The Afghan Traditional Jewelry

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Afghan jewelry  plays an important role in the way in which Afghan women accessorize their traditional clothes. Without the stunning chunky Afghan jewelry , the traditional dress (Afghani clothes) will look bare and incomplete like Romeo without Juliet.

The Afghan jewelry  is not just popular among Afghans for its beauty; it also has a captivating history that dates back to thousands of years and shadows the ancient routes that interlaced through Afghanistan.

As I grew up in the West, I have developed a love for the culture, colour and life that sparks out of Afghani clothes and its jewelry . As an Afghan, I have always been intrigued by the designs and colours used to create the traditional clothes and the jewelry  and I’ve always wanted to know the history behind these stunning designs. So I have decided to explore and find out.

 

Afghan traditional clothes and jewelry  are originated from the Kuchis in Afghanistan.  Kochis or Kuchis (from the Persian word: کوچ koch; meaning “migration”) are Afghan Pashtun nomads, primarily from the Ghilji tribal confederacy. They can also be called as wanderer gypsies.

They used to migrate or wander on borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Pakistan they used to move towards Indus Valley and in the west they used to move towards Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Some of the most distinguished Ghilji Kochi tribes include the Kharoti, Andar and Ahmadzai. Authentic Tribal jewelry  takes not only a culturally idealized outward appearance, but also reflects a way of life that is steeped in socio-cultural tradition.

In the 21st century, the Afghan Kuchi jewelry  is frequently referred to as nomadic jewelry . Research reveals that countless challenges were faced by the Afghan traditional clothes and jewelry  in its history. During the Soviet occupation period and the time of the Mujahedin and the Taliban, many personally owned pieces were sold.

The Afghan Kuchi jewelry  is distinguished on the basis of whether the pieces are made of costly materials, imported pieces, or made of beads. The more expensive pieces of jewelry  are generally created using precious and semiprecious stones worked in the metal and inlay settings by metal craftsmen in public workshops. The more expensive the jewelry then it has most likely derived from the Afghan environment, it will have precious stones carved in which would be found in mountainous or riverine areas. Those types are generally worn in special occasions, while the less costly ornaments made from imported materials are worn on an everyday occasion.

The most distinguished Kuchi jewellery pieces are those that are worn by young women for special occasions like their Nikka (Muslim wedding or engagement celebration), because jewelry  made of precious and semiprecious material are generally worn on those days.

More simpler jewelry  that is worn by Afghan women every day in Afghanistan are made from cotton-stung Mora (beads) and coins also natural products such as cloves, nuts, and clay that are easily found locally in Afghanistan.

Not only is the Afghan jewelry  available in Afghanistan, they are now also sold worldwide, of course, for a much higher price than that in Afghanistan. I always wondered why that was.

I believe for Afghans to import Afghan jewelry from Afghanistan and sell it in the West or other parts of the world would be for business reasons. But why are none Afghans so keen to purchase these products at such a high price?

Well, a look at the images below answers this question. Of course, it is because of the beautiful work done to these pieces, full of detail, colour and culture. But is it also because of what’s trending in the West?

As a young person living in the West, I have come to realise that in fact it is because Afghan jewelry  is now trending. I see people from all corners of the World in London, walking past me every morning and each day I do not fail to see a female wearing such jewelry  that is, if not exactly the same, then similar to Afghan jewelry .

People are developing a love for the Afghan style. I see the Afghan clothes worn by top ranked models on catwalk shows. I sometimes get the feeling that the Afghan culture has really taken over the West by a storm.

Some people claim that it is not just the Afghan culture that those pieces, fashion shows, artists represent. But I genuinely believe it is from the routes of our very own Afghanistan.

Migration in the UK

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Today, the world is facing a major crisis. Migration. It has hit us as one of the most problematic world crisis’ in history. Europe is faced with an influx of migrants coming from such countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia.

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More than 80% of the migrants coming into Europe have escaped from conflicts, abuse and poverty. Germany, Sweden and the UK are among the three most appealing countries from refugees fleeing their war-torn homes.

