My Homeless Wandering People

Hayatabad, Peshawar, Pakistan, October 2006

For my Afghan friend Ariana (not her real name)

Farhad Darya is crooning about mountain streams, shepherds and fat-tailed sheep on cable TV in my friend Ariana’s flat in Hayatabad, a satellite town southwest of Peshawar.  The song Darya is singing is not really about sheep, shepherds, and mountain streams, Ariana tell me. It’s more about his hopes for a peaceful future in Afghanistan.

Darya is a national hero in his homeland. One of his most famous compositions, Kabul Jaan, or Beloved Kabul, was the first song played on national radio in 2001 after the collapse of the Taliban regime: Let me sing limitless songs/ Limitless songs for the agony of the Afghans/ For my homeless wandering people/ Let me sing from Iran to Pakistan.[1]  He co-wrote it with his friend, the poet Qahar Asi, who was killed in a rocket attack on his home in Kabul in 1994. Music had been banned under the Taliban — so this song heralded a new era in Afghanistan.

Cable TV brings news from Afghanistan to Ariana’s exiled family in Hayatabad, Pakistan. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.



Darya, whose name means River, is followed on the fuzzy screen by a fresh-faced young news reader in a snappy suit, white shirt, and blue and orange striped tie. An Afghan airline company has been banned from European airports because its planes are too old. A customs officer has been arrested at Kabul airport because he’d found too many drugs and contraband. (“He was too honest!” Ariana editorialised, with a brittle laugh.) “And look, there’s Paktiya, our province. The Taliban are still very active there,” she says.

Yes, I’d heard of Paktiya. US invasion forces had fought a big battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Paktiya’s Shah-i-kot Valley in 2002.[2] And not long before I arrived in Peshawar the province’s governor, Hakim Taniwal, an Afghan-Australian, had been assassinated by a suicide bomber there while trying to restore peace to his province. “Afghan-Aussie governor killed,” The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline had shouted.[3] Hakim Taniwal and his family had fled during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. They eventually settled in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong.[4] 

Ariana resumes her translation of the news: a Taliban commander and three civilians have been killed in a NATO or US aerial raid on a village on the Pakistan side of the border. The television screen fills with images of bearded men in turbans: They’re discussing the Durand Line, Ariana explains. They don’t recognise it as an international border. They want to abolish it, or at least move it so it no longer divides the Pashtun nation.

Ariana was herself an ethnic Pashtun and sympathised with the turbaned men’s aspirations for a single, undivided homeland. And then a change of pace: a gaggle of Indian dancers shimmying across the screen in an ad for a popular Bollywood serial ….

The town of Hayatabad was built in the mid-1970s as a suburban oasis for Peshawar’s upper and upwardly mobile classes. It was named for Hayat Khan Sherpao, a charismatic politician and, with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, co-founder of the Pakistan People’s Party. Tragically Sherpao was assassinated in 1975 in the assembly hall at Peshawar University: a bomb exploded beneath the podium while he was speaking. By the time of my visit, his namesake satellite town had become a sanctuary for thousands of rent paying middle or upper class Afghan refugee families like Ariana’s. Most of them had at least one member in business in Peshawar, or employed in a white collar job of some sort, and/or they received remittances from family members living overseas. I suspected, however, that, this being Pakistan, the highest rents were being paid from much less legitimate sources.

Ariana at work at the Khurasan Refugee Camp near Peshawar, North Western Pakistran, in 2006. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

Ariana at work at Peshawar’s Khurasan Refugee Camp in 2006. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

Ariana worked as a translator and community liaison officer with an international humanitarian organisation. Her salary, plus remittances from siblings in the US and Germany, supported six people: her mother, three siblings, an uncle and herself. The combined family income enabled them to live in modest respectability in a four room flat on the ground floor of a modern two-storey house in a quiet street in Hayatabad. Ariana was nevertheless very concerned about her own and her family’s future. She was one of thousands of refugees who had not been enumerated in Pakistan’s 2005 Census of Afghan refugees, in her case because she had been doing fieldwork in remote communities throughout the Census period. This meant that she could not obtain a Proof Of Registration identity card (PoR), and, without it, she could now be deported back to Afghanistan as an illegal alien. What would happen to her family if she was deported? What would happen to her? She was very afraid.

Ariana’s mother was in their small kitchen with her youngest daughter preparing iftar, the traditional sunset snack to quell the Ramazan hunger pangs before the evening meal. We sat on large musk pink and gold cushions on the living room floor while we waited for the sun to set. The only other furniture in the room was a couple of glass display cabinets for the family’s few remaining treasures, and a wall of built-in cupboards and shelves for the television and the family photographs. Ariana’s mother was my age. She grew up during the reign of King Zahir Shah, in one of Afghanistan’s rare eras of peace, and married, as a teenager, in the late 1960s. Kabul was known as the Paris of the East at this time. Her wedding photographs show a shy dark-haired girl in a white European-style wedding gown with long sleeves and a very full skirt. Her tulle veil is falling from a crown of tiny white filigree blossoms. She’s wearing light eye shadow, lipstick, and heavy gold bracelets and rings, and is carrying a very smart white handbag. Her new husband is standing beside her. He’s tall, broad-shouldered and clean shaven, with short wavy hair, and dressed in a stylish grey pin-striped suit, white shirt and a fashionably wide purple and blue silk tie. Although their marriage was arranged, this photograph depicts them as a handsome and modern young couple.

A second photo shows them with their extended families. All the men are clean shaven and wearing suits and ties, or military uniforms, except for one elderly gentleman from the family’s ancestral village, who has a long white beard and is dressed in his traditional tribal garb, including a small dark turban. The few women in the photos are all lightly veiled, their faces uncovered.

Another set of photos shows the couple in traditional tribal wedding clothes: he in a baggy long white tunic and pants, a dark blazer and a decoratively wrapped turban; she in a black velvet chador lavishly embroidered with gold thread over a brightly embroidered bodice, a full purple skirt trimmed with more heavy gold embroidery, and black silk pantaloons. Her face is uncovered, she is wearing no make-up, and she is looking straight at the camera.

These affluent young Pashtuns seemed to be as comfortable with their tribal affiliations as they were with their “Westernised” urban identities in the 1960s. They must have felt very optimistic about their future, especially Ariana’s father, a Russian-educated public servant.

“My mother lived like a queen, with many servants,” Ariana told me. And, indeed, her mother looked like a shy young queen in her wedding photos, or at least a teenage princess. Her family was part of a very small and privileged elite in what was, at the time of her marriage, one of the least developed countries in the world. The overwhelming majority of Afghan nationals lived in impoverished rural villages, as they still do, and clung to centuries-old traditions and beliefs, many of them pre-dating Islam. Very few were literate. Indeed, Afghanistan’s national literacy rate, at the time, was estimated to be less than ten percent. Educated and urbanised Afghans, like Ariana’s parents, were very aware that the feudalism, nepotism, tribalism, piety and ignorance they witnessed in the villages was stunting people’s lives, and holding back their country’s social and economic development. But what could they do to bring these very conservative rural communities into the twentieth century?

Traditional Pashtun dishes prepared by Ariana’s mother and sister, Ramazan 2006. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.What happened over the next decade was tragic. I tell the story in some detail here because it offers so many cruel lessons about exactly what monarchs, governments, political leaders and their allies and followers should not do if they want to improve the lives of their impoverished country’s citizens and to prevent war and conflict. Especially when the leaders of the world’s two superpowers were aching for another proxy war.

In 1964, King Zahir Shah presented Afghanistan with its first ever constitution and opened the way for parliamentary elections.[5] The franchise he offered was very limited, though. Just 15 per cent of the population would be permitted to vote, most of them educated urbanites, like Ariana’s parents. Locals of all political persuasions prepared for the elections by organising themselves into political parties, secret societies and study groups with the support of various international sponsors.[6] Even after the election King Zahir Shah remained an absolute monarch though.[7]

While the king was experimenting with his very limited reforms, other Afghans, including members of the royal family, were looking to socialism and communism as antidotes to their country’s backwardness. They had been inspired by stories they had heard from Indian communists, and later by Afghanistan’s Soviet advisers, including the ubiquitous KGB agents. Small groups of intellectuals started meeting in one another’s living rooms to plot Afghanistan’s destiny as a communist republic. Nur Mohammad Taraki, a Pashtun journalist and poet recruited by the KGB in 1951, chaired one such study group called Khalq, The Masses or The People, after his newspaper of the same name. Another KGB recruit, Babrak Karmal, an ethnic Tajik, chaired a second group called Parcham, The Banner, or Flag.[8] These two Marxist-Leninist factions briefly united to form the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), and, on 1 January 1965, held their first party congress in Taraki’s living room. This then-small group of true believers elected a five-member Politburo and a Central Committee, and appointed Nur Mohammad Taraki as its general secretary, with Karmal as his deputy, and set about enlarging their party’s membership.[9] These men would wield inordinate political and military power in the years ahead. They would cause the death of thousands of their compatriots and be responsible for the flight of millions of refugees across the borders into neighbouring countries.

