Chief ethnic groups in Afghanistan are Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. These groups have been residing collectively for hundreds of years. Despite this fact, the dissimilarities among them is quiet evident. Each of them have their own way of living, own beliefs, language and social status.
Pashtuns constitute the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Their majority enables them to dominate over other ethnic groups. They hold the most reputed jobs. The government of Afghanistan is often Pashtun dominated. follow Sunni sect of Islam. This is an affluent class. In the novel, The Kite Runner Amir and his Baba were born into the privileged Pashtun Tribe, from well-off social background. For earning livelihood, they work in farmlands. Pashtuns are further segregated into tribes, most popular among them are Durrani and Ghilzai. They can be identified from other Afghan ethnic groups ethnic groups by their Pashtunwali way of living and Pashto language. Pashtunwali refers to the non-written code of lifestyle, ethics, custom and rituals followed by Pashtuns. It mostly deals with self-pride and honour. …..Baba ..win him the kite……Their homeland lies in south of the Hindu Kush. Most of the respectable places in governmental posts are held by them. They form an educated lot. Amir’s mother was a highly educated Pashtun who worked as a professor in university.
Tajiks, with the population of 4.5 million, forms the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. They speak Dari Persian language. They are not divided into tribes. They are mainly involved in sheep or goat herding and sedentary mountain farming. They grow variety of fine nuts and fruits. They are identified by the region or valley they live in like Badakhshi, Andarabi, Panjsheri and Samangani. Homeland of Tajiks lies in the Panjsher Valley north of Kabul and in the northern and northeastern provinces of Parwan, Takhar, Badakhshan, and also Baghlan and Samangan.
Hazaras are the inhabitants of central regions of Afghanistan. This region is known as Hazarat. They work as farmers and shepherds. They follow the Shia sect of Islam. Hassan and Ali belonged to the lowly Hazara tribe. They are Mogul descendants. Their ancestors lived in Xinjiang region of north-western China. Hazaras often have to face humiliation due to their distinct ethnic looks. Kids in the locality use to mock Ali and call him flat-nosed because of his characteristic Hazara Mongoloid features. They are lowest in the social ring. Majority of them are illiterate. Amir is well aware of their miserable state and knows as a matter of fact “Hassan would grow up illiterate like Ali and most Hararas had been decided the minute he had been born”(36). They are involved in meagre jobs. Some of them work as slaves like Ali and Hassan. Therefore, Amir thinks “what use did servant have for the written word?” as they can never rise above their standard. This mindset often led him to fool Hassan at several occasions. For a long time, they have faced discrimination from other Afghans. People use to call them load-carrying donkeys, mice-eating and flat nosed. Amir often “heard some of the kids in the neighbourhood yell those names to Hassan” (11).However, they are now trying to improve their inferior status.
Uzbeks dwell along the northern areas of Afghanistan, mixed with Tajik population. They communicate in central Turkic dialects like Uzbeki. They are the followers of Sunni sect of Islam. Most of them earn their livelihood by farming and herding. Several of them have become flourishing businessmen and skilled artisans. They follow patriarchal system. Considerable power is enjoyed by the leaders having the title khan, beg or arbab. They can marry with Uzbek and Tajik. They are averse to matrimonial relations with Pushtuns.
Hierarchy in ethnic groups
In Afghanistan, Pashtuns are considered highest in the social ring. Next in the social ladder are Tajiks and Uzbeks. Their order can vary with regions. The Hazaras and the Gypsies form lowest social classes in Afghanistan.
Divisions between rich and poor
The socioeconomic status in Afghanistan is highly correlated with ethnicity. Income inequality is widespread as most of the rich, educated people come from the prestigious social classes like Pashtuns and majority of poor Afghans belong to lower social classes like Hazaras and Gypsies. Peasantry, the disposed, nomads form the least educated social stratum. They are mostly from oppressed social classes. People from prestigious social classes like Pashtuns, are usually wealthy and intellectual. Amir’s father Baba, of The Kite Runner is an aristocratic scholar and a Pashtun. Thus, Amir and Baba represent the upper class of Afghanistan. On the other hand, Hassan and Ali are poor slaves working under Baba. They are from lower social class called Hazaras.