Some European countries have closed borders and some such as Saudi Arabia haven’t even taken a single refugee due to the great movement of migrants, which has resulted in thousands of people stuck in Greece; this has increased fears of the humanitarian crisis.

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Angela Merkel has announced that Germany will be taking 800,000 refugees this year and it is likely to increase to 1 million due to the constant flow of refugees. According to the UN, almost 1.8 million migrants have gone to Turkey as well as 600,000 to Jordan with Lebanon, a country with a population of 4 million, has taken in 1 million migrants.

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David Cameron has announced that priority will be given to Syrians. Only 20,000 Syrians will be taken in by 2020 in the UK. Whether this is a fair amount or not that is individual opinion but could Britain do more?

If Lebanon, with a population of just 4 million can take on 25% of its population in refugees, why is Britain taking such a small amount ?

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Migrants leaving their homes face many difficulties on their journeys to Europe. Thousands of people take the sea route which is the most dangerous of all. It has been estimated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that more than 1,011,700 migrants arrived to Europe by sea in 2015, while only 34,900 by land.

Those making their way from Greece take the sea route via Turkey which is usually in weak rubber dinghies or small wooden boats.

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Thousands of migrants lose their lives or of lost ones as they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea. IOM has reported than more than 3,770 migrants were reported to have died in the year 2015.

In this Radio documentary, we hear stories from real migrants that have taken the dangerous journey from Syria and Afghanistan to seek a better life in the UK.

Sabir Zazai, a former refugee with years of experience in the refugee resettlement, now a Centre Director at Coventry Refugee and Migration Centre, speaks to us about his experiences. He tells us about his views on the UK’s decision to only take 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.

A representative from Migration Watch UK discusses the UK Government policy on housing, health and education for the resettled migrants who are currently in the UK and how the rise of migrants in the UK may affect jobs, health care and housing.

We take to the streets of central London to hear the views of the public on the decision made by Prime Minister David Cameron.

London climate change march

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The climate march took place in London on 29th November 2015, a day before the UN climate talks began in Paris. More than 50,000 people marched in different parts of Britain including development organisations, faith groups, climate movements, trade unions and many more.

Hundreds and thousands of people in 150 countries marched the streets calling for a change to 100% clean energy. But the march in London was the biggest climate march in British history.

Famous people also joined the march such as actress Emma Thompson. She told The Guardian: “Unless we’re carbon-free by 2030 the World is buggered.”

High-ranking officials were seen to take part in the demonstrations around the world such as UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who joined the protest in New York City. US secretary of state John Kerry also spoke about the dangers of climate change. He said we face a long list of issues but the greatest issue and threat of all is climate change.

COP21 climate change agreement

The Conference of the Parties, 21st session, grouped more than 190 countries in Paris where they discussed new possible agreements on climate change with all countries expected to pitch in. The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, gave the final draft. It was the world’s first universal climate agreement, 31 pages long.

The aim of the agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will help prevent dangerous warming.

Key points of the agreement:

  • Limit of temperature rise below 2 C
  • First universal climate agreement
  • Helping poorer nations (nations to give $100 billion annually to developing countries by 2020)
  • Countries publishing greenhouse gas reduction targets
  • Goal to have a carbon-neutral world

 

 

 

Afghan Female Artist

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Afghanistan sees its first female artist, Shamsia Hassani’s, work in the streets of Kabul with just a spray can and hope to see a peaceful future. As well as representing art in Afghanistan, Shamsia Hassani is also a representative and a spokesperson for women’s rights in Kabul. She sees her art work in the city of Kabul as a way to ‘spray over the memories of War.’

The artist, Shamsia Hassani, was born in Iran to her Afghan parents. She is a street and digital artist who works in the country’s multifaceted and conflicted capital. She returned to Afghanistan in the year 2005 in order to pursue her education in Fine Art at Kabul University. She works to start yearly graffiti workshops through the country and to change the way society views women who refuse to stay silent and those who come out of their veils to stand up for their opinions.