At the same time another political movement was emerging in the theological department of Kabul University, where academics and students were drawing inspiration from Egypt’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. This group wanted to transform Afghanistan into a theocratic state governed according to their own interpretations of Sharia law.[10] They established their own Muslim Youth Organisation and several political parties, including Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan, or the Afghanistan Islamic Party, to oppose the king’s democratic modernization.[11] Later, in 1973, the Muslim Youth Organisation formally became a political party and evolved into Jamiat-i Islami, or the Islamic Society. Among its leaders were some of the men who, in future decades, would also become very powerful, cause the death of thousands, and be responsible for the flight of millions of refugees.[12]

The sixties passed relatively peacefully, despite these conflicting narratives about Afghanistan’s future. The seventies might also have been relatively peaceful had nature not intervened with the worst drought in living memory in the early1970s.[13] Crops failed, livestock starved, rivers and springs ran dry, and tens of thousands of hungry families left their villages to escape famine. Many crossed the border into Pakistan, a traditional survival strategy in times of crisis, while unknown numbers of those who couldn’t leave died at home of starvation.[14] In Kabul, the famine created political turmoil. In 1973, Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king’s cousin, brother-in-law, and former prime minister, led a bloodless coup d’etat with the support of young military officers, members of the Marxist-Leninist PDPA and other Leftists. He dissolved parliament, rescinded the constitution, proclaimed a republic, took upon himself the roles of president and prime minister, and told Kabul Radio listeners that he was bringing “basic reforms and real democracy” to the people of Afghanistan.[15] King Zahir Shah was in Europe for eye surgery at the time.[16] He didn’t return until 2002.

By the mid-1970s thousands of dissidents on all sides of the political spectrum had been arrested and imprisoned, or executed. Others, including many Islamists,[17] escaped to neighbouring Pakistan where, under the auspices of Pakistan’s then-President, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, they established bases to continue their struggle against Afghanistan’s new communist government.[18] Some of these exiles would later lead Mujahedeen militias against the Soviets, but their time was yet to come. In 1977 President Daoud Khan introduced a new constitution which transformed Afghanistan into a single party state under his Hizb-Inglabi-Milli, or National Revolutionary Party.[19] By this time the diverse opposition groups were openly and violently protesting against Daoud’s increasingly repressive policies. The growing Islamist movement had already declared jihad against his regime, and Jamiat-i Islami members were already conducting guerrilla operations against government forces.[20] But the opposition groups were also fighting one another.[21] Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were killed in purges and other politically motivated violence at this time, and many thousands more suspected dissidents were arrested by government security forces and imprisoned in already-overcrowded jails.

In April 1978 Mir Albar Khyber, a prominent faction leader of the PDPA, was assassinated in an Islamist terrorist attack.[22] His funeral procession became a mass protest, not only against President Daoud Khan’s regime, but also against the increasing US interventions in the region.[23] A week later the President ordered the arrest of all surviving leaders of the PDPA. Military officers loyal to Nur Muhammad Taraki’s predominantly Pashtun Khalq faction issued counter-orders and launched a coup against the President, seizing all key buildings in Kabul, including the presidential palace and the radio stations. Within an hour of the palace falling, Kabul Radio announced, in both Dari and Pashtu, that all power had passed to the Khalq. President Daoud Khan and most of his family were shot the following day.[24] Daoud’s deputy, many of his ministers and military officers who remained loyal to him were also killed, and hundreds of civilians, including whole families, were arrested in pre-emptive raids.[25] These horrors are now remembered as the Saur, or April Revolution.[26] A Revolutionary Council headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki, co-founder of the PDPA and the party’s first Secretary-General, took control of the new Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

President Taraki’s name, and that of his assassin and successor, Hafizullah Amin,[27] are burned into the memories of all Kabulis who survived these chaotic years, including my friend Ariana’s family. Taraki and Amin, both of them well educated urbanites—Amin had a Master’s degree in education from New York’s Columbia University, for example[28]—held many of the values I subscribe to, such as gender equity, equality for all ethnic groups, and universal free education.[29] But some of these values fundamentally challenged the stories that more traditional Afghans believed, especially in rural Pashtun areas. The decrees about women’s rights, including a ban on some of the most degrading and discriminatory customs, such as the sale of girls, for example, not only offended customary law but also challenged what one exile described as “the natural liberties of the Afghan male.”[30] The Marxist regime’s campaigns to eliminate feudalism through agrarian land reform, and illiteracy though its mass education campaigns were equally controversial, and provoked spontaneous uprisings in villages and towns across the country. The government responded in exactly the wrong way: with brute Stalinist violence and intimidation which has since been described as ‘indiscriminate and disproportionate’.[31]

No-one knows to this day how many civilians were killed in military campaigns against rural traditionalists and other ‘counter-revolutionaries’ in Afghanistan at this time. Perhaps the worst atrocity occurred in April 1979 in Kerala, a Pashtun farming village in eastern Kunar Province, where villagers were known to support Mujahedin insurgents. One day, after a battle against the Mujahedin, government tanks and armoured personnel carriers surrounded the village and, by some accounts, disgorged two hundred military personnel and a number of Soviet “advisers”. All the women were ordered into the mosque, all the men into a nearby field where they were told to kneel down. They were shot where they knelt. The death toll was estimated at around 1,170, nearly the entire male population.[32] And then, even while some of the victims were still alive, a bulldozer “began plowing the bodies into the ground, soft from recent furrowing.”[33]

Afghanistan’s revolutionary PDPA forces also arrested, imprisoned and/or “disappeared” tens of thousands of religious leaders, dissident political figures, students, teachers, lawyers, scholars, members of Islamic organisations, and other civilians who opposed the regime in 1978/79.[34] An estimated 12,000 people were executed in Kabul’s infamous Pol-e Charkhi Prison, for example, and in rural areas up to 100,000 people may have been murdered at this time.[35] Even General Nabi Azami, a member of the Parchami faction of the PDPA and a deputy defence minister after the Saur Revolution, admitted that the revolutionary government had “arrested too many ordinary people, clergymen, intellectuals” and imprisoned or executed too many “without trial on dark nights and threw them into holes prepared for them.”[36] This state terrorism against civilians only fuelled the armed resistance against the Soviet-supported regime and served the interests of the government’s enemies in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the USA.

This was the political environment my friend Ariana’s parents faced in the first decade of their married life. When they posed for their wedding photos in the 1960s, they could not have known that they would soon be raising their children in a country at war with itself, or that they and millions of their compatriots would have to flee Afghanistan to survive. Ariana recounted their story while we waited for the Ramazan sun to set. Her younger sister spread a bright cloth on their living room floor as we talked, and placed upon it bowls of dates, nuts, fruit salad, deep fried pekoras, rice, yoghurt, pickles an aunt back in Kabul had made, and stacks of fragrantly fresh Afghan naan, or flatbread. We drew closer to the food as we waited for the television mullahs to announce that yes, at last we could break the Ramazan fast. Ariana’s mother passed around the dates and other fast-breaking treats.


Traditional Pashtun fare prepared by Ariana’s mother and sister. Photo by Merrill Findlay 2006.

Iftar morphed into a full evening meal: bowls of lamb and vegetable stews, pilau, and yet more warm naan. Ariana’s mother kept urging me to eat more. She was wearing a navy and white floral shalwar kameez, with a soft white dupatta over her head, not unlike the tulle veil she had worn on her wedding day. I glanced up at her wedding photos on the shelves. Her face had matured in the three decades since they were taken, yet she had remained astonishingly untouched by the tragedies she had witnessed and experienced herself. Like many of Afghanistan’s privileged elite, she and her family had continued their charmed existence in Kabul throughout the conflict of the 1970s and ‘80s. Her husband had used his connections to protect them, and their big house had provided sanctuary from the horrors other Afghans were enduring at this time. Ariana’s birth and babyhood coincided with the assassination of President Daoud Khan, the excesses of the revolutionary regime which replaced him, and the Mujahedin’s armed resistance. And then, in the depth of the winter of 1979/80, the Soviet Union’s Red Army invaded.

Planes loaded with Soviet troops and military hardware had been arriving at Kabul’s international airport for days before the armoured military units began converging on Tapa-e-Tajbeg, the restored presidential palace. Locals felt the earth tremble as the tanks drove past.[37] Ariana and her older siblings would have heard the first bomb explode at Afghanistan’s central communications hub. Had they been watching from their rooftop, they might also have seen the fires that followed. That night, five thousand Soviet troops stormed the Tapa-e-Tajbeg palace and killed President Hafizullah Amin.[38] Eyewitnesses reported that they used nerve gas, napalm and incendiary bombs against the Presidential Guards. The gunfire continued all night. By morning all the Afghans who had defended Tapa-e-Tajbeg were dead, their bodies secretly buried on the slopes of the nearby hills.[39] President Amin was replaced by Babrak Karmal, the leader of the Parcham faction of the PDPA.

The Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and the brutal politics associated with it, led to the deaths of more than a million citizens, and at least 15,000 Soviet servicemen.[40] It left thousands of children orphaned in both Afghanistan and the USSR, and tens of thousands of people of all ages permanently disabled and/or psychologically traumatised. It trashed the countryside and reduced agricultural production by two thirds of what it had been in 1978;[41] and created the largest refugee exodus since World War II, as we have seen. Some commentators also claim that the invasion and subsequent occupation also accelerated the demise of the Soviet Union itself.[42] The UNHCR estimated that, even before the invasion, around 400,000 Afghans had fled into Pakistan and another 200,000 into Iran. [43] From January to December 1980, some 80,000 to 90,000 Afghans were crossing the border into Pakistan every month.[44] By the first half of 1981, an estimated 4,700 were crossing the Pakistan border every day, a total of over 140,000 a month.[45] Some of Ariana’s relatives were among them, although she and her immediate family remained in Kabul where her father was able to support the family by selling hand-woven Türkmen carpets to the Soviet troops as souvenirs.