Elites have access to formal higher education and professional training in Afghanistan. Many of them also go abroad for higher studies. Most of the top governmental positions are occupied by them. They are mainly found in reputable jobs such as army generals, judges, governors, civil service officers etc. Majority of them are Pashtuns, therefore they tend to be bias. Amir’s father in law was general in Afghanistan. On knowing that he has adopted a Hazara boy, the General becomes worried about his public reputation and asks Amir, what he is going to say when people ask “why is a Hazara boy living with [you and] our daughter” (360).
Religious institutions play a crucial role in Afghanistan’s political and social affairs. They have significant influence over the constituency of their community. In Afghanistan, religious leaders are known as pirs. Pirs provide guidance and advice to their followers on issues concerning their religious life. Usually, they come from rich families who own large property in rural and urban areas. Most pirs are of Sayyed background and claim direct descent from the family of the Prophet Muhammad and his son-in-law, Ali; however, some of these claims are impossible to substantiate with certainty (Emadi, 2005). Some of them also claim descent other spiritual figures and renowned Islamic mystics (sufi) families. They are viewed as liaisons between God and the people. Most of the Afghans believe that with the guidance of pirs, they can have better life after death, economically prosper and can be forgiven for past sins.
Another significant social group is formed by clerics (mullahs), who are in charge of religious centers (masjids), religious schools (madrasas) and mosques. Village communities provide food, money and a house to the mullah of their village mosque. The large mosques are managed by the most influential mullahs. Whereas, less influential mullahs are incharge of small mosques. They teach children, the art of Quranic recitation and basic reading and writing skills. The majority of Afghans are illiterate. Therefore, they depend on mullahs for explanation of religious scriptures and for writing and translating letters. This provides them the immense power to influence people by their own interpretations. ..The intensity of their authority in their locality is often viewed as a threat to the central government. …
Dispossessed are poorest of all and are involved in undesirable occupations like gravediggers, tanners and waste collectors. These people have no access to assistance or support services of any kind. Therefore, they are most susceptible to abuse and exploitation by the wealthy and powerful people. They lived subsistent and bare existence in big urban areas. Their condition was further worsened by the long civil war that destroyed the civic institutions and economic infrastructure. This greatly affected the livelihood of these people. It worsened their hand-to-mouth condition and doubled their numbers.
Historical and religious connection to class system in Afghanistan
Majority of the Afghans are Muslims. Muslims are the followers of Prophet Muhammad. Caliphs led the Muslims after the death of Muhammad. Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali, was the fourth caliph. After his death, some group of people wanted his son to lead the Muslims. They believed Ali’s descendants to be the true leaders of Islam [Aylett, 2005]. Therefore, the later caliphs were not accepted by them. This ideology was held by the group called Shi’ah. Its members are Shi’ites. On the contrary, other group of people approved the caliphs who were chosen after Ali. They were named Sunni Muslims. Differences in this religious ideology held by Sunnis and Shiites, has created rifts between them. As majority of Afghans follow Sunni tradition, they tend to overpower less influential Shiites. Shiites do not get to enjoy the same power as Sunni Muslims. The oppression faced by them is greatly depicted in The Kite Runner when Amir’s teacher says, “That’s the one thing Shi’a people do well, passing themselves as martyrs. He wrinkled his nose when he said the word Shi’a, like it was some kind of disease” (Hosseini, 12). It was made clearer that these rigid differences are difficult to overcome when Amir says “history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion”. That is why, inter-ethnic conflicts based on differences in religious view point, still prevail in Afghanistan.
saysfully understood the biased society he was living in. He knew that
Inter ethnic relations
Afghanistan is conglomeration of varied ethnic groups. With so many ethnic groups living in same territory, tensions and conflicts are bound to take place. Afghanistan government is more often Pashtun dominated. These governments tend to be biased and favour Pashtuns over people from other ethnic groups. A similar scenario was illustrated in The Kite Runner when Pashtun dominated Taliban troops began to rule Afghanistan. Through the character of Assef, Hosseini depicted the anit-Hazara feelings of Taliban. They believed themselves to be “true Afghans, the pure Afghans” (Hosseini 52). Their motto was to eradicate Afghanistan from the flat-nosed Hazaras because they believed they, “pollute [their] homeland, [their] watan. They dirty [their] blood” (52). “Afghanistan for Pashtuns” was their vision (52). They greatly oppressed and persecuted them. In the novel Assef was an important member of this group who staunchly believed that “Afghanistan is the land of Pashtuns” (52). He wish “[Hazaras] did all just go rot in Hazarat where they belong. [They] are a disgrace to Afghanistan” (53). This is how, the Pashtuns always endeavoured to eliminate Hazaras as a political, religious, historical, and cultural group from Afghanistan.