The history of Afghanistan has seen many invasions that carried many cultures and beliefs, occupations and empires that so often emaciated the country. Upon the invasion of the Taliban in the year 1996-2001 most practices of art and cultural expression were banned. The War on art was inspired by the Quran as it prohibits the depiction of living things. Drawing or sculpting living things was believed to be an insult to God.

Paintings, books containing art work, TV sets and music were all destroyed by the Taliban and were amongst the primary actions of elimination.  At the beginning of the Taliban rule and rise of power, in the year 1996, the Afghan National Museum was burned down and destroyed and used to keep the insurgents warm.

As well as the ban of art, social and traditional expressions such as kite flying and owning pet birds were also prohibited. Women were banned from make-up and high heels. A new dress code was introduced for women, to cover as much as possible, from head to toe. If any of the rules were disobeyed, women were beaten in public to scare others from doing the same.

The future of art in Afghanistan is not certain as the shadow of War is still lurking in the streets of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, there have been many developments to reinstitute art studios and traditional clay sculpting schools in order to reopen the doors that were once closed to the people of Afghanistan and grow upon its lost, gone and bottled-up traditional teachings and cultural legacy.

Shamsia Hassani talks about art 

Afghanistan in old photographs

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ISIS heads towards Afghanistan

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As ISIS enters Afghanistan, the people and its government face new challenges and threats to an already frail situation.

ISIS

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took over the al-Qaeda organisation, founded by Osama Bin Laden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdad who is also known as Abu Dua is the ISIS leader and has become the World’s most powerful jihadi leader.

ISIS seized control of Mosul, which is Iraq’s second-largest city. Their power base is in Raqqa which is in eastern Syria. According to energy expert Luay al-Khateeb, who spoke to CNN, ISIS are in control of more than half of Syria’s oil assets as well as a number of oil fields in Iraq.  Al-Khateeb also explained that the oil is finding its way to the black market and could be making ISIS up to $3 million each day. The group has established to be more ruthless and more active at controlling the land it has held.

ISIS is under tight directions by top leaders to kill Shia Muslims and Christians whenever possible. The exact size of ISIS is unclear, people have travelled from around the World to join ISIS and fight in Syria and Iraq. Officials suggest that more than 11,000 people have joined and some have returned home. Research shows that, countries with bigger Muslim populations send the largest number of fighters.

Isis members

ISIS in Afghanistan

It has been 15 years of the US invasion, which lead to the ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan is still in a fragile state. It remains afflicted by Taliban attacks, long-lasting levels of corruption, political instability, and the economic uncertainty.

ISIS is spreading drastically from its main location to other countries. Recently the group found its way into the cities of Afghanistan. This could lead to a new wave of political and religious violence.

Afghanistan has a history of political violence in the name of Islam and a large number of religious extremist groups. In its decade-and-a-half long revolution, the Taliban failed to capture and keep major cities and district centres. In promising to work with ISIS, the Taliban aimed to get more supporters help, earn a bigger name and receive more funds.  The rise of ISIS has encouraged extremists in Afghanistan to review and transmit their strategies in the direction of an imposing display of force.

But according to recent reports, the Taliban and ISIS have declared jihad against one another due to the fact that ISIS refused to work under the same flag.  The Taliban’s deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor addressed a letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad, and said, “Jihad (Holy war) against the Americans and their allies must be conducted under one leadership.”

According to The Daily Beast, there are discussions between the Taliban and Iran on how to deal with the extremist group ISIS, as they are known.

Mullah Khan Muhammad Noorzai, an ex-Taliban spoke to The Daily Beast and said that the ISIS camp was attacked by the Taliban which lead to the death of innocent followers. In a phone interview, he said, “Most of those killed were our friends and colleagues.” Despite an agreement that the Taliban and ISIS would not attack each other, Taliban broke the agreement and attacked ISIS.

Noorzai said, “A Muslim won’t break a commitment, the Taliban are not true Muslims, and not mujahedeen (holy warriors) either. Now our jihad against the ignorant so-called Taliban will go on forever.”

