Afghan Culture Overview Why? Why worry about Afghan culture as an advisor? Because the more you know, the more you can incorporate into your engagements. The more you can incorporate, the more credibility you gain. The more credibility you have, the more influence you will have as their advisor. Cultural Summary • Historical crossroads for Central Asia, Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures with 32 languages and dialects • Ethnic and tribal affiliation more pronounced than nationality • Close to 40 years of war have had a devastating effect on society and the people • Islam provides overall social structure; extended family is focal point of social life • Villages have a strict authority structure • Highly conservative yet hospitable people • Honor, loyalty, courage, and education are prized • Relationship building and trust are critical to success in any endeavor Cultural Differences US: Individual Society THEM: Collective Society • Earned Status • Ascribed Status • Individual Achievement • Affiliation • Individual Action • Stability • Pronounced Equality • Inequality • Immediate Family • Extended Family • Self Reliance • Reliance on Others • Independence • Interdependence • Individual Competition • Cooperation • Individualism • Collectivism • Guilt • Honor – Shame • Future • Past or Heritage • Class Mobility • Depends on Family/Others Overarching “When religion is a way of life, it permeates all aspects of everyday social relations, and nothing is separate from it. This is the state of Islam in Afghanistan.” “Such a pervasive role for religion was also characteristic of Christianity in medieval Europe…since the rise of the Modern West was also characterized by the retreat of religion as the dominant influence in society, it now takes a leap of imagination to appreciate a society in which religion still plays that culturally dominating role.” Dr. Thomas Barfield, “Afghanistan: a Political and Cultural History” Islam 1. Your religion? 2. Baseline understanding • Quran • Bukhari’s Hadith 3. Respect the status of Islam in Afghan society 4. No need to share in prayers, but always “factor it in the plan” 5. Entering Mosques and Madrassas • Quiet and respectful Language “Studying Pashto or Dari for an hour each day is more important than reading another hour of intelligence or threat reports.” Dr. Carter Malkasian, COMISAF POLAD, in the FB-SFA Video Main Languages – Dari and Pashto (Uzbek, Pashai, Nooristani, etc.); complementary to discussion on interpreters • Learn basic greetings • Classes offered in both Dari and Pashto (flyers in the Milano) • Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone Things To Be Aware Of 1. Be Intellectually Curious • • 2. Show interest in the Afghans Engage, engage, engage! Counter “Evil Eye” Be aware of religious and cultural holidays, and appropriate greetings • • • Ramazan Eid Al-Fitr, Eid Al-Adha, The Hajj New Roz 3. Get to know Afghan history 4. Read the Afghan Constitution – understand their governmental architecture 5. Solar, Lunar (Islamic), and Gregorian calendars – http://www.calendarhome.com/calculate/convert-a-date/ 6. Interests – soccer/football, body-building, cricket, buzkashi, kite-flying, skiing, etc. 7. Bachi Bazi – be aware, but avoid 8. Pashtunwali – integrated into almost all Afghans despite ethnicity, understand the code Personal Relations 1. Takes time to build relations 2. Photos – yes, but minimize (unless they offer) 3. 4. Talking about families – yes, but do it slowly & do not pry Getting to know your Afghan counterpart • • • • Family Religiosity Mujahed/Communist background Tribe/Ethnicity 5. Gifts – flowers, pictures, picture books 6. Jokes & harsh language – generally avoid; things don’t often translate, easy to offend 7. Promises – avoid at all costs; better to say “I will look into it” References 1. Afghanistan: a Political and Cultural History by Dr. Thomas Barfield 2. Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad by David Edwards 3. The Fragmentation of Afghanistan by Barnett Rubin 4. War Comes to Garmser by Dr. Carter Malkasian 5. Ghost Wars by Stephen Coll 6. Pakistan by Lawrence Ziring 7. The Pathans 550 B.C. – 1957 A.D. by Olaf Caroe 8. The Quran 9. The Hadith collected by Bukhari 10. Tribal Hierarchies and Dictionary of Afghanistan – a Reference Aid for Analysts by Courage Services, Inc., Feb 2007 11. Pashtun Handbook by Predictive Analysis Center SRA International, Inc. Questions?