Many Afghan ethnic groups distrust the Qizilbash because they sided with the British in Anglo-Afghan wars (Saarc Tourism., 2009). Uzbeks are looked down by Pashtuns because of the deeds done by their forefathers. Even though, these groups have inter-economic relations with each other, tensions continue to prevail between them. The Wakhi and the Kirghiz are economically independent groups. Still, they have plenty of social tensions.
Ethnicity, tribalism and regionalism created rifts in Afghanistan’s polity (Emadi 21).
Tribalism, regionalism and ethnicity of people largely determined their character and actions. This theme was deeply explored in The Kite Runner. Amir and Hassan were fed from the same breast, took their first steps together and said the same first words under the same roof. Still,” Amir never thought of Hassan and [himself]as friends.” (25). Similarly, Baba and Ali were childhood playmates, but Baba never referred to Ali as his friend. The hypocritical behaviour of Baba and Amir reflects the biased attitude which silently got ingrained in them. Also, when Amir saw Hassan getting raped by Assef, he did not make any attempt to rescue him. He wanted to save himself the embarrassment of standing up for someone below his standard. Assef, being a staunch Pashtun, wanted to ride Afghanistan of Hazaras. Ali and Hassan fully understood their poor and miserable state. Being obedient slaves, they never retaliated against their masters.
The problem of the demarcation of ethnic backgrounds, religions, or classes, continues to generate tragedy and hatred and, a theme clearly illustrated in The Kite Runner. It is often hard for the people go against the established norms of their society. But Amir, in The Kite Runner, eventually realizes that people should not be defined and separated on the basis of their social classes.
have created discord among Afghans. A dominant ethnic group often use its power to suppress other tribal and ethnic communities. In this way, the role of oppressed communities is marginalized in the process of decision making. They are deprived of the opportunities to express their opinions concerning the future of their nation’s politics. The Pashtun dominated government has always endeavoured to eliminate them as a political, religious, historical, and cultural group from Afghanistan The widening gap between rich and poor one hand and regional and tribal conflict on the other hand greatly hindered the modernization process in Afghanistan.
Moreover, all these factors lead to a bloody civil war in the 1990s. It resulted into drastic destruction of the country’s social, political, and economic infrastructures.
Rivalry between Pastuns and Hazaras has been going on since nineteenth century. Till date, over half of the Hazaras have been killed in this feud. In nineteenth century, Hazaras tried to rise against the Pashtuns but they were repressed with terrifying violence. Many of the racist Pashtuns killed them , sold their women, driven them out of their properties and devastated their land. They were treated as possessions, not worthy of the same respect , equality, privileges and opportunities received by Pashtuns. Their religious and mixed ethnicity is the prime reason for the ongoing discrimination against them. The prime reason for the feud between them was that both of them belonged to different sects of Islam. Pastuns belong to Sunni sect and Hazaras are of Shi’a sect.
For centuries, they have been struggling hard to attain their freedom. Over two hundred years, they have been fighting against discrimination, segregation and persecution. So far, they have achieved little success by gaining few respectable political positions.
Governments reaction to ethnic diversity in Afghanistan
Ethnic relations were tense and competitive before 1978. Various attempts were made by the pro-Soviet government to promote the languages, culture and rights of non-Pashtun groups. Although this endeavour failed, it led to the disintegration of the Pashtun political predominance. In the 1990s, political claims evolved progressively from an Islamic to an ethnic discourse. Islam-inspired resistance to the Soviets failed to provide a common ground for building peace and uniting people. Since 1992, the civil war has been marked by ethnic claims that have led to polarization between Pashtuns (who dominate the Taliban movement) and the other ethnic groups (who form the bulk of the opposing Northern Alliance).
As a child, Amir often took pleasure knowing that he was superior to Hassan as he was born into an upper class of Afghanistan. He “treated Hassan well, just like a friend, better even, more like a brother”(41). But, publically he always refrained from addressing him as his friend.
Social distinction not that prevalent in usa.
Hassan was basically smart…..might have over powered amir..if given proper opportunities.
