It is believed that Afghanistan was founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani. However, Afghanistan with its current borders was established by King Abdurrahman Khan, who tried to keep people calm by using force and violence in his multicultural and multiethnic land.
He says in his memoirs that he believes that his wars added to his power, glory and the security of his kingdom. His violence made him murder his enemies and other ethnic groups’ leaders.
Traditionally, Pashtuns ruled the country from Ahmad Shah Durrani’s time to the time of the last Afghan king, Zahir Shah. Since the foundation of this country, geographical segregation has been a social problem– one which has not been solved throughout its modern history.
King Abdurrahman Khan (source: Wikipedia)
In Afghanistan, Pashtuns mostly live in eastern and southern parts; the northern parts are populated by Tajiks and Uzbeks and Hazaras, the third ethnic minority, are disseminated throughout the central highlands with small populations in other provinces. These geographical gaps have made it difficult for different ethnicities to understand each other and has resulted in differing cultures and ideas regionally. This has made the problem worse because it is hard for them to understand and accept each other’s different cultures, sects and even languages.
Geographical segregation did not only restrict intercultural dialogue between Afghanistan’s different sub-cultures, but also caused and gave rise to ethnocentrism. Throughout its history, ethnocentrism and intolerance have pushed Afghans to war and violence, with the ethnic groups in power trying to make people obey government orders and keep the power for themselves.
Although the autocratic government lasted for several years, it never thought about the cultural gap growing between different ethnic groups in the country. It seems that the social movements run by civil society activists —mostly youth groups— are attempting to fill this gap. They are gathering people from different ethnicities to stand for their rights, peace, and good governance.
This can unite Afghan people by showing them their goals and hopes are the same and create among them a sense of unity.
A good example of civil movements uniting people was when 31 Hazaras were kidnapped from the Kabul-Qandahar highway, in Zabul province, on February 24, 2015. Youth and civil activist groups brought Afghans from different ethnicities and provinces together to protest for their freedom, nationally and internationally.
The protest for 31 abducted Hazaras (source: Kabul Press)
The education system, which influences and affects people in multiple ways, can also fill the gaps made by geographical segregation by teaching them tolerance and the need for a wider perspective. If schools are successful in doing this, they will break the borders of geographical segregation and experience a better and more peaceful life.
Unfortunately, the education system in Afghanistan is poor and widely different from region to region. As mentioned above, ethnic groups occupy specific regions and so students go to the schools in their region and receive an ethnically isolated education.
Afghanistan’s educational system needs several changes to turn into a force to unite different people from different sub-cultures.
Developing modern construction to bring people from different groups together can also serve this purpose well. Not a lot of Afghans live in apartments, so distributing apartments to citizens from different sub-cultures can also give them a chance to celebrate each other’s differences, get to know their fellow citizens and practice tolerance.