Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

I meet an Afghan. I learn his name. What is the single other most important thing I should know about him?

Anthropologist and consultant Dr. Whitney Azoy answered the following question on Afghanistan.

I meet an Afghan. I learn his name. What is the single other most important thing I should know about him?

Try to learn his ethnicity and, if he’s Pashtun, his tribe. There’s a saying, “Blood is thicker than ideas,” and few places on earth demonstrate better the force of this truth. In Afghanistan the key term is qaum. Once you know a person’s qaum – his ethnicity and, where pertinent, his tribe — you’ll usually be able to predict his likely attitudes and loyalties. He may shift from one set of political ideas to another – for example, from Islamism to democracy – but he can’t and won’t switch his qaum. His qaum is both a prime sense of identity and a last resort in hard times.

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