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The Myth of ‘Afghan Black’ (2): The cultural history of hashish consumption in Afghanistan

Hashish or chars is a fairly common substance in Afghanistan. Its use, without ever attaining the levels of mass consumption that characterise other lightly-intoxicating substances in other war-torn countries, like the chewing of qat in Yemen or Somalia, for example, has remained relatively widespread. This does not mean that it is condoned by society: hashish-users, known as […]

Hitting Gardez: A vicious attack on Paktia’s Shias

Afghan Shia Muslims are feeling increasingly beleaguered after two massacres targeting their community this month. Both were claimed by the Afghan ‘franchise’ of Daesh, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP). On 3 August, gunmen killed at least 38 men and boys during Friday prayers at a village mosque in the outskirts of Gardez city. […]

War and Exile Through the Musicians’ Eye: Professor John Baily’s account of four decades of Afghan music (book review)

 “Music is essential for the very survival of man’s humanity.” In the opening lines of his book ‘War, Exile and the Music of Afghanistan’, John Baily motivates his research with this quote from fellow ethnomusicologist John Blacking. For the author, who spent more than four decades researching and performing the music of Afghanistan alongside Afghan […]

Under the Mountain: A pre-emptive Taleban spring offensive in Shindand

Throughout March 2016, Shindand district in Herat province witnessed heavy fighting. Clashes between two rival insurgent groups were followed by a string of ANSF military operations. With substantial help from Quetta, the local pro-Mansur Taleban group has swept away a pro-Rasul outfit that had recently proved less aggressive towards the government. This new outbreak of […]

Afghanistan in World Literature (IV): Weird Tales from the Frontier

Throughout the last couple of centuries, the way foreign authors, both novelists and scholars, have portrayed Afghans has had an impact on how Afghanistan itself is perceived. One such writer, a bestseller in his day, although now less well known, is the 1920s-30s fantasy and adventure writer, Robert E Howard. His novels stand out, says […]