##Amir’s father in law …. reputable govt. Official……..looked down on hazaras……..on adoption….racist …in power will discriminate them for sure.
##Assef Afghanistan is the land of Pashtuns. It always has been, always will be. We are true Afghans, the pure Afghans, not this flat-nose here. [Hazaras] pollute our homeland, our watan. They dirty our blood”. … Afghanistan for Pashtuns, I say. Thats my vision.” (52)
##”[Hazaras] did all just go rot in Hazarat where they belong. [They] are a disgrace to Afghanistan”(53)
As a child, Amir often took pleasure knowing that he was superior to Hassan as he was born into an upper class of Afghanistan.
##Amir and Hassan were fed from the same breast, took their first steps together and said the same first words under the same roof. Still, ” Amir never thought of Hassan and [himself]as friends.” (25).
When Amir saw Hassan getting raped by Assef, he did not make any attempt to rescue him. He wanted to save himself the embarrassment of standing up for someone below his standard. At times, he had to face humiliation in public for being a Hazaras friend. One day when Assef mocked him for befriending a Hazara boy. Amir said “but he’s not my friend!”… “he’s my servant!” (41). But internally knew that he “treated Hassan well, just like a friend, better even, more like a brother”.
Amir spent most of his time playing with Hassan. But, he never included him in the games he played with his high class family friends. This illustrates one of the main themes of novel. Amir and Hassan grew up together as childhood playmates, but he never accepted Hassan publically as his friend. other Wealthy Pashtuns felt superior to the oppressed Hazara people. Even at his tender age, he was fully aware of the social stratification that existed in his society people belonging to lower classes like the Hazaras.
Moreover, Amir also took advantage of the fact that he was better educated than Hassan.
##Amir’s father in law was general in Afghanistan. On knowing that he has adopted a Hazara boy, the General became worried about his public reputation and asks Amir, what he is going to say when people ask “why is a Hazara boy living with [you and] our daughter” (360).
amir , history is not easy to overcome (25)
###…..Hassan would grow up illiterate like Ali and most Hararas had been decided the minute he had been born…(36)……amir
##what use did servant have for the written word?(28)…..this mindset led Amir to fool Hassan on several occasions……… took advantage ingrained in his mind that Hazaras can never rise above their standard. …racism ingrained
Took advantage of his low status
Felt lucky to hv baba
###………amir , history is not easy to overcome (25)…..hazaras can never come at par with Pashtuns.
I was a Pashtun and [Hassan] was a Hazara…I was a Sunni and [Hassan] was a Shi’and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing”.(25)..amir was well aware of distinct social classes in Afghanistan.
###Their hatred against Hazaras was quiet evident when he said, “[Hazaras] did all just go rot in Hazarat where they belong. [They] are a disgrace to Afghanistan”(53)
.##…. even amirs teacher said ..when he showed her an essay on the hazzaras… , “That’s the one thing Shi’a people do well,”… “passing themselves as martyrs”. He wrinkled his nose when he said the word Shi’a, like it was some kind of disease.
The soldiers use to taunt Hassan as he was from lower social class. They never dare tease Amir as he was Pashtun and belonged to a rich family. This reflects racist behaviour of Afghans against those from oppressed social groups.
diverse in their languages, ethnicity, economic status and religious view points. Ethnicity, economic status and religious sect largely determine ones social status.
This novel explores if a person’s social class can determine his character and actions. Language and family culture are the main factors which determine their ethnic membership.
Baba….never referred to Ali as his friend
Descent, geography and Shi’ism of Dari speaking Hararas distinguish them from Tajiks.
Representing two generations, the slingshot symbolizes both childhood as well as the need to stand up for what is right. Both Hassan and Sohrab use a slingshot to stop Assef, although Hassan only has to threaten to use his, and Sohrab actually inflicts pain.
The overwhelming majority in Afghanistan follow the Sunni tradition. They are more influential and powerful than Shi’ites. Shi’as have never enjoyed the same power as Sunni’s. They often have to face repression and discrimination in their day to day life. Prejudice against Shi’as was also ingrained in the mind of Amir’s teacher who believed They have always been in minority in Afghanistan and have continued to face subjugation for centuries. Amir aptly said that
Political subjugation has inculcated disillusionment and feeling of resentment among other tribes. It has further given rise to a number of armed conflicts. Overlapping of ethnic zones has also resulted into tension and conflict among different tribes of Afghanistan.