Ariana started school under the Soviet occupation—and here she paused in her story to convert the year she remembered as 1362 to one which would make more sense for me: 1983. When the last Soviet troops left her country in February 1989, she was entering her teens and dreaming of university. But first she had to finish high school, so the family stayed until after the Soviet withdrawal. When the Mujahedeen finally entered Kabul in 1992, Ariana’s parents knew that it was time to leave. Ariana argued with her father to let her stay so she could graduate, but one day she saw a school girl like herself being grabbed in the street by bearded men in turbans and bundled into a car. She knew the girl would be punished, or worse, for daring to desire an education. She decided then that it was no longer safe for her to finish high school and reluctantly agreed that, yes, the time had come. Her father hired a couple of buses, loaded them with all the family’s possessions, including his carpet collection, and drove his wife and children to Peshawar. The roads were clogged by thousands of other families leaving Kabul by any means possible, she recalled. Her homeland was again at war with itself.

I’d met Ariana in University Town, one of the posher suburbs of Peshawar where many of the aid organisations had their offices. I was there to see Rabia Ali, the UNHCR’s public relations officer. Rabia was held up with press interviews about the refugee registration process so I chatted with the young security staff on duty in the gatehouse while I waited. One of them, a proud young Pashtun in a regulation blue shalwar kameez and matching dupatta casually draped over the back of her head, wanted to practice her English with me. Her dark eyes and hair highlighted her very fair complexion. She had put a fresh frangipani on her desk computer, and wore pale pink lipstick. Although not a refugee herself, she had Afghan ancestors, she told me. Her mother, a non-literate woman who had been raised in a very traditional village, had insisted that her daughter be given the educational opportunities she herself had been denied. So this young security guard now had a degree in zoology and chemistry from Peshawar University and wanted to become a research scientist. She hoped to complete her post-graduate studies in Canada.

Her two colleagues were also ethnic Pashtuns, although they looked very dissimilar. One was fair-skinned, the other dark. Their physical differences demonstrated the diverse genetic ancestry of the 52 million or more people who now claimed Pashtun identity.[46] One of young men had studied sociology and political science at Peshawar University, and wanted to be a social worker. Not in Pakistan but in Britain, he said. His female colleague joked about his conservative village values, how the men in his family all insisted that “their” women wore burkas and remained uneducated. “We have to follow our traditions,” he told me. The young woman laughed at his conservatism. The sooner such traditions died out, the better, as far as she was concerned. “But we’re all Pashtuns!” she quickly added, and laughed again. Her laughter had a bitter tone though, because she knew that many of the traditions her colleagues subscribed to not only suppressed women and girls, but also nourished the Islamist zealots who were threatening anyone who didn’t conform to their own extremist interpretations of her religion.[47] I could understand her desire to go to Canada.

I found Rabia Ali in a spacious office overlooking a lush walled garden in the UNHCR compound. She was dressed in soft pink and her matching chiffon dupatta was draped over her shoulders leaving her dark hair uncovered. Like many young professional women in this city, she was wearing bejewelled summer sandals smothered in tiny baubles and bows over perfectly pedicured feet. Rabia added yet new dimensions to my understanding of what it was to be young, female and Pashtun in Peshawar in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Yes, Pashtun was her ethnicity, she said, “but call me a Peshawene, a citizen of this ancient city.” For Rabia loved Peshawar: the extraordinary richness of its history, the diversity of its cultural heritage, and its distinctive sophistication which wasn’t always visible to outsiders like me. Her parents had sent her to one of the city’s best schools, a Catholic college, she said. “We had nuns from Ireland!” Having survived the Irish nuns, she studied English literature at Peshawar University. She was now using her literary skills to promote the UNHCR’s work with Afghan refugees and Pakistanis displaced by natural disasters, Islamist insurgencies, and/or the Pakistan army’s military operations. She was so busy juggling media interviews about the refugee registration process that she couldn’t leave the office that day … so would I mind if Ariana took me to the Khurasan refugee camp?

The very name Khurasan excited me. It is said to be derived from the Persian words for “land of the sunrise”,[48] because ancient Khurasan, Khorasan or Xorasan, as it is was also spelled, was at the eastern rim of the Persian Empire. This Greater Khurasan was a centre of Persian civilisation for centuries, but the name also had more ambiguous, even threatening meanings. It was used in one of Islam’s most controversial and least substantiated hadiths, or traditions of the Prophet Mohammed: “If you see the black banners coming from Khurasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl on ice; no power will be able to stop them …”[49] Islamists, including Islamic State or Daesh, use this hadith to solicit and inspire new recruits. In recent times Khurasan has also referred to the ethnically diverse northern half of Afghanistan beyond the Pashtun homelands,[50] the north-eastern provinces of Iran,[51] a large displaced persons camp and township near the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a high protein heirloom wheat variety,[52] an allegedly al Qaeda affiliated Islamist terrorist group fighting in Syria, (which critics suggest was invented in Washington to justify US interventions in the Syrian conflict),[53] and an Islamic State province,[54] as well as the UNHCR’s refugee camp in the lush Vale of Peshawar near Charsadda, some 35 kilometres from central Peshawar. And Charsadda itself has a deep and intriguing cultural heritage, as we’ll see.

Geographically, Greater Khurasan has stretched and withered over the millennia with the changing fortunes of Central Eurasia’s ruling dynasties. One of its defining features has remained relatively stable, however: the Amu Dar’ya, or Mother River, which gushes from the Pamir Knot in eastern Afghanistan and meanders across the region’s dry lowlands towards the Aral Sea. This was the great inland waterway the Hellenised Greek speakers of Bactria, in present-day Afghanistan, knew as the Oxos, the river Alexander the Great and his army crossed in 329 BCE. Later Arab cartographers named it the Jayhoun for one of the four streams flowing through the Koranic Paradise.[55] Nineteenth century European travellers, including the young George Nathanial Curzon, Latinised the Greek Oxos to the Oxus, a name which thrilled me in my high school ancient history classes.

This Greater Khurasan spans both sides of the Vakhsh/Oxos/Oxus/Amu Dar’ya to include present-day Afghanistan, parts of eastern Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and even parts of Pakistan. Historically it has included the ancient states of Persia, Bactria, Margiana, Sogdia and Khwarazm, and, to be generous, Transoxonia too, and the once great global trading cities of Nishapur, Tus, Herat, Balkh, Kabul, Merv, Samarqand, Khiva and Bukhara. In this extended sense, Greater Khurasan also takes us back through time to the early days of agro-pastoralism and urbanism, to our shared Neolithic sheep and wheat heritage, as archaeological sites now being excavated in the upper valley of the Amu Dar’ya are revealing. Some six thousand years ago agro-pastoralists were irrigating wheat and barley crops, grazing sheep, cattle and goats, and living in mud villages in what is now desert in this river valley. Archaeologists have also discovered four-thousand-year-old cities here that are as sophisticated, as advanced, as the Bronze Age metropolises of the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, and Indus River valleys.[56] This “lost” or “forgotten” Central Eurasian society has prosaically been called the Bactro-Margiana-Archaeological Complex, or the Oxus Civilisation.[57] Its discovery has forced scholars to rewrite Central Eurasia’s history.

But let’s fast-forward a few thousand years to the last centuries BCE, when one or more tribes of the steppe confederation we remember as the Yuezhi, or Yüeh-chih, crossed the Amu Dar’ya, conquered Afghanistan’s Greco-Bactrian kingdoms and slowly transformed themselves from nomadic horse-riding pastoralists into the urbane cosmopolitans remembered today as the Kushans.[58] These steppe pastoralists from Eurasia’s Far East settled down in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, adopted (and adapted) the locals’ Greek alphabet and their Graeco-Buddhist and Zoroastrian beliefs, and, in the process, took control of the region’s trade corridors through the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush. Long before the Kushans’ era, these caravan routes, donkey trails and footways had linked the Pacific coasts of China and Southeast Eurasia with the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean with the Black Sea, Caspian, Aral, Baltic and North Seas. Indirect communication between the Roman Empire, India and China’s Han Empire through Khurasan was established by at least the first century BCE, thanks, in part, to the Kushans.[59] This is the overland trade and communication system now known as the Silk Road. People have traded, migrated and mixed their genes and memes (ideas) along its maze of criss-crossing byways for tens of thousands of years, and they still do.[60] We’ll revisit the Kushan’s global legacy in the next chapter.

Under Kushan hegemony Greater Khurasan, and Afghanistan in particular, became a regional and global cultural and economic hub, and the fountainhead from which streams of memes and genes flowed to wherever the Silk Road’s travellers took them.[61] The Kushan aristocracy established their summer capital at Kapisa, near present-day Begram in Afghanistan, the site of a Soviet and US air base and an infamous prison. For winter, they preferred milder Peshawar, or Purushapura, as they called it, and Pushkalavati, the Lotus City in the Vale of Charsadda,[62] in what was then known as Gandhara. From these cities they controlled both the north-south trade routes through the mountain passes and the Indus River ports which served the maritime routes linking Gandhara with African, Red Sea and Persian Gulf ports, with the great ports of India and Southeast Asia, and with China, via the Malacca Strait and the Spice Islands in what is now the Indonesian archipelago.[63] This constant movement of people, stories and objects bequeathed to Gandhara, Khurasan and Central Eurasia a legacy of extreme cultural and genetic diversity and hybridity,[64] which we can see embodied now in the artworks of the era. Here, at the crossroads of global trade, artists could draw on the traditions and knowledge of India, Persia, China and Europe to produce works of extraordinary cosmopolitan syncretism.[65] Their standing Buddhas wore Greek chitons and Roman togas for example, and their coins showed the three-faced Hindu deity, Siva, with distinctive Greek, Parthian and Scythian features.

