A soldier’s story. Afghan War veterans and Soviet patriotism in Tajikistan.

by Markus Göransson

P1160694When Zafar was a platoon commander in Afghanistan during the Soviet war of 1979-1989, he put together an album that he has kept until this day. He labelled the album “Memory of Service” and studded its pages with photographs from his service and text cuttings that praised the Soviet military. On one page he stuck a banner that read “Glory to the defenders of the motherland”. On another he glued stickers of the Soviet army insignia and the Soviet navy flag. Some of his photographs show him standing proudly in his uniform, his face determined, in Afghan landscapes. Continue reading

A history of creation and destruction: To rebuild or not to rebuild Bamiyan’s Buddha statues?

bandeamir-2-1by Melissa Kerr Chiovenda

In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, locals’ discussions on Hazara history and recent oppressions faced by Hazaras would often incorporate the meanings that two Buddha statues, built in the 6th and 7th centuries and destroyed on March 10 2001 by the Taliban, held for Hazaras. During my stays in Bamiyan between 2011 and 2013, some individuals recalled myths that explained the statues as symbolising the foundational ancestors of Hazaras, while others considered them to be nothing more than un-Islamic idols. Against the background of these myths, many locals pondered whether the destruction of the statues by the Taliban epitomised the suffering of Hazaras that reaches far into history. Continue reading

IS in Central Asia: A Myth?

by Gulrano Ataeva

Gulrano AtaevaSince I hail from Osh, which is known as one of the most religious cities in Kyrgyzstan, the news stories about hundreds of men and women from Central Asia leaving for jihad in Syria make me wonder what these news stories have to do with my own city? Since Central Asia is repeatedly portrayed as a fertile ground for religious extremism in both local and Western media, it is worth to have a look at how Islam is actually lived by those who are too often collectively suspected to conspire with extremist movements such as IS. Continue reading

Death of a Travelling Merchant: A Weimar Ghost Story

by Jesko Schmoller

Schmoller_op150What happened to Izomshoh, the wealthy merchant from Bukhara that fateful night in the early 1920s when he arrived in Berlin, the capital of the Weimar Republic? Was he the victim of an accident or did he become a target for the Soviet secret service by interfering in the political affairs of the young state? His family today would still like to know. The account I hear comes from my colleague Zufar Ashurov, a lecturer at Tashkent State University of Economics and the great-great-grandson of Izomshoh. According to family history, the latter left his native soil on a mission by Fayzulla Xo’jaev, head of the Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic. He was supposed to financially support a group of Central Asian students in Germany but his premature death prevented him from accomplishing this task. Before Izomshoh left Bukhara, he told his wife that his destination was Hamburg in Northern Germany (my colleague deduces that he travelled by train to Moscow and Petrograd, and then took a ship for the final part of his journey). So why would the family assume that he ended up in Berlin? Continue reading

Warlord or Ethnic Hero: Manipulation of the Media in Afghanistan

by Melissa Kerr Chiovenda

KERRWhen I first arrived in Afghanistan last summer to complete my dissertation fieldwork research on ethnic Hazara identity in Bamyan, reports surfaced that a few days earlier forces of Abdul Hakim Shujai, an ethnic Hazara and Afghan Local Police Commander in the Khas district, Uruzgan, had attacked several Pashtun villages in retaliation for the killing of two ethnic Hazaras.by Melissa Kerr Chiovenda

KERRWhen I first arrived in Afghanistan last summer to complete my dissertation fieldwork research on ethnic Hazara identity in Bamyan, reports surfaced that a few days earlier forces of Abdul Hakim Shujai, an ethnic Hazara and Afghan Local Police Commander in the Khas district, Uruzgan, had attacked several Pashtun villages in retaliation for the killing of two ethnic Hazaras. The Independent Human Rights Commission confirmed that he executed 16 Pashtuns. Shujai and his men were supported by US Special Operations Forces, making the situation even more concerning. Complaints by Pashtun locals to Kabul were so numerous that the government called for Shujai’s arrest. Continue reading