the split, some made their peace with the Taliban or even joined them (Alden Wily, 2004, 23), while others supported the Hizb-i harakat, including many Sayyids, Qizilbash or Ismailis (Mo’aseseye farhangi Saghalain 1999, 190ff.). These internal political differences which have led to military confrontation for three decades, to conflicts over land and real estate, and to commercial and financial quarrels, fuel distrust and animosity between Shi’ites,
4 Reconstruction of the State, Development Aid and the Invention of Ethnicity
The Western military intervention of 2001, and the ‘reconstruction’ of the state that ensued, reproduced and extended the process of the invention of a Hazara Hazarajat and the ethnicisation of the Hazaras. The foreign presence, the financial flows it generated, the economic opportunities it opened up, and the institutional patterns that it established intensified the ethnicisation and/or sectarianisation of Afghan society, as well as the return of refugees and migrants, investments from the diaspora, and urbanisation. And this happened even though, politically and ideologically, aid for reconstruction was meant to transcend these divisions inherited from the past, these incarnations of ‘tradition’ allegedly behind the political crisis into which the country had sunk since the 1970s. Inspired by the experts of the International Security Assistance Force (isaf), the 2004 constitution also drew on a primordialist vision of ethnicity and sectarianism to explicitly recognise the rights of ethnic groups, who found themselves reified as a result. The fact that the theory of nationalities (mellat) proposed by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (1978–79)
These appointments were followed by the recruitment of Hazara officials and administrative officers, chosen in accordance with the ethnic logic of the spoils system—or even in accordance with party or faction, as the above-named prefects are all close to the Hizb-i Wahdat, of the Khalili/Mohaghegh tendency. These appointments have therefore had an immediate impact on the policy of land allocation, the recognition of land rights and the allocation of state resources in favour of Hazaras and to the detriment of Tajiks and Sayyids (Adlparvar, 2015, Chapter 5). Beyond politics and administration, ethnicisation
The political economy of ‘reconstruction’ has inevitably grafted itself into the ethnopolitical memory of the war and prior periods, in a country where the traceability of property is a highly contradictory matter, depending on the nature of the evidence adduced (political, legal, customary, scriptural or oral), thus giving a contemporary, conflictual character to any reference to the past (Alden Wily, 2004; Monsutti, 2008). When elections take place, Afghans can immediately identify among the candidates the fighters who resisted the Soviet occupation—those who, in Afghanistan, are referred to as jihadis—and the migrants who have returned home (mohajer). Similarly, they distinguish economic actors depending on the origin of their fortunes and their projects. Everyone is familiar with the career of a given hotel owner, residential development promoter (sharak) or bazaar trader.
The ethnic and religious identity of entrepreneurs and recipients of development aid is thus self-evident and foreign actors adapt to it when not exploiting it. For example, the influx of ngos with Western and Japanese financial support in the prefecture of Bamyan, anxious to meet the needs of one of the poorest regions of the country and to rescue its women, was immediately configured in accordance with interethnic and inter-religious relations as the war had redefined them (Anjoman-i nevisandegan-i Bamyan, 2011). The armed resistance of Abdul Karim Khalili to the Taliban offensive from 1996 to 1998, and his political rise under President Hamid Karzai, consummated the process of the ‘Hazarification’ of a province previously dominated by Tajiks and Sayyids (though the former continued to exert economic and financial control from Kabul, Baghlan, Mazar-i Sharif and Kunduz), and of a population that previously perceived itself as Shi’ite rather than the ethnic mode favoured by the structure of military resistance in political parties—in this case by the Hizb-i Wahdat, or rather by its four branches. In return, most foreign aid actors have taken for granted the essentially Hazara nature (the ‘Hazarity’) of the Hazarajat. And after 2004, the Hazara themselves came in great numbers from Ghazni, Balkh, Herat and other locations favoured by the diaspora, hoping to profit from the windfall of aid, claiming they were ‘returning to their roots’. Abdul Karim Khalili encouraged this movement in order to strengthen his electoral base as the 2003 presidential election approached—an election in which he supported the candidature of Hamid Karzai—which involved mobilising
But these processes cover more complex lines of division. As we have seen, the Hazaras in Bamyan are divided. Indigenous Hazaras (watani) now live together, in a state of some tension, with Hazaras who came from Ghazni, Herat and Mazar-i Sharif after the fall of the Taliban to enjoy the windfall of the Hazarajat, as well as with the zawari Hazaras back from Iran. Like other ethnic groups in the country, the Hazaras as a whole are ultimately driven by progressive internal divisions that are less part of identity in the abstract sense than of social inequalities, starting with inequalities in gender and education. As shown by the case of the village of Fatmasti, the situation is even more complex on the micro-local level of historical lands. In this fragmented social landscape, generally governed by the twin principle of lineage (qawm) and locality (manteqa), Olivier Roy (1985) was among the first to demonstrate the need to keep in mind that the ethnicisation of Afghan society is a fluid process, situated historically and politically constructed, at least since the centralising reign of Abdurrahman. The nature of this process has been confirmed by Alessandro Monsutti’s research on the Hazaras (2004 and 2005). This ethnicisation is not based on a territorialisation of tribal membership which might be explained by one of those notorious (and improbable) ‘ethnic cards’. It rests instead on population movements that are either voluntary and motivated by economic interest, or constrained by central government initiatives—as we saw in connection with the Hazarajat, by the convulsions of land reform (1976–79) or by war (1979–2001).