The era dominated by the Kushans seems like an improbably Golden Age now. Their empire probably peaked in the late first or early second century of the Common Era (CE) during the reign of Kanishka I, the “King of Kings” and “Son of God”, as he called himself,[66] and began fracturing in the third century CE after the ruling dynasty was defeated by the armies of the Persian Sassinid empire. The former Kushan territories were conquered again by yet another confederation of steppe peoples who are remembered as the Huaona, Hyon, Ye-tai, Hua, Sveta-Hūna, White Huns, Hayathelaites, or Hephthaliti.[67] Comparatively little is known about these steppe invaders, but, like the Kushans before them, some of these horsefolk settled down, absorbed Khurasan’s syncretic Hellenised, Indianised and Persianised cultures and languages, and selected what suited them from a smorgasbord of belief systems and traditions, which then included Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Shamanism, and the then-more recently introduced Christianity and Manichaeism.[68]

In the mid-sixth century CE a Turkic ruler, Istemi Kaghan, allied with the Persian monarch, Khosraw I, to defeat the Hua, or Hephthalites, and claim the lands they had conquered. The Amu Dar’ya now marked the border between the Persian and Turkic empires.[69] Conflict between these two superpowers continued for generations,[70] but the Silk Road and its channels of communication remained open. In 569 the Eastern Roman Empire sent a diplomatic delegation from Constantinople to Central Eurasia to open direct trade links. The Turkomen sent the visitors home with a caravan of the best Chinese silk, a gesture which opened up lasting commercial and cultural links between Khurasan and the Eastern Roman Empire and beyond.[71] By the end of the sixth century Turkic peoples controlled all of Central Eurasia’s trading routes,[72] while the southern land and sea routes to and from India were controlled by the Persian Sassinids.[73] Transcontinental and transoceanic trade prospered during this time to link all of Afro-Eurasia, including the islands on its far northwestern rim we now know as Britain, and the archipelagos of far South East Asia.

In the seventh century, Khurasan was annexed by General Al-Ahnaf Ibn Qays in the name of Islam’s Umayyad Caliphate centred on Damascus, in Syria. In the following century, another great warrior, Abu Muslim Abd Rahman ibn Muslim Khorasani, or al-Khurasani, led a revolt against the Umayyads from his base in Merv, in what is now Turkmenistan, one of Khurasan’s greatest Silk Road entrepôts. This revolt led to one of the most momentous regime changes in the Muslim world: the transfer of power from the Umayyad dynasty to the Abbasids. Merv became the new ruling dynasty’s first capital.[74]

The merchants of Greater Khurasan prospered under the Abbasids, even after the second Caliph, al-Mansur, moved his capital from Merv to his brand new City of Peace on the Tigris River, near the ancient town of Baghdad.[75] The abandoned earthen remains of once great Merv are now inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.[76] Khurasan flourished again in the ninth and tenth centuries CE, under the Persian-speaking Saminid dynasty based in the Silk Road city of Bukhara, in what is now Uzbekistan, and under their successors, the Turkic Ghaznavids. The rise of the Persian-speaking Saminid dynasty coincided with the migration into Khurasan of new waves of Turkic speaking pastoralists from the semi-arid grasslands between the Caspian and Aral seas.[77] The equestrian and archery skills of these steppe warriors were legendary, as was the beauty of their young boys. Thousands of Turkic speakers were employed in the cavalries of the region’s potentates, and thousands of youths were captured as slaves to be sold to Abbasid rulers and trained as personal body guards in their palaces.[78] Slavery was legitimate business in Khurasan at this time; in fact the slave markets seem to have underpinned the entire economy. Untold thousands of men, women and children were captured in raids, intertribal wars and dynastic battles to be sold in Khurasan’s markets, or “exported” directly to Baghdad and elsewhere. The Saminid rulers profited by imposing licence fees on the slavers, and exacting tolls to cross the Amu Dar’ya.[79] Many of their own Turkic slaves reached positions of great authority, wealth and power. Some, like Abu Mansur Sebük-Tegin, even founded rival Turkic empires.

Sebük-Tegin had been captured as a twelve-year-old in Kirgizstan, and purchased in Bokhara by the Samani amir’s Turkic Lord Chamberlain, or Commander-in-Chief of the army, Alp-Tegin. Later, still a slave, he became a military commander and accompanied Alp-Tegin to Ghazni, in present-day Afghanistan, where he married his master’s daughter and founded one of Central Eurasia’s most powerful dynasties. Sebük-Tegin and his descendants are now remembered as the Ghaznavids of Ghazni. [80] One of Sebük’s sons, Mahmud, was appointed governor of Khurasan by the ruling Samanis of Bokhara, and, at a time of great instability, annexed the territory. Over the next three decades, he extended his family’s empire from what is now Iran to northern India, and from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean.[81]

Under Ghaznavid patronage, Khurasan produced some of Eurasia’s most influential philosophers, scientists, poets, theologians, and artists, including Abu Ali ibn Sînâ, or Avicenna, whose Canon of Medicine is a founding text of modern European medicine; Abdul Qasim Firdusi, the author of The Shahnameh, which has since become Iran’s national epic and a classic of world literature;[82] Daata Ganj Bakhsh, the Ghazni-born and raised theologian who lived much of his life in Lahore, as I’ve already mentioned, and wrote a classic treatise on Sufism, The Unveiling Of The Veiled;[83] and ibn Aḥmad Al-Bīrūnī, the medieval polymath who made profound contributions to early astronomy, mathematics, comparative religion, anthropology, geology and geography. Al-Bīrūnī accompanied Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi on one of his military campaigns into India, and produced the first anthropological study of Hindu culture, Ta’rikh al-Hind, or Chronicles of India. He dedicated a later work, his encyclopedia of astronomy, to Mahmud’s son, Mas’ud Ghaznavi. Like many of his contemporaries, Al-Bīrūnī was a true cosmopolitan. “The ideas and convictions of people show great diversities, and the prosperity of the world rests on such divergences of opinion,” he wrote.[84] He died in Ghazni, Afghanistan, in 1048 CE, and is now considered to be one of the greatest minds of all time.

The violently xenophobic, racist and sectarian stories now being enacted by Muslim extremists within the lands of historic Greater Khurasan would surely bewilder, sadden and disgust those very modern Khurasanis who lived in glittering Ghazni a thousand years ago, as they would the Kushan cosmopolitans of Pushkalavati, in the Vale of Charsadda, in the second century of our Current Era. Enlightened values, such as these ancestors espoused, still survive in Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as we have seen, but Ariana and I found little that was glittering or enlightened about the Khurasan refugee camp we visited in 2006. To me, this camp looked more like one of the Neolithic villages archaeologists were excavating in the upper Amu Dar’ya valley than a twenty first century settlement. Some 9,000 men, women and children from provinces in northern Afghanistan, the lands of historic Khurasan, subsisted in this camp in traditional mud brick and thatch boxes they had constructed themselves from local materials, using building methods almost identical to those their Neolithic forebears had used 6,000 years ago. These families were paying the landowner R150 a month rent (around $A1.50) for the privilege of living in Neolithic poverty. In the misery of their day-to-day existence, they were also paying the price of centuries of unconscionably bad governance, tribal violence, political rivalry in their homeland, and more than 30 years of proxy war.

Our little convoy—a white UNHCR SUV and our armed escorts’ Toyota pick-up—was very conspicuous among the donkey carts, motorbikes, jingle trucks, pedestrians and livestock negotiating the camp’s dusty tracks and stinking gutters. Only the “Central Business District” boasted a sealed road. Here Afghan butchers, grocers, fruiterers, live chicken dealers, timber and firewood merchants, gas suppliers, mobile phone card agents, and artisans sold their goods and services from stalls which were little more than unmilled timber corner posts or rough mud brick partitions covered with a few sheets of corrugated iron or reed-thatch. Other vendors pushed hand-carts with wooden wheels similar to those their ancestors made along the Amu Dar’ya thousands of years ago. There was little this rustic market place to evoke the famous Silk Road bazaars of Greater Khurasan when these refugees’ ancestors had traded exquisitely manufactured compound bows and saddles, ceramics, metalware, leather goods, woodwork, musical instruments, gold jewellery, almond pastry and sweets, and their famous Türcoman carpets, and other luxury goods imported from the length and breadth of Eurasia. Silks from China, furs from the northern forests, musk and myrrh from the Arabian Peninsula, amber from the Baltic Sea, turquoise from Persia, lapis lazuli from Badakhshan, and spices from India and the islands of Southeast Asia.

Our little convoy—a white UNHCR SUV and the armed escorts’ Toyota pick-up – was very conspicuous inside the refugee camp. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Such a heritage seemed an improbable fiction as we drove through Khurasan to the Basic Health Unit, a bare concrete block overlooking an irrigation canal. We found three Safi Pashtun women, in sky-blue burqas, waiting there with their children to see the duty nurse. They wanted to talk. One woman lifted her burqa and her dark green floral dress beneath it, and insisted that I look at a large, suppurating sore on her bare belly. It had begun as a tiny insect bite, she told Ariana, in Pashtu. The bite had become infected and then grown into this huge abscess. The nurse explained that she could clean the wound with antiseptics and give the woman antibiotics, but there were no funds available to send her to hospital for the extra treatment she now required. I felt totally powerless in the face of the poverty, suffering and courage that confronted me in this twenty-first century Khurasan. And angry, too, that these women’s lives were so little valued that they should be suffering in this way.

