North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is there a Pashtun in our world's future?

Ethnic groups have commonly found themselves on opposites of modern nation-states borders. Some make the case these boundaries have been set deliberately to divide groups, or at the least, boundaries have been set arbitrarily with little concern for natural groupings of people. Kenya's border with Tanzania for example has a wiggle in it so that each European ruler could "have" a high mountain peak in their colony.

"The irregular shape of the border here was created in 1881 when Queen Victoria gave Mount Kilimanjaro to her grandson, then the Crown Prince of Prussia and later Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, as a wedding present. Consequently, the border was adjusted so that Kilimanjaro fell within the boundaries of the German colony of Tanganyika instead of the British protectorate of Kenya." (from http://www.footprinttravelguides.com) (Oh, this story is not universally agreed on by historians and scholars. A variety of cases can be made, though motives are difficult to unearth and reasons stated on legal documents are often meant to obfuscate others.)

Myth or not as to the reasons, the border between these two East African nations jogs around a mountain. Kenya is to the north of Tanzania, shown here in emphasized topographic relief.

Then there are the Kurds

The Kurdish people have been much more in the news the past decade as the modern nations making up their homeland are several, all restive, some bellicose and in conflict. Still, the 20-30 million or so Kurds without a homeland of their own is a fine entryway into discussing an even larger disconnect in this modern world of 193 recognized nation states.

Sizeable numbers of Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and smaller numbers elsewhere.

The Pashtuns - a major ethnic group straddling two warring neighbors

The point of this post - finally - is to note one much larger group which for the past decade has also been at the center of much of the world's attention, though rarely discussed in its own ethnic terms. The Pashtun people, with a much-debated population of around 60-70 million, is mainly divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Is this people's moment of recognition a possibility in the near future?

Click on map for full picture

The particular focus around this group stems from their location being precisely aligned with the chaotic, lawless and conflicted regions of these two countries. The Afghani landbase is currently occupied by NATO forces fighting Taliban elements as well as specific ethnic tribes and ideological Islamic oriented extremists ... On the Pakistani side, the region has long been left to its own devices.

While it is unlikely that Afghanistan or Pakistan would ever formally cede territory for a Pashtun homeland, there is a very good possibility that a de facto homeland could be the result of a power vacuum when NATO forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan in 2014.

The website accompanying this picture of Pashtun women in some sort of a parade is actually advertising learning the Pashto language. The rather abrupt plug reads, "Learn Pashto Language at Indiana University - ONLY AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY! Seize This Unique Opportunity – Learn Pashto! You’ve heard about them in the news and in movies like Charlie Wilson’s War, the Pashtuns: a brave and proud people who defeated both the British and Soviet invaders."

Pashtun people and the Islamic Taliban are not synonymous. Pashtuns are the common population, and the Taliban are a cultural/ideological subset.

This iconic picture of a young Pashtun woman - taken by a National Geographic photographer in 1985 - shows the green eyes and fairer skin reflecting a unique genetic history of the Pashtun people

For an interesting read, try an article by a journalist Jonathan Kay, in an article carried by Canada's National Post ... http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/12/11/jonathan-kay-as-afghanistan-and-pakistan-destroy-thesmelves-will-an-ethnic-pashtunistan-take-root/

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