It is thus necessary to combine the issue of the local and segmental with that of population mobility in the context of transhumance—but also of seasonal migration, emigration, and membership of the diaspora—and with
5 The Political and Moral Economy of Ethnicity
‘Reconstruction’ is only one moment among many in this long history, an episode that is changing its direction thanks to the extent of the resources pumped into the country and the introduction of representative institutions conducive to the ethnicisation of political life through elections. From this point of view, foreign intervention has, since 2001, deemed it politically correct to promote the integration of the ‘minority’ par excellence—that is to say, the Hazaras—into the Afghan political system, at the cost of the ethnic reification of their identity but without bringing them out of their socio-economic subordination, including in the Hazarajat, a particularly deprived area for mainly geographical reasons. In the regions, the bulk of land speculation focuses on plots that would have little market value outside this mountainous country, as they are located on steep terrain, are hard to sustain and are exposed to rainwater run-off, erosion and landslides.
Favoured by the securitisation of land ownership, the territorialisation of ethnicity strengthens the community bias of development aid. Sometimes donors exploit this for strategic, religious or cultural reasons of their own, as is the case with Iran (which promotes the Hazaras), Pakistan (the Pashtuns), Turkey (the Uzbeks) and the Aga Khan Foundation (the Ismailis). But beyond these political approaches, the operational requirements of the land are self-evident. While most foreign actors endeavour to remain politically correct by recruiting several Hazaras, they must in all cases rely on Pashtuns to work in the south, or Tajiks or Uzbeks in the north. Of course, the same reasoning applies to the Hazarajat, where it is essential to use Hazaras. Despite this, the ngo labour market initially benefited the Sunnis, if only because they form the majority and are often better trained and more commonly English-speaking.
Ethnic networks, meanwhile, are endeavouring to tap into the flow of development aid and the foreign presence. Thus, the Hazaras benefit from institutions or projects connected with human rights, and the Tajiks from scientific and cultural cooperation: the former focus on commissions for women’s rights, the latter on think tanks and the media. As for Pashtuns, they are irreplaceable in the crucial area of telecommunications, for obvious reasons of
Since 2002, the diaspora, development aid and the foreign troops and ngos in the territory have pumped substantial funds into Afghan society. These funds have caused a sharp increase in prices in certain sectors, including real estate, hotels and restaurants, airlines, car rental companies, and the consumption of international products and certain local services, such as the provision of must-have items for wedding venues. But this influx of money was grafted onto existing social relations, especially in families, and transformed their balance and even their very nature. This resulted in a complex mixture of traditionalisation and monetisation of one’s kin. In all social circles, as the dollar is king, the father does not so much give his daughters away in marriage as trade them, sometimes at a very high rate, and sometimes right from the cradle.18 If an interesting offer comes along, a farmer may for example be compelled to give away his child. But the head of a good family whose reputation triggers tantalising financial proposals from suitors who wish to climb up the social ladder can proceed in just the same way. At this point, complex social strategies intervene and usually contribute to dowry inflation. For instance, a father wanting to reserve his daughter for one of her cousins can try to turn away, without offending him, an inopportune suitor by demanding a very high dowry (or ‘milk price’, pul-i shir). But if the ploy fails, as often happens, the increase is considered effective. The marriage market has thus become judicialised as a result of its monetisation and the intervention of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and ngos concerned to defend the condition of women and the cause of rights. In return, this judicialisation has led to an acceleration of the monetisation of this market in a context where the courts, which not only need payment but are also, it is said, lured by the smell of money, continue to promulgate financial decisions relative to the amount of the dowry or to blood, which follow the exponential curve of the cost of living. The combination of money, legal system and custom tends to extend, reify and dramatise the practical exercise of the last of these, for example in the shape of marriage exchanges of the compensatory type intended to avert or stop the ‘evil’ (bad or badal)—that is to say, violence between families, clans and ethnic groups. Some might even seek, these days, to trigger a family or marital conflict, hoping to reach an agreement of this type. The idea of antagonism is immediately associated with that of the profit that might be drawn from it, which induces a form of intentionality: thus, the complainant will be suspected of having