Open sewers, mudbrick walls in need of repair, roads that turn to mud and slime in wet weather at Khurasan refugee camp. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Safi Pashtuns were a very small minority in Khurasan camp. Most of the residents were Afghans of Türcoman, Tajik or Uzbek descent. The majority, some 60 percent of the total camp population, were Türcoman, descendants of the diverse Turkic speaking peoples who have been mingling their genes and memes in Greater Khurasan for millennia. They too had an extraordinary cultural heritage. In the 11th century their ancestors established their own Great Seljuk Empire which stretched from the Amu Dar’ya to the Tigris River in present-day Iraq. In 1071, one of the Seljuk’s greatest heroes, Alp Arslan, defeated the armies of the Eastern Roman Emperor, Romanos IV Diogenes, at Manzikert, in what is now southeast Turkey, and opened up Anatolia to the Turkic speaking pastoralists of Central Eurasia.[85] Alp Arslan was assassinated on the Amu Dar’ya a year after defeating the Byzantines, and is revered now as a great ancestral hero. Legends about him still light fires in the bellies of Turkic nationalists on both sides of the Amu Dar’ya. His heirs, and other Turkic steppe pastoralists, established their own great empires across the Eurasian landmass: the Safavid, Moghul and Ottoman empires, for example, were all founded by Turkic warriors, many of whom also inherited Mongol ancestries. Like the Kushans, Ghaznavids, and other steppe peoples who invaded Khurasan, the Turkic elites abandoned some of their steppe habits to become sophisticated cosmopolitan urbanites and patrons of the arts and sciences.

In 1221 yet another confederation of steppe nomads crossed the Amy Dar’ya: Genghis Khan’s Mongols. As we’ll see in a later chapter, these warriors conquered all the major Silk Road cities of Greater Khurasan with the rapidity of a sand storm. The richest, most urbane, most learned cities in the world at this time fell like dominoes to them. The roads, tracks and footways of the Silk Road network became escape routes as thousands of desperate refugees fled the Mongol advance, including Rumi, the Sufi poet-saint we met in the first chapter of this book. Despite the terror and destruction these invaders unleashed, Genghis Khan and his heirs ensured that the Silk Road remained open for business, and that humanity’s genes and memes continued to flow across the full length and breadth of Eurasia and beyond. This communication network remained open, give or take a few plagues and wars, for another 500 years until the 18th century, when Russian and Chinese Manchu imperialists divided Central Asia between themselves,[86] and British imperialists began intervening from the south. “Turkistan, Afghanistan, Transcaucasia and Persia—to many these words breathe only a sense of utter remoteness or a memory of vicissitudes and of moribund romance,” that great British imperialist, George Nathaniel Curzon, famously commented after “settling” British India’s northwestern borders with Afghanistan. “To me, I confess, they are as pieces on a chess-board upon which is being played out a game for the domination of the world.”[87] His remarks are still prescient.

In 1715 Tsar Peter the Great despatched a military expedition to the Khanate of Khiva on the Amu Dar’ya to establish a Russian base. The wily and brutal Khan of Khiva won the first round of this very unequal contest, but the ineluctable forces of history were not on his side. Over the next 150 years, Russian armies and agents reconnoitred, mapped, invaded, conquered and colonised the tribal lands of Central Eurasia right up to the border of present-day Afghanistan, in a process which parallels the European invasion, conquest and colonisation of Australia, New Zealand and the Americas. To the imperial Russians, their conquest of Central Asia was a divinely inspired mission to civilise the “half savage nomad population” of Central Asia, as Tsar Alexander II’s foreign minister, Alexander Gorchakov, infamously stated in 1864.[88] To the peoples of Central Asia, however, there was nothing “civilised” about the Russian invasion and colonisation of their homelands. Many of the families at Khurasan refugee camp were the descendants of refugees who had crossed the Amu Dar’ya into Afghanistan with their livestock to escape Russian domination at this time. Ironically they themselves had to flee Afghanistan after another Russian invasion, this one by Soviet forces in 1979.

Turcoman mother and her malnourished child at the Khurasan Refugee Camp. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Turcoman mother and her malnourished child at the Khurasan Refugee Camp. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Although most ethnic Turcomen now live settled, or semi-settled lives, they still affirm their Turcomanchilik, or sense of who they are as a people,[89] with stories from their pastoral pasts.[90] Since time immemorial Turcomen women have hand-knotted these stories into the designs of the carpets and rugs which insulated the floors and walls of their yurts and covered their family wagons.[91] Girls spun wool from family flocks on conical spindle-whorls, dyed the yarn with local herbs, roots and mineral pigments, and, for long hours each day, sat before their looms to weave and knot marriage carpets for their trousseaus. It would take a woman up to a year of back breaking labour to complete a single carpet for the floor of her yurt.[92] This ancient tradition continued inside the mud huts at Khurasan refugee camp. Indeed, some 90 percent of the camp’s entire population, Turcomen and non-Turcomen, men and boys as well as women and girls, were now involved in the carpet industry as spinners, weavers, dyers, washers, and carriers. It was the middlemen in this now-multimillion dollar global handmade carpet industry who benefitted most from their labour though: the contractors, wholesalers, exporters and retailers in Peshawar and in other big cities around the world.[93]

A young carpet maker in Peshawar. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Ariana and I both had personal interests in Khurasani carpets: Ariana because her father had bought and sold them during the Soviet occupation to support his family, and I because my mother, a farmer and pastoralist in rural Australia, had, for many years, spun the wool from our own flocks, dyed it with local plant material, and crafted it into heirloom jumpers, jackets and rugs. The scope of the operation I saw at Khurasan made my mum’s efforts seem dilettantish, however! Ariana led me into a large medieval compound surrounded by high mud walls. At one end hanks of handspun wool in shades of rusty golds, dark greens, purples and reds were drying on a wood heap near the dying cauldrons. The dark golds resembled the colours my mother achieved with eucalyptus leaves, but I suspected the Khurasani dyers used ground pomegranate skins for this colour, and madder root mixed with milk or grape juice for their purples and dark reds.

Bags of dye stuff – herbs, spices, ground pigments – at the Khurasan Carpet Factory. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Freshly dyed wool drying on the wood heap at the Khurasan Carpet Factory. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

At the other end of the compound, under the shade of a rough skillion roof, we saw three four-metre-wide horizontal carpet looms propped up off the dirt floor with bricks. Their frames were strung longitudinally with cotton warp threads, and each carried the beginnings of a lush new carpet. Three weavers were working at one of the looms, two men and a boy. The design they were following, a modern interpretation of a traditional Türcoman carpet, was drawn to scale on a sheet of graph paper: large gold and red squares on a red, green and purple ground. In two weeks of work the weavers had completed just over one metre of this carpet. They still had more than six months of squatting and bending over the loom before they could finish it, their knees at shoulder height, their heads between their knees as they knotted the wool around the cotton warps, one thread, one knot at a time. Painful, back breaking, exploitative work. The weavers in this sweatshop were on wages of just R2,000, or around $A21 a month. Their completed carpets could each sell in New York, London, Paris, Sydney or Berlin for thousands.

Child carpet worker at the Khurasan camp. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Ariana was concerned about the boy. Children were sexually abused in Khurasan’s carpet workshops, as they were throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, but no-one would admit to it, she told me. This lad, with his Asian features, sweet smile and adolescent pimples, looked very vulnerable. Ariana asked him how old he was. Fifteen, he said. He looked much younger. Like most of the Khurasan refugees, his family had come from the province of Jowzjan in northern Afghanistan, but he himself was born in the camp. He’d gone to school until grade 6, and had left six months ago. He’d been working at this carpet factory for one month. His future options were very limited, but at least he would now have a skill, if and when he was repatriated to Afghanistan.

Even this boy’s limited education gave him six more grades of primary schooling than most kids received in rural Afghanistan, or in much of rural Pakistan. Few families at the camp saw the need for six years of learning though. The Deputy Principal of the Khurasan primary school was very aware of this. He had been a journalist in Afghanistan but, like most residents of this refugee settlement, was forced to flee in 1992 when the Mujahedeen were “punishing educated people and Afghanistan was being Islamised,” as he told me. His school was supported by an international non-government agency and an expatriate Turcomen businessman, but his wages were paid by the UNHCR. “We get our salary on time, books are available, we have no problems,” he diplomatically said. His school had very few amenities though. Through the wooden shutters of the staff room I could see a dirt courtyard surrounded by white-washed mud brick classrooms. The windows had no glass, the doorways no doors, the corrugated iron roof no insulation. The only fittings in the classrooms were blackboards on the walls, and canvas mats on the floors where the children sat cross-legged with their exercise books, boys and girls in separate rooms. The only adornment I could see in this brave little school was a bold black motto, scrawled, in both Dari and English, across one of the courtyard walls: Knowledg [sic] is power/live to learn/learn to serve. English philosopher Francis Bacon made a similar statement in the late sixteenth century,.[94] but similar aphorisms were probably scrawled across school walls in Greater Khurasan a thousand years ago.

Graffito on the wall of the Khurasan Camp school. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Lessons were taught in Dari and Pashtu and followed Afghanistan education curriculum. Students could also take private classes in English and computer studies. Most of the camp children who were not at school were working in the fields, collecting garbage, making mud bricks, or, like the boy at the loom, weaving carpets to help support their families. The Deputy Principal’s own sons had also attended this school and were now both studying to become doctors. His older daughter was seeking asylum in Europe, but “still living like a refugee”, he said. Another daughter attended the camp’s “self-help” community high school, the only option for students whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to private schools because, as refugees, they were not allowed to attend Pakistani public schools, or not unless their families could illegally obtain a national identity card.

Boys and girls had separate class rooms in the refugee camp’s primary school. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

I was confronted once again by the human cost of Afghanistan’s decades-long war in another adobe walled fortress compound down the track from the school: a drug rehabilitation centre for female carpet weavers and their children. Opium has been a traditional medicine in Afghanistan for millennia and is frequently used by carpet weavers to help them endure the back pain and the long hours of boredom from squatting or sitting at their looms. Sixty percent of all opium addicts at Khurasan refugee camp were women,[95] many of them mothers who also used opium to quieten their babies while they worked. They dipped their fingers into their opium pots and let the children suck, which meant that many of the addicts at the centre were also very young children. Typically these kids were expected to work at the loom as soon as they were old enough to tie a knot, but, here, at the rehabilitation centre, they could play in the bare dirt courtyard and go to school away from the threat of opium.