According to Noorzai, the Taliban are fighting in the name of Islam but are funded by Iranians and United States. He said, “The Taliban shadow governor for Farah, through the mediation of Mullah Baz Muhammad, a local elder, swore an oath by Allah and the Quran that they would not attack ISIS, but they did.” He added that Iran played a key role in this.

ISIS attacks on Afghanistan

The Taliban and ISIS announced War on one another in April after the Taliban labelled ISIS self-declared caliphate and unlawful.

The first major ISIS attack was a suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed at least 35 people dead and 100 people were wounded. The bombing happened outside of a bank branch in the Jalalabad city which is Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province.

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A spokesperson for a provincial governor, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, described the attack and claimed that a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated a vest rigged with explosives in front of the state-run New Kabul Bank. Borhan Osman, who is an analyst with Afghanistan Analysts Network, tracked the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan, “[Isis] has not built a solid, actual political presence in Afghanistan so far,” Osman said, “but if the Taliban quasi-monopoly is broken, that will help [it] to build networks and their brand.”

The president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani said, “Who claimed responsibility for the horrific attack in Nangrahar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack.” during his visit to northeastern province of Badakhshan

There have been several attacks since ISIS have entered Afghanistan. Most recently, at least 10 Taliban members were beheaded by ISIS. The attack happened in the eastern province of Nangrahar after ISIS jihadis stopped Taliban fighters from fleeing a gun battle with the government troops.

Ashraf Ghani talking about ISIS 

The Buddha Statues have returned

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The Buddha statues that were destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan have returned in the form of 3-D light projections.

The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar stated, in March 2001, that the statues were false idols.  He stated that, “These idols have been gods of the infidels.” As an act of religious terror, the Taliban forces destroyed the Buddha statues, with the help of local workers, by blowing the statues down.

Both the statues were carved beautifully in cliffs and lay in rubble for more than a decade around 1,500 years ago. Statues are based in Bamiyan Valley which is a World Heritage Site.

The idea of the projections came from documentarians, Jason Yu and Liyan Hu. They were given permission to debut their work by UNESCO and the Afghan government.

Technology has increased in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. TV’s are now working, electricy is available throughout the day and computers are used more than ever before. But the chance to see the Buddhas once again, via a projection, is by far one of the best. This allowed Afghans to see the giant Buddhas once again and to admire the beauty of the Buddhas again.

One of the men who participated in the attack stated that, “First they fired at the Buddhas with tanks and artillery shells. But when that was ineffective, they planted explosives to try to destroy them.” He also added, when the statues were taken down, the Taliban celebrated by dancing and slaughtered nine cows as sacrifice.

The 3-D light projections filled the cutouts in the mountains. According to The Atlantic, over 150 people watched the display.

This photo taken on June 7, 2015 shows the projected image of a Buddha statue in Bamiyan that had been destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The initiative to visually restore the destroyed antiquities was dreamt up by Chinese couple Zhang Xinyu and Liang Hong, who are travelling through countries on the historic Silk Road route.  AFP PHOTO / Kamran Shafayee        (Photo credit should read KAMRAN SHAFAYEE/AFP/Getty Images)

This photo taken on June 7, 2015 shows the projected image of a Buddha statue in Bamiyan that had been destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The initiative to visually restore the destroyed antiquities was dreamt up by Chinese couple Zhang Xinyu and Liang Hong, who are travelling through countries on the historic Silk Road route. AFP PHOTO / Kamran Shafayee (Photo credit should read KAMRAN SHAFAYEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Is it time to change school uniform for girls in Afghanistan ?

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Afghan school girls in Uniform - 2014

(Afghan school girls in Uniform – 2014)

School girls in Afghanistan have complained about the colour of their school uniforms. They are asking the government and schools to change the typical, black dress and white scarf to a colour that does not absorb the heat and is less depressing.

During the 1970’s, women and girls in Afghanistan attired themselves in Western clothing. This meant mini-skirts, no headscarves and stunning hair styles. Girls who attended schools and universities dressed in modern clothing including high heels, all of which was banned during the rule of the Taliban.