The distortions introduced within Afghan society by the foreign presence—and by the influx of money, the land speculation, and the ideological dissonance it generates—come with a high human cost. First and foremost, they lead to a split or even a generational divide. The youngest people are often better educated and more familiar with international practices, and their command of English allows them to benefit from professional and economic opportunities that are more or less beyond the reach of their elders. This imbalance has led to the widespread destabilisation of social status: the young suffer from not holding decision-making power that is proportional to their skills in what is still a patriarchal and tribal society; older people believe that the success of their juniors is a challenge to their authority. Added to this is a destabilisation of conjugal roles, evident for example when a woman has her own income, for example because she works for an ngo, while her husband is unemployed or has to settle for the meagre rewards of the normal Afghan economy. In addition, women are beginning to express their demands with regard to inheritance rights: this is an explosive development from the point of view of customary law and Islamic law. Moreover, development aid and its collateral effects are intensifying intra-generational and intra-family rivalries, fanning ‘competition among peers, or even between cousins’ (sayal dari or sayal shiriki) or even rivalry between the descendants of brothers (owdourzadegi). So a woman may have to pay a significant amount of rent to her husband in order to turn a room in the family home into a nursery. A young man who organises a too lavish wedding can create a bad precedent for his brothers, cousins or friends, who may not have the same financial means as he does and will see their reputations suffer accordingly. Women working for ngos should be careful not to tarnish the honour of their colleagues. If they were to separate from their husbands, they would not only lose their social status but also their jobs, and find the chances of them being elected significantly limited, if they are thinking of getting involved in this sphere. Should they be obliged to go to court to see their rights enforced, or simply see their demands recognised, the process will cost them around usd 8,000.
Generally, the multiple lines of division and conflict running through Afghan society are amplified by its extremely fragmented character and the tangle of landholdings, ethnic and religious memberships, and clan and family allegiances. Any allocation of resources, especially investment, involves a choice in favour of one locality and therefore at the expense of others. This phenomenon is evident in the field of rural engineering: water supplies, the charges that determine their use, the waiting time required to obtain access to
Rightly or wrongly, the population holds the providers of aid responsible for the uncontrolled circulation of firearms: Provincial Reconstruction Teams sent out to rebuild the provinces are left without means of defence, and are therefore unable to sell weapons on to Afghans, especially as the searches carried out by us troops in private homes have prompted many households to provide themselves with the tools necessary to protect their privacy and safeguard their honour. The massive recruitment of local police (polis-i mahalli)—some 30,000 of them—plays a part in the militarisation of Afghan society, as these security forces are readily viewed by the population as arbaki, those swashbuckling figures who controlled the neighbourhoods and played a central role in social violence and civil war (Dorronsoro, 2000, 127). In other words, aid and
One final factor needs to be considered. The self-proclaimed return to peace following the us intervention in 2001 and the formation of an elected government has delegitimised Afghan emigration in the eyes of foreign countries, particularly Western states and Iran, which are now trying to hamper such emigration since it no longer seems to involve refugees and asylum-seekers in the strict sense of these terms. Nevertheless, the work of Alessandro Monsutti has long since dismantled any excess rigidity in the classification of the mobility of Afghans, including Hazaras. Hazaras do indeed live as ‘travellers’ (mosâfir), as members of an age-old diaspora that has always circulated according to cycles and migration patterns that stem successively or simultaneously from political exile, from flight in order to survive, from professional expatriation, from study abroad or time spent abroad for religious reasons, and from seasonal migration. Travel is a means of protection as well as a means of livelihood or enrichment, but it is also a way of confirming one’s maturity, and a veritable lifestyle in itself. In addition, the remittances of migrants are essential to the development of this country, under considerable pressure as it is from demographics and land-related issues (Monsutti, 2004 and 2009; Gehrig and Monsutti, 2003). The Hazarajat alone apparently receives approximately usd 200 million per annum from Afghans working in Iran (Monsutti, 2009, 102, note 37). There is a glaring contradiction between the display of good intentions and the real effectiveness of the policies implemented. Afghan teenagers who slip across the borders of Iran, Turkey, the Balkans and eu countries only to see their hopes stagnate, or who try and make a new life for themselves by hanging around the Gare du Nord in Paris or the approach roads of the Channel Tunnel in Calais, are the pathetic illustration of the side-effects of the territorial approach to reconstruction when applied to mobile populations.