All the women I met at this centre were from villages in northern Afghanistan. Most were ethnic Türcoman, and generally non-literate and very poor. Many were also single parents. Now, at the centre, they were gaining new skills, new confidence, new friends and new support networks while they tried to kick their opium habits. One of their teachers I met was also a young single mum. She taught machine embroidery in a large white-washed room with cheery Chinese mats on the floor. Her students sat on the mats with hand-operated sewing machines learning to zig-zag back and forth across pieces of cotton fabric. Machine embroidery is slow and tedious work but much more creative and interesting than carpet weaving, and better paid, this young woman explained. She was wearing her own handiwork that day, a long green tunic richly machine-embroidered around the neckline and long sleeves. Even though it was now old, shabby and stained, it was a beautiful example of her craft. She was paid 3,000 Pakistani Rupiah or around 29 Australian dollars a month, the same amount her students earned for a whole metre of carpet. She worked far fewer hours, suffered less back pain, and could also bring her baby to work, a fair-skinned child with big grey eyes. She couldn’t produce enough milk for her baby though, she told Ariana, and asked if I could give her some money to buy milk powder. Another woman asked for money for medicine. What could I do? Ariana came to my rescue. She explained that if I gave money to one I’d have to give it to everyone and I wasn’t rich enough for that. To the women at this drug rehabilitation centre though, I was unimaginably wealthy. I think of them whenever I see an Afghan carpet now; those women and the boy weaving his young life away in that medieval sweatshop.

Refugee children at the Khurasan Drug Rehabilitation Centre. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

Refugee children at the Khurasan Drug Rehabilitation Centre. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

But what really haunts me, as I write, is the bigger picture behind the daily lives of these refugees: the barely concealed links between the war, arms manufacturers, the opium industry, the exploitation of vulnerable adults and children in the carpet industry, and the ongoing impoverishment of their families and communities. In the year of my visit to Khurasan refugee camp, opium production soared by 25 percent in Afghanistan to over 6,000 tons.[96] According to a senior US counternarcotic official that year’s harvest was, at the time, “the biggest narco-crop in history”.[97] Terrorist attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan also increased dramatically that year, some of them undoubtedly financed with opium money.[98] In 2014, after 13 years of US-led occupation and numerous US funded eradication campaigns costing nearly 8 billion dollars, opium production in Afghanistan increased even further, by 17 percent over the previous year’s harvest to an estimated 6,400 tons.[99]

Opium has corrupted every level of society in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, as I described in the first chapter. The farmers who grow the poppies, the couriers, truckers, all the small traders who depend on their business, politicians, business people in all industry sectors, the carpet weavers and their families, the millions of opium addicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the fifteen million opiate addicts around the world are all gripped in a deadly embrace with Afghanistan’s Taliban, Pakistan’s ISI, the USA’s CIA, and a host of drug barons, military officers, politicians, warlords, arms dealers, and other war profiteers on both sides of the Durand Line. The opium industry now underpins the entire economy of Afghanistan. This entire war-ravaged country is addicted to poppies.[100]

But I saw no poppies in the lush farmlands we drove through to and from the Khurasan refugee camp, only fields of irrigated sugar cane, rice, maize, melons, orchards of apples and stone fruit, and some very contented dairy buffalos. For this was Pakistan’s Vale of Charsadda, a fecund land watered by the Kabul, Swat and Jindi Rivers, in what was once the state of Gandhara. Somewhere over there, through the sugar cane fields and orchards, were the remains of the great Buddhist city of Pushkalavati, or City of Lotuses, where the Kushans established themselves 2,000 years ago.[101] Most of the locals were already Buddhists by the time the Kushans invaded. Indeed, some of Buddhism’s earliest texts were written in the Gandhari language in the monasteries around Pushkalavati and Purushapura.[102] Art treasures recovered from historic Gandhara include some of the first ever anthropomorphic representations of Lord Buddha. The Kushan’s own syncretic civilisation reached its peak between the first and fourth centuries CE and then went into a slow decline.[103] Gandhara’s last Buddhist rulers, the Turkic Shahi dynasty of Kabul, were defeated in 879 by the Hindu Shahis of India; and, in the eleventh century CE, the armies of Mahmud of Ghazni overwhelmed them too.[104] The great Buddhist and Hindu temples, stupas, and monasteries of Khurasan and Gandhara decayed and, in their place, Sufi shrines, mosques and madrasahs arose as centres of spiritual life and learning.

Lush sugar cane fields and a shepherd and his sheep on the road to the refugee camp. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2006.

As we drove back to Peshawar Ariana told me more about her own city, Kabul, before it was blitzed in 1371, the year I knew as 1992. The year the Soviet-installed regime of President Najibullah collapsed; the year the United Nations failed to negotiate a peaceful transition of power; the year the US government and CIA lost interest because the USSR was no longer a threat; the year the Mujahedin militias took control of Afghanistan; the year Khurasan refugee camp was established; … and the year Ariana and her family joined the mass exodus of refugees from Kabul to Peshawar.[105].

Every kind of atrocity was committed in Kabul that year by the warlords and their militias. Their supplies of military hardware and ammunition seemed inexhaustible.[106] Of Kabul’s estimated population of 1.6 million in 1992, some 700,000 people fled when the shelling began. Of those who remained in the city, 25,000 were killed, according to Red Cross figures.[107] Tens of thousands more civilians were wounded and traumatised in indiscriminate violence and shelling, or in crossfire between the warring militias. Untold thousands more people were abducted and “disappeared”. All Kabul’s public services were destroyed. The hospital had no power or water. The dead were so numerous that bodies were left unburied in the streets. In this multi-sided, multi-ethnic tragedy no part of society was innocent. Every group had blood on its hands. For Kabulis the wounds have not yet healed.[108]

We turned into Warsak Road and drove through Peshawar’s college precinct beneath a canopy of cooling Australian eucalyptus trees. It was a Friday, and the road was clogged with buses and big cars collecting middle class students from their private schools. My companion grew wistful as our vehicle crawled through the traffic past crowds of students in neat uniforms piling into family cars. She recalled her own school days in Kabul, her own dreams of matriculating and going to university. Her memories of the schoolgirl she’d seen being bundled into a car by bearded men in turbans still haunted her. Although she finished high school in Peshawar, her dream of going to university had, so far, eluded her. All she and her family now had of their former lives were a few photographs and treasured memorabilia, and their memories. Her father had passed away. Her siblings and cousins were now scattered across several continents. And her family’s house in Kabul had been sold to finance two of her older brothers’ travel expenses to Europe. Ariana refused to use the term “people smuggler” because, she insisted, “To Afghans, they are travel agents who save people’s lives and re-unite families.” The remittances her brothers now send from Europe pay for their younger siblings’ education. This is a very common story in refugee communities.

Ariana herself was now as concerned about her family’s present-day lives as she was about their longer term future. The government of Pakistan was determined to send all Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan back to Afghanistan as soon as possible.[109] She knew that if they returned to Kabul they would face worse conditions than they faced in exile, and the prognosis for Afghanistan’s future was not good. At the time of my visit, the Taliban had re-gained control of most rural areas and security was deteriorating. Militants, including Taliban fighters, aspiring young martyrs from Pakistan’s madrassas, and foreign al Qaeda jihadists, were still crossing the Durand Line from safe havens in Pakistan, often with the support of the Pakistan army and ISI.[110] Food security was critical. Malnutrition was widespread. And housing, farming land, employment, educational opportunities, and health and medical services were either non-existent or inaccessible to large sectors of the population.[111] Conditions in Afghanistan for most people have deteriorated even further since then.

But Pakistan was also very dangerous for Ariana and her family. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistani Taleban, were now targeting civilians all over the country. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the semi-autonomous tribal areas, Mangal Bagh Afridi’s Lashkar-e-Islam, and other jihadist groups were assassinating civilians, abducting people for ransom, and conducting suicide attacks on markets and shopping malls. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa life was dangerous and uncertain for everyone, but more dangerous for refugees who were being scapegoated for all the country’s problems. Without a PoR identity tag Ariana was especially vulnerable. But her reasons for wanting to remain in Pakistan were deeply personal, as I discovered when I was leaving. She visited me at my hotel to say good-bye. She was in love, she confessed. With a young Pakistani man. They had been seeing one another secretly for seven years and wanted to marry, but their families refused to give consent. On top of everything else my friend had sacrificed, this was too much. Nothing I could say or do could help this young couple. “You can tell my story,” she said, “but don’t use my real name.” I’ve honoured her wish.

I’ve lost contact with Ariana now and am very concerned about her. Has she been deported back to Afghanistan? Has she eloped? Is she in hiding from disapproving relatives, or from Pakistani authorities determined to deport all refugees back to Afghanistan? Or has she been injured or killed in a terrorist attack? I don’t know.

I do know, however, that since we met, Pakistan has become much more dangerous, and refugees are still being scapegoated for Pakistan’s sins. “The refugees have become a threat to law and order, security, demography, economy and local culture. Enough is enough,” Pakistan’s Secretary to the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, Habibullah Khan, told London’s Guardian newspaper in 2012. He had little evidence to support his claim but his message was clear: “If the international community is so concerned, they should open the doors of their countries to these refugees. Afghans will be more than happy to be absorbed by the developed countries, like western Europe, USA, Canada, Australia.”[112]

Since then, Pakistani authorities have issued yet more warnings about the imminent deportation of Afghan refugees as illegal aliens, and yet more deadlines have been extended. Few observers believe that the remaining 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees and unknown thousands of unregistered ones still in Pakistan will leave voluntarily given their fears about what might happen to them if they are repatriated to their homeland.[113] Few believe also that the thousands of Afghans still fleeing to Europe, North America and, in lesser numbers, to Indonesia in the hope of reaching Australia, will subside in the foreseeable future. I’m hoping that my friend Ariana and the man she loves are among the tens of thousands of people now seeking asylum in Germany where her older siblings live. Wherever they are, may they be safe and happy.

