Ashraf Ghani (image) has become the president of Afghanistan. The elections were held earlier this year. It was a close call between Ghani and the runner-up Abdullah Abdullah. Both Ghani and Abdullah claimed to have won and blamed each other for manipulating the vote counts. To resolve the dispute, a power sharing deal was agreed upon. A new role of “chief executive” (similar to the role of a prime minister) was created, and Abdullah has been given this post.
Both leaders want to bring peace in the country. There has been unrest in Afghanistan for many years now. In 1979, Soviet Union (a country that later split into Russia and 14 other countries) attacked Afghanistan and took over the nation. The Soviets left Afghanistan nearly 10 years later in 1989. After they pulled out, fighting broke out amongst various Afghan groups to claim a leadership role. In 1996, a group called the Taliban took over a large part of the country and brought an end to the fighting. They also enforced some very strict rules – women were not allowed to work outside the house, girls could not be educated, women had to be covered from head to toe in public, men had to have beards, and no one could watch movies or listen to music. People who did not follow the rules were punished harshly.
In 2001, a group based out of Afghanistan staged attacks in the United States, killing thousands of people. The leader of the group was a man called Osama bin Laden (image). At the time, Afghanistan was being led by the Taliban. The Americans asked the Taliban to hand bin Laden over to them, but the Taliban refused. The United States along with some other countries attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the end of 2001, the Taliban lost control and a new Afghan government was formed. The Taliban continue to fight the current Afghan government.
A popular sport played in Afghanistan is Buzkashi (image), where teams of men on horses try to get control of the body of an animal (usually a goat). Another popular game is gudiparan bazi (kite-flying), where people try to bring down other flying kites. Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan. Pashto and Dari are the official languages.
Image Credits: U.S. Department of State for Ghani’s image, Hamid Mir for bin Laden’s image, Hussainahsan for Buzkashi’s image
Sources: UNESCO, CIA World Factbook, BBC, http://www.nytimes.com/