The sometimes dramatic distortions introduced into Afghan society by Western intervention stem from a scissor effect. First, donors, foreign institutions, and ngos remain prisoners of a cultural, if not an orientalist approach to the country; a country that they are helping to traditionalise and particularly to ethnicise. They will, for example, be the first to invoke ‘custom’ (rawaj) and to seek the opinion of the ‘elders’ in order to implement their projects. They set aside the fact that the advice they are given is sometimes motivated by
Second, development aid is just as likely to destabilise this so-called traditional society by ignoring its mysteries, dreaming of forgetting the past, accelerating its monetisation and commercialisation, encouraging a securitisation of property that undermines the rights of joint ownership and the historical compromise of neighbourhood (shafa’a), creating new minorities while being unable to guarantee their safety, providing education and employment to a tiny fraction of women and young men, thereby giving them the resources to challenge their social subordination and, finally, by bringing in or consolidating new repertoires of political or professional legitimacy, most often at the expense of the authorities of ‘custom’.
This series of contradictions inherent in development aid brings social, political and even military conflicts in its wake. However, the complex logic behind these conflicts is rooted in the mysteries of the locality (manteqa) and ‘segmentarity’ (qawm) that are closed books to foreign governments and donors as well as ngos, readable only through the distorting, outrageously reductive prism of the culturalist construction of Afghan society. By simplifying and reifying this society, disguising it in the deceptive features of tradition and ethnicity, this prism totally neglects the radical transformation that Afghan society has experienced as a result of war and emigration.
The foreign providers of development in Afghanistan, pressurised by the calendar of the civil year, which controls their budgets, and dependent on intermediaries chosen for their ease of access, command of English, and interpersonal and managerial skills, move like bulls in a china shop. Even worse, they burden society with unprecedented conflicts over land issues, trade, banking, wages and education. The three pillars on which Afghan society still rests—zan (woman), zar (money) and zamin (land)—are, more than ever, factors of competition and confrontation. Development, economic growth and the internationalisation of trade conflicts stoke conflict as a result of the resources they generate and the desires they arouse. At the same time, the rational-legal, bureaucratic rule of law, if indeed it has the political and financial resources
Furthermore, such a mountainous and arid country as Afghanistan cannot expect an endogenous socio-economic take-off in a context where the scarcity of arable land adds to the demographic pressure. For decades, the mobility of populations has been the primary means of their survival, and sometimes their relative enrichment. For thirty years, remittances from emigrants have constituted a real lever for the transformation of society. Conversely, any obstruction to this movement of human beings aggravates internal tensions. In the late 1940s, the independence of Pakistan, for example, hindered the cross-border transhumance of the Kuchis, bringing extra pressure to bear on the pastures of the Hazarajat. There will be no development in Afghanistan without international mobility for Afghans. Funding and policies that fail to reflect this reality will bring neither social change nor economic growth, and will not even manage to ‘fix’ populations in their place, as Western states and Iran hope.
For fifteen years, the world has been scared of the extremism of the Taliban and the threat it poses to the international system, and has seen Afghanistan only through the reductive prism of jihadi threat. At the same time, the country has tried to send a different message to Europe, one that Europe has refused to hear—a message whose urgency and complexity are currently being revealed through the influx of refugees: how can one shape a state that follows the rule of law and is consistent with international standards while generating a basic minimum of economic growth and social justice, and take into account people’s imperative need to be mobile and interact with the several million-strong diaspora? It would be unreasonable to deny all merit to the foreign intervention of 2001. The new regime has undoubtedly created a political space in which all the so-called ethnic groups in the country can discuss sharing the external financial windfall, if not on an equal footing at least in an atmosphere conducive to effective competition and compromise (in this specific case, the
AndishmandM.E. (2009) Hizb-i democratik-i khalq-i afghanistan. Koudata hakemiyat va foroupashi (Le parti démocratique du peuple d’Afghanistan. Le coup d’Etat la souveraineté et l’effondrement [The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. The coup the regime and the collapse] Translated by the author) (Kabul: Mayvand1388/2009).
BaczkoA. (2013) ‘Les conflits fonciers comme analyseurs des guerres civiles: chefs de guerre, militaires américains et juges Taliban dans la Kunar’Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée133 pp. 115–132http://remmm.revues.org/8034 (accessed on 16 June 2016).
MohagheghMohammad (1984) Khaterat-i yek sangar neshin. Goushei az jenayat-i khawanin dar enghelab-i eslami-i afghanestan[Memories of a man of the trench Vol. 1 Some of the crimes of landowners in the Islamic revolution of Afghanistan] n.p. Sayed Habibollah Shafagh1363/1984.