Written in 2013 as part of my PhD project completed through the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, University of Canberra.

[1] Beloved Kabul, translated by M. I. Negargar, retrieved 9 March 2013, from

[2] BBC, 2002, “Operation Anaconda ‘almost over’”, 18 March 2002, retrieved 6 March 2013, from

[3] AAP, “Afghan-Aussie governor killed,” Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 2006,

[4] Arif, A.M. 2006, “Fatal blast rocks Afghan-Australian’s funeral”, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2006, retrieved 21 August 2013, from

[5] The constitution was drafted by Pashtun and Tajik intellectuals and based on the French constitutional model. It was approved by a loya jirga whose members were hand-picked by the king and his advisers.

[6] Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: A cultural and political history, Kindle ed. (Princeton University Press, 2010). Kindle Locs. 2707-8; Thomas Ruttig, Islamists, Leftists – and a Void in the Center. Afghanistan’s Political Parties and where they come from (1902-2006),  (Kabul: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung: Afghanistan Office, 2006), Pp. 6-10.

[7] Peter Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers, Kindle ed. (2011). Kindle Loc. 2054.

[8] M Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982, In Refugee Research/Afghanistan under author (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). P. 23; Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers. Kindle Loc. 1946.

[9] The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers., Kindle Locs. 2069-70.

[10] Barfield, Afghanistan: A cultural and political history. Kindle Locs. 2708-9.

[11] John Keegan, “The Ordeal of Afghanistan,” Atlantic Monthly, November 1985.

[12] Afghan Justice Project, Casting Shadows: war crimes and crimes against humanity 1978-2001 (Kabul: AJP, 2005).

[13] Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers. Kindle Location 2154.

[14] Fazal-ur-Rahim Marwat, The evolution and growth of communism in Afghanistan (1917-79): an appraisal (Karachi: Royal Book Company, 1997). P. 338.

[15] Ibid. P. 344. This speech was broadcast 17 July, 1973. Barfield, Afghanistan: A cultural and political history. Kindle Locs. 2690-2693.

[16] Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers. Kindle Loc. 2180.

[17] Khawar Hussein, “Pakistan’s Afghanistan Policy” (Masters, 2005),  P.4.

[18] Frederic Grare and William Maley, The Afghan Refugees in Pakistan,  (Washington/Paris: Middle East Institute (MEI), Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique (FRS), 2011), P. 2; Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers. Kindle Loc. 2240.

[19] Marwat, The evolution and growth of communism in Afghanistan (1917-79): an appraisal. P. 350.

[20] Will Davies and Abdullah Shariat, Fighting Masoud’s war (Melbourne: Lothian Books, 2004).

[21] Ibid. Pp. 12-17.

[22] Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982. P. 7.

[23] Marwat, The evolution and growth of communism in Afghanistan (1917-79): an appraisal. P. 348, 354.

[24] Ibid. P. 355.

[25] Afghan Justice Project, Casting Shadows: war crimes and crimes against humanity 1978-2001. P. 13.

[26] “Afghanistan The Forgotten War: Human Rights Abuses and Violations of the Laws Of War Since the Soviet Withdrawal,” Patricia Gossman, Asia Watch & Human Rights Watch, last modified February 1991, accessed 10 January 2007. Chapter II, Historical Background. Amin Saikal, Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival (I.B. Tauris, 2006). Ch. 7: Pp. 169-186.

[27] Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers. Kindle Loc. 164; Barfield, Afghanistan: A cultural and political history. Kindle Locs. 2912-13.

[28] Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers. Kindle Locs. 1966-67.

[29] Marwat, The evolution and growth of communism in Afghanistan (1917-79): an appraisal. P. 377.

[30] Ibid. P. 379.

[31] Afghan Justice Project, Casting Shadows: war crimes and crimes against humanity 1978-2001. P. 10.

[32] Edward Girardet, Killing the Cranes: a reporter’s journey through three decades of war in Afghanistan, Kindle Edition ed. (Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011). Kindle Locations 1821-1926.

[33] Ibid. Kindle Locations 1903-1904; “A grim chapter in Afghanistan war,” Christian Science Monitor, 4 February 1980, See Paul Anderson, BBC News, “Calls grow to tackle Afghan war crimes”, 14 February 2005, downloaded 10 March 2013, from

[34] Afghan Justice Project, Casting Shadows: war crimes and crimes against humanity 1978-2001. P.12.

[35] Gossman, “Afghanistan The Forgotten War: Human Rights Abuses and Violations of the Laws Of War Since the Soviet Withdrawal.” Ch. II.

[36] General Nabi Azami quoted from his own book on the Saur regime, Urdu and Siasat, or Army and Policy, p. 167, cited in Afghan Justice Project, Casting Shadows: war crimes and crimes against humanity 1978-2001. P. 12. Kronenfeld, “Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Not All Refugees, Not Always in Pakistan, Not Necessarily Afghan?.” P. 51.

[37] Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982. Pp. 8-9.

[38] The Khalk government had Tapa-e-Tajbeg, the presidential palace, restored at a cost of some US $20 million. Ibid. P. 9.

[39] Ibid. P. 10.

[40] The official Soviet figure of 15,000 war dead is disputed. Some commentators put the figure at 50,000. Rafael Reuveny and Aseem Prakash, “The Afghanistan war and the breakdown of the Soviet Union,” Review of International Studies 25(1999).696, footnote 22.

[41] Felbab-Brown, “Kicking the opium habit?: Afghanistan’s drug economy and politics since the 1980s.” P. 129.

[42] Reuveny and Prakash, “The Afghanistan war and the breakdown of the Soviet Union.”

[43] Rupert Coleville, “Afghanistan: the unending crisis. The biggest caseload in the world,” Refugees Magazine, no. 108 (1997)

[44] Grare and Maley, The Afghan Refugees in Pakistan. P. 1.

[45] George Groenewold, Millennium Development Indicators of Education, Employment and Gender Equality of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Country Report,  (The Hague: Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, 2006),  Pp. 2-3.

[46] Rashid, “Pashtuns in Pakistan Speak Out Against the Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan”.

[47] Ibid. Matt M Matthews, An Ever Present Danger A Concise History of British Military Operations on the North-West Frontier, 1849-1947,  Combat Studies Institute Press,US Army Combined Arms Center,Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2010), Pp. 1-2.

[48] See Greater Khorasan, Wikipedia, downloaded 10 March 2013, from

[49] Ali H Soufan, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, Amazon web site (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011). P. xvii.

[50] Anthony Hyman, “Nationalism in Afghanistan,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 34, no. 2 Special Issue: Nationalism and the Colonial Legacy in the Middle East and Central Asia (2002). P. 301.

[51] Pierre  Oberling, “Khorasan 1: Ethnic groups,” in Encyclopedia Iranica Online (New York: Columbia University, 2008).

[52] Robert M Quinn, ” Kamut®: Ancient grain, new cereal,” in Perspectives on new crops and new uses, ed. J Janick (Alexandria, VA: ASHS Press, 1999),

[53] Mark Mazzetti, “A Terror Cell That Avoided the Spotlight,” The New York Times, 25 September 2014 2014, Glenn  Greenwald and Mutaza Hussain, “The fake terror threat used to justify bombing Syria,” in The Intercept (First Look Media, 2014).

[54] Bill Roggio, 2015, “Pakistani Taliban confirms death of Khorasan province spokesman, calls for Afghan Taliban and Islamic State to ‘end their dispute’”, Long War Journal, 14 July 2015, downloaded 17 September 2015, from

[55] Richard Lewington, “The challenge of managing Central Asia’s new borders,” Asian Affairs 41, no. 2 (2010). P. 235.

[56] Nikolaus  Boroffka, “Bronze Age Archaeology in Turkmenistan,” News Central Asia (2012), Andrew  Lawler, “Central Asia’s Lost Civilization,” Discovery Magazine online 2006.

[57] The ‘Bactro’ in BMAC refers to Bactria, the Greek name of the region around the city of Bactra, or Balkh, in northern Afghanistan, while Margiana refers to the Persian satrapy of Margu, centred on Merv in what is now Turkmenistan.

[58] Xinru Liu, “Migration and settlement of the Yuezhi-Kushan: interaction and interdependence of nomadic and sedentary societies,” Journal of World History 12, no. 2 (2001).; “New findings in ancient Afghanistan: the Bactrian documents discovered from the Northern Hindu Kush,” Nicholas Sims-Williams, Digital Archives, Department of Linguistics, University of Tokyo, last, accessed 4 March, Rika Gyselen, ed. Des Indo-Grecs aux Sassanides: données pour l’histoire et la géographie historique, Res Orientales XVII (Groupe pour l’étude de la civilisation du Moyen-Orient, 2007). Osmund Bopearachchi, “Some observations on the chronology of the early Kushans,” in Des Indo-Grecs aux Sassanides: données pour l’histoire et la géographie historique: Res Orientales XVII, ed. Rika Gyselen (Groupe pour l’étude de la civilisation du Moyen-Orient, 2007),; Peter B Golden, Central Asia in World History (New York: OUP, 2011). Loc. 578-581. Also see “The Kushan Empire (20-280 AD)”, United States Department of Defense US Central Command Cultural Property Training Resource, Colorado State University, downloaded 30 march 2013, from

[59] Matthew P Fitzpatrick, “Provincializing Rome: The Indian Ocean Trade Network and Roman Imperialism,” Journal of World History 22, no. 1 (2011). P. 44-45.

