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A. Faiq
29 May 2009

by Youth Cultural Movement

There are many ways to oppress people.  One way is by taking away their identity.  Afghanistan as a country of different ethnicities who have always seemed to be troubled with their identities, yet another taboo topic amongst the people. The threat of being called a “traitor” and a “foreigner” hangs over those who dare tread upon the topic of national identity.  For the last century, the term “Afghan” has been pushed upon every ethnic group of Afghanistan and for years, that is how the Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmans, and other non-Pashtuns were known by the rest of the world.  Today, however, it needs to be made clear that “Afghan” is not the rightful national identity for the country.

The history behind the word “Afghan” is disputable due to various sources of where it originated from.  However, one thing is clear: “Afghan” has always been synonymous with Pashtun.  Writers and travelers to and from the country have stated that the word “Afghan” was always used to distinguish between the Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns such as the Tajiks, Hazaras, etc.  The name of the country is believed to have been given by the British when they first invaded the country in the 19th Century.  Since the British came in contact with this country from the south and south-east, which are predominantly Pashtun and since they knew “Afghan” as synonymous with “Pashtun” they therefore erroneously declared the entire country as “Land of the Afghan” or “Afghanistan.”  And even though the majority of Afghanistan isn’t even Afghans, the name has stuck since then.

Before the invention of the country by the british, the land used to be known under the name Khorasan, for about 1500 years, and before the name Aryana is what the both wester and eastern historians and conquerors have used. The region was called Khorasan for 1500 years and the name was fairer and represented the state as well as the people better.  It clearly doesn’t favor one ethnicity over another.  As Khorasan, the region was once an advancing civilization and embodied many ethnicities.  However, as the Pashtun nomads entered and invaded the regions, they scattered and spread over, imposing their existence as well as a need for a country. Even the British writer H. W. Bellew in his book "An enquiry into the Ethnography of Afghanistan", pulished 1891, confirms this claim.

Now, it doesn’t take a Ph.D.—self-taught or not—to figure out that those events were not justified. And no matter what changes the country and the people have gone through, the term “Afghan” is not a legitimate one.  Tajiks and Hazaras and Uzbeks and other non-Pashtuns were never and will never be Afghan.  When the literal term of a word obviously means something you are not why would you be crazy enough to fight for the right to be called one?  By non-Pashtuns adamantly choosing to call themselves Afghan just because they want peace and quiet, they are inadvertently throwing their rights and their heritage away.  Losing your identity as a Hazara or a Tajik, Uzbek, or Turkman, you are being oppressed and your heritage and history is being rewritten to those who crawled out of the Suleiman Mountains.  When you don’t even speak the language of an Afghan (supposedly Pashto) then why call yourself one?

There are a lot of people that will threaten you if you refuse to call yourself an Afghan when you aren’t one.  They will call you a “traitor” or “foreigner” and try to get the mass against you.  There is a full culture and history behind the names of “Tajik” and “Hazara,” etc.  When the world thinks of “Afghans” hardly anything good will come to mind.  It is often associated with the horrors of  Amir Abdurahman, pedophilia, Suppression of women's rights, the Taliban, and now drug dealers and terrorism.  The other ethnicities on the other hand have contributed greatly to the world civilization. When you begin to associate yourself with what you rightfully are, you will see just how rich your past is.  Rumi, Avicenna, Albiruni, they were not Afghans and would never have called themselves one.
When the slaves were brought from Africa to America, the first thing the enslavers did was change the names of the slaves because they knew that was the only way to completely rid them off their identity and utterly deter them. They knew it would give them total control over them and help their oppression because they weren’t even allowed their own natural, rightful names.  During the Holocaust, the Nazis took away the names and identity of the Jews and just replaced them with numbers because they knew it was a way to dehumanize them.  Taking away someone’s name and identity is the surest way to destroy them as a people.  Every evil-doer has known this.

The national identity is constantly surrounded by lies and deceit.  Pashto is trying to be pushed upon those who have no need for it, the word Afghan is insisted upon even though the majority of Afghanistan isn’t even Pashtun. Afghans have always and will always be known as Pashtuns only.  A Tajik and an Uzbek and other non-Pashtuns are separate and they should be known as separate.  When this comes to light, only then will the people be able to gain the rest of their rights.  Only then will the name of the country be forced to re-change because it isn’t a fair representation of the majority of the people.  The people who don’t wish to call themselves Afghan are not trying to start trouble.  Instead, they have opened their eyes and trying to open the eyes of others to the mistake and the lie that has covered the entire people.  Issues like these need to be discussed because even though they might seem minor, they are in fact major.  If the name non-Pashtuns choose to call themselves isn’t such a “big deal” then why are people trying so hard to fight those that decline the name Afghan?  

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