MonsuttiA. (2007) ‘Image of the Self, image of the Other: social organization and the role of “Ashura” among the Hazaras of Quetta (Pakistan)’ in MonsuttiA.S.Naef and F.Sabahi (eds.) The Other Shiites: From the Mediterranean to Central Asia (Berlin: Peter Lang) pp. 173–191.
1880–1901: ‘Reign of Iron’ of Abdurrahman the founder of modern Afghanistan under British tutelage
1891–93: ‘Three-year War’ in the Hazarajat
1928: Major reforms of the constitutional King Amanullah (1919–29)
1933–73: Reign of Zaher Shah
1973: Coup of Mohammad Dawood Khan the King’s cousin and former Prime Minister (1953–63) and proclamation of the Republic
1978: Coup of the People’s Democratic Party
1979–89: Soviet occupation
1992: Fall of the pro-Soviet regime
1992–96: Coming to power of the Mujahideen who resisted the Soviet occupation and the ‘War of the Commanders’
1996–2001: Taliban regime overthrown by US military intervention
2001–14: Karzai Administration
Since 2014: Coalition government of Abdullah Abdullah–Ashraf Ghani
My thanks to Mahdi Mehraeen (journalist and consultant) and Ibrahim Tavalla (editor of the weekly Sada-I Shahrvand-i Bamayn) for their help throughout this research project. I have simplified the transcription and accentuation of Dari for easier reading.
Personal observations, 2014 and 2015.
Personal observations, 2014 and 2015.
Personal observations, 2014 and 2015.
See also the publications of Integrity Watch Afghanistan (http://iwaweb.org, accessed on 16 June 2016), the Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (http://appro.org.af, accessed on 16 June 2016) and the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (http://www.areu.org.af, accessed on 16 June 2016).
Azizullah Royesh is a Shi’ite and Hazara reformer who has been greatly influenced by the Iranian philosopher Ali Shariati. As the founder and director of the pioneering Marefat school in Kabul, he was ranked—in the context of its Global Teacher Prize—by the Varkey Foundation among the top ten teachers in the world in 2015.
Afghanistan has been a hotspot of the problematisation of ethnicity inspired by the founding work of Fredrik Barth (see especially Tapper, 1983, and Digard, 1988). This approach has been adopted by Adlparvar (2015). For a scholarly overview of ethnicity in Afghanistan, see Centlivres (1991).
I have used the following translations of Afghan administrative terms: prefecture (wilayat) and prefect (wali); sub-prefecture (woluswali) and sub-prefect (woluswal); district (ghariya). The term manteqa (literally region, locality) has no official administrative significance, but indicates the basic unit of territorial consciousness, which encompasses several villages in a clearly identified area of land, below the ghariya. This level of territorial belonging played a decisive role in the war and constitutes a factor of solidarity just as important as the principle of lineage and community associated with the principle of qawm.
This version of events is disputed by the Hazaras themselves, who place the blame on factional rivalries between Hazara commanders and even on the Sayyids (interviews in Bamyan and Kabul, 2014). See also Royesh (2013, 139 ff.).
Personal observation, 2015.
Mir Ali Ahmad Hojjat was the main Afghan Shi’ite authority and founder of the first religious school of this branch of Islam in Kabul, in the district of Chandawul. He died in 1974.
Sayed Esmael Balkhi was the founder of the modern Shi’ite Islamic movement, and is known as the father of the Hazara movement for political autonomy. He died in 1968.
This is the law relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance, http://www.bsharat.com/id/16-f-h/01.html (accessed on 16 June 2016).
See Yazdani (2011, 267 ff.). The author is convinced of the existence of ‘true’ Hazaras, while stating that matrimonial alliances may have altered their physical characteristics and that there are ‘Pashtunized’ or ‘mixed’ (dorageh) Hazaras.
Interviews with Saleh Aliyar, Chairman of the Peace Council, and Mostafa Makarem, director of the television channel Rahe-e-Farda (Kabul, 2014 and 2015).
These Hazaras came in particular from Ghazni, the historic stronghold of intellectual elites thanks to its links with Pakistan.
Personal observation (2014–15); Adlparvar (2015, 152 ff.).
See the relevant press articles (in Persian), including: http://kabulpress.org/my/spip.php?article10066 (accessed on 16 June 2016) and http://urozgan.org/Clear/fa-AF/print/article/print/1604/ (accessed on 16 June 2016).
This is called gahvara bakhshi (making a gift from the cradle); see Ghazali (2013).