[60] Golden, Central Asia in World History. Loc. 396-397, 424-425; Christopher Beckwirth, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present, Kindle, Amazon Digital Services ed. (Princeton University Press, 2011). Kindle Locs1495-98, 1912-22, 1926-28. D Comas et al., “Admixture, migrations, and dispersals in Central Asia: evidence from maternal DNA lineages,” European Journal of Human Genetics 12, no. 6 (2004). Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History, Kindle ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[61] Beckwirth, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Kindle Locs 8250-55.

[62] SMEDA NWFP, District Profile: Charsadda,  (Peshawar: Small & Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA), Ministry of Industries and Production, Government of Pakistan, 2009), ; ibid.

[63] Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History. Kindle locations 645-651; Nancy Hatch Dupree, Historical Guide to Afghanistan, (Kabul: Afghan Air Authority and Afghan Touist Organisation, 1977). Ch. 3. ADH Bivar, “Kushan Dynasty i: Dynastic History,” Encyclopedia Iranica (2009)

[64] Comas et al., “Admixture, migrations, and dispersals in Central Asia: evidence from maternal DNA lineages.”

[65] Jason Neelis, Early Buddhist Transmission and Trade Networks: Mobility and Exchange Within and Beyond the Northwestern Borderlands of South Asia (Brill, 2010). P. 58.

[66] Golden, Central Asia in World History.Locs.584-585. Tauqeer Ahmad Warraich, “Gandhara: an appraisal of its meanings and history,” Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan 48, no. 1 (2011). P. 14.

[67] Some scholars believe that the English term Hun may be derived from this group’s Persian name. Beckwirth, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Locs 2138-2142, 2370-2372; Library of Congress, Afghanistan: a country study (Washington: Claitor’s Publishing Division, , 2001). Pp. 7-8.

[68] Beckwirth, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Kindle Locs1075-6, footnote 75. Golden, Central Asia in World History. Kindle Locs 657-659.

[69] Beckwirth, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Kindle Locs 3302-7.

[70] By scholarly convention, the ethnonym Türk is used to differentiate the people of the first two Turkic empires of the Eastern Steppe from later Turks. See ibid. Kindle Loc.3729.

[71] Ibid. Kindle Locs 3312-14.

[72] Richard Nelson Frye, “Turks in the Middle East before the Saljuqs,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 63, no. 3 (1943). P. 195; Paul Lunde, “The Silk Roads: A History,” Saudi Aramco World 39, no. 4 (1988). Beckwirth, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Kindle Locs. 3314-17.

[73] Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Kindle Locs. 3337-38.

[74] Ibid. Kindle Locs. 3968-3977.

[75] Ibid. Kindle Locs 810-813.

[76] David Gandreau and Sébastien Moriset, “Preventative conservation of the monuments in Merv, Turkmenistan,” in TerrAsia 2011: International conference on earthen architecture in Asia, ed. Heyzoo Hwang, soonwung Kim, Hubert Guillard, and David Gandreau (Republic of Korea: TERRAKorea, Earthen Architecture Institute of Korea, 2011) Also see UNESCO World Heritage Centre, State Historical and Cultural Park ‘Ancient Merv’, downloaded 1 March 2103, from

[77] Barfield, Afghanistan: A cultural and political history. Kindle Loc. 362-63.

[78] CE Bosworth, “The Early Ghaznavids,” chap. 5 in Cambridge History of Iran: The Period from the Arab Invasion to the Saljuqs, ed. RN Frye (Cambridge Histories Online, CUP, 2008 [1975]) P. 163-4.

[79] Ibid. Pp. 163-4.

[80] Ibid. Pp. 164-5.

[81] Ibid. Pp. 168-169.

[82] S. Frederick Starr, “Redisovering Central Asia,” The Wilson Quarterly Online, no. Summer (2009).

[83] Hazrat Data Gunj Bakhish, Kashf-ul-Mahjubl: The Persian Treatise on Sufism trans. KA Nicholson (1911) (Lahore, Karachi: Zia-ul-Quran Publications, 2001).

[84] Aydin Sayili, Turkish contributions ot scientific work in Islam,  (Manchester: Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation, 2004),  p. 5.

[85] Michael Brett, “Saljuks,” in Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Alexander Mikaberidze (ABC-CLIO, 2011), P. 789. Beckwirth, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Kindle Locs 4553-4557.

[86] Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Kindle Loc 8123.

[87] Nathaniel Curzon, in Persia and the Persian Question, Longmans, Green and Co, London, 1892, cited in Brenda Lynn Smith, “‘The Mammon of Rightiousness’, Lord Curzon’s perception of Russia” (Simon Fraser University, 1998) p. 9, and in Edgar O’Ballance, Afghan Wars: Battles in a hostile land 1839 to the present (London: Brassey’s, 2002). P. 7.

[88] Alexander Mikaberidze, “Central Asia, Russian Conquest,” in Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Mikaberidze (ABC-CLIO, 2011) P. 238.

[89] Colin Thubron, The Lost Heart of Asia, Kindle Edition ed. (London: Vintage Books, 2004). Kindle Loc. 199.

[90] Adrienne Lynn Edgar, “Genealogy, Class, and “Tribal Policy” in Soviet Turkmenistan, 1924-1934,” Slavic Review 60, no. 2 (2001). Pp. 268-269.

[91] Barfield, Afghanistan: A cultural and political history. Loc. 368-369; Adam  Pain and Moharram Ali, Understanding markets in Afghanistan: a case study of carpets and the Andkhoy Carpet Market,  (Kabul: Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, 2009), p. 5, 38.

[92] Understanding markets in Afghanistan: a case study of carpets and the Andkhoy Carpet Market. P. 4. Jamshid Tehrani and Mark Collard, “Investigating cultural evolution through biological phylogenetic analyses of Turkmen textiles,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 21(2002).

[93] Zafar Mueen Nasir, A rapid assessment of bonded labour in the carpet industry of Pakistan,  (Geneva: International Labour Office 2004), P. 11. Pain and Ali, Understanding markets in Afghanistan: a case study of carpets and the Andkhoy Carpet Market. P. 26.

[94] ‘Knowledge is power’ is a quotation from Sir Francis Bacon’s Religious Meditations, of Heresies, 1597.

[95] Hamid Hussain and Ahmad Qayum, Situational analysis of drug users in Afghan refugees camps of NWFP, Pakistan, 2005-2006,  (Peshawar: Dost Foundation and UNODC, 2006), pp. 28-29.

[96] Antonio Maria Costa, “Afghanistan’s opium war,” The Guardian Online, 25 November 2006,; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Monitoring of drug flow in Afghanistan,  (Kabul: Illicit Crop Monitoring Program, 2007), p 4.

[97] T. Schweich, “Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?,” The New York Times (2008).

[98] Declan  Walsh and Bagarzai  Saidan, “Across the border from Britain’s troops, Taliban rises again,” Guardian, Saturday 27 May, 2006 2006,,,1784304,00.html.; Declan Walsh, “Better paid, better armed, better connected – Taliban rise again ” The Guardian, 16 September 2006, Kate Clark, “Taleban’s ‘$100m opium takings’ ” BBC News (24 June 2008 2008).

[99] UNODC, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2014: Cultivation and production,  (Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,  and Ministry of Counter-Narcotics, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 2014),  P. 6; Matthieu Aikins, “Afghanistan: The making of a narco state,” Rolling Stone, 4 December 2014, Also see William Patey, 25 June, 2014, “The war on drugs is lost – legalise the heroin trade”, The Guardian, downloaded 6 October 2014, from

[100] Alfred W McCoy, “Can anyone pacify an opium state?,” CBS News (1 April 2010), Costa, “Afghanistan’s opium war.” UNODC, The Global Afghan Opium Trade: A threat assessment. “Aikins, “Afghanistan: The making of a narco state.”

[101] Rafi U. Samad, The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys (Algora Publishers, 2011). P. 6; SMEDA NWFP, District Profile: Charsadda.; Charles Higham, Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations (Facts On File,, 2009). Pp. 72-73.

[102] Peter Monaghan, “A Lost Buddhist Literary Tradition Is Found,” Chronicle of Higher Education 49, no. 6 (2002).

[103] Samad, The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. P. 30.

[104] Ibid. P. 275; SMEDA NWFP, District Profile: Charsadda. Warraich, “Gandhara: an appraisal of its meanings and history.” Pp. 16-17.

[105] Shah M. Tarzi, “Afghanistan in 1992: A Hobbesian State of Nature,” Asian Survey 33, no. 2 (1993).

[106] Human Rights Watch, Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity,  (New York: HRW, 2005), p. 14.

[107] Gilles Dorronsoro, “Kabul at War (1992-1996) : State, Ethnicity and Social Classes,” South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (SAMAJ), no. Free-standing article (2007). Paragraph 3; Tarzi, “Afghanistan in 1992: A Hobbesian State of Nature.” P. 165.

[108] Human Rights Watch, Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity.

[109] Nasreen Ghufran, “Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Current Situation and Future Scenario,” Policy Perspectives 3, no. 3 (2006).

[110] David J.  Kilcullen, Terrain, Tribes, and Terrorists: Pakistan, 2006-2008,  (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2009), P. 10; Walsh, “Better paid, better armed, better connected – Taliban rise again “.

[111]UNHCR, Afghan Situation, Operational Update,  UNHCR 2006), p. 6.

[112] Saeed Shah, Pakistan plans to revoke Afghans’ refugee status could displace 3 million, The Guardian, London, 21 July 2012. Downloaded 8 December 2013 from

[113] See UNHCR, “2015 UNHCR country operations profile – Pakistan”, downloaded 17 September 2015, from



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