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(Afghan school girls- 1970)

After many years of no education for girls, Afghanistan now has thousands of girls attending schools. Education in Afghanistan includes K-12 and higher education. Currently Afghanistan is in the process of rebuilding. Despite the challenges faced by Afghans daily, the country is still moving forward and working towards a brighter and a better tomorrow.

The numbers of schools are increasing fast in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban in the year 2001, By 2006, more than 4 million public schools such as; Habibia High School, one of the oldest schools in Afghanistan, Amani High School and Lycee Esteqlal have been opened.

Private schools in Afghanistan have uniform like schools in England, including blazers, jeans, skirts, shirts and ties for both girls and boys as part of uniform. But for public schools it is different. It is required of all the girls to wear a black, long, shapeless dress and a white head scarf.

It has been reported that some girls have fainted in classes because of the heat absorbed by their uniforms. Many have complained that not only are the uniforms head absorbing but that they are also hideous.

A 16-year-old girl, Marjan says her black school uniform makes the heat of the Kabul summer unbearable. She said, “The education minister is sitting in an air conditioned office. What does he know about the conditions we’re in, or how hot these black clothes get?”

A seventh-grade pupil from the Ariana High School said. “Believe me, we see girls fainting every day in the summer. The sole reason is that black makes your body temperature rise uncontrollably.”

The colours black and light green were traditionally the main options for schoolgirls, but now the former is usually required. The choice to have black as uniform also seems to be influenced by perceptions of modesty.

Abdol Monir Negah, who is the education ministry’s academic council, said, “First, schoolgirls must be distinguishable from others. Secondly, black conceals the beauty and features of girls and women from the eyes of men. They don’t attract attention.”

School teachers have agreed to the change in uniforms. Shirin, who has been a teacher for 12 years and works for Alem Faizzada High School, said blue or grey would make a far better choice. She said, “I was a pupil myself once. I’ve been through the same experience. I know how badly wearing black affects the pupils both physically and psychologically.”

Farkhunda: the woman who stood for the truth

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Farkhunda, a young woman, one of the victims of yet another unjust killing, was beaten by a mob on March 19, 2015 in the streets of Kabul.

This was by far one of the worst kinds of deaths faced since the rule of the Taliban. But this time it was not the Taliban who killed the young woman, it was the men in the streets of Kabul. They were not linked to any extremist groups. This raises concerns, is Afghanistan corrupted by their own people? Will women ever be in safe hands in Afghanistan?

Despite of improvements of security, Farkhunda was beaten and set on fire by a mob of men in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. She was accused of burning the Quran but according to Afghanistan’s interior minister, Farkhunda was innocent.

Minister, Noorulhaq Ulumi, said “The accusation against her is completely invalid. Farkhunda was a religious girl, she was not involved [in burning the Koran], she was innocent.”

Farkhunda allegedly had an argument with one of the Mullahs about his practice of selling charms at the mosque of Shah-Do Shamshira. He then accused her of burning the Quran.

Police investigations revealed that she did not burn the Quran. She was beaten by a mob, thrown over the bridge and then had her body set on fire and thrown in the river.

According to sources, the crowd were chanting anti-American and anti-democratic slogans while beating Farkhunda. Videos show that police were present during the incident, but they did not take any action to end the violence.

The father of Farkhunda complained about the lack of police efforts to save her. Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan described the killing as “heinous” and ordered a commission to investigate the killing. He said the death of Farkhunda has exposed that Afghan police need to start focusing on local policing as much as on the Taliban insurgency.

Islamic scholars in Afghanistan expressed their outrage over the incident and described it as unlawful. A local cleric, Haji Noor Ahmad said, “People come and execute a person arbitrarily, this is totally prohibited and unlawful.” However some Islamic Scholars justified the killing, which angered the public.

Protests took place in Afghanistan and around other parts of the World too such as, London, Australia, Canada and America. Afghans gathered in crowds asking for justice.

Women in Afghanistan protested, demanding the government to prosecute those who took part in the killings of Farkhunda. The funeral of Farkhunda involved more women than men. Men were not allowed to take part in Farkhundas funeral as they were the reason for her death.

Images of the protest in London, Trafalgar Square