Why study folklore? Women’s captivity narratives as an area of ordinary people’s imagination and real concern.

AIAS arranged a program for Dr. Margaret Mills on 11the September 2018 at the American university of Afghanistan. Dr. Mills talk started with a few words about the importance and value of forms of folklore (everyday knowledge) as a social data set and as an aesthetic experience, then went on to discuss how people use everyday forms of folk narrative – sacred legends, afsana (fictional folk tales), oral history and personal experience narratives of their own or their family in their daily lives, Dr. Mills pointed out that how three or four different kinds of narratives are used to think about a common human problem: The danger to women in situation of insecurity-captivity danger. 

The examples in the talk, all taken from Persian-language sources from Afghanistan and Iran, presented these different kinds of narratives on the theme of women’s and girls’ experiences of threat,  abduction, captivity and escape, and how different kinds of  narratives help people cope with this very real set of concerns. Dr. Mills gave the example of one of the most famous types of folklore, afsana or folktales that are fiction, fantasy tales told for the entertainment, also two of the most commonly told stories in the peacetime in Afghanistan are the afghan version of Cinderella (called Gaw-e-zard or Mah-peshani) and the story of the beauty and the beast (called shah mar-e-sabze-khazina). Both these stories and many others in Afghanistan are part of international intangible heritage, many folklores are international but every language group and local population has its own versions, its own cultural flavor and details.

Dr. Mills discussed how these Afsanas and other narratives solve or don’t solve the threats to women in danger of captivity. Some stories concern Muslim women and girls in Iran and Afghanistan who are also taken into the earth or turned to stone, when they pray to escape the capture by enemies.

The discussion was joined by a number of students and lecturers and they shared their ideas, stories and experiences of these folklores.


The mental health awareness campaign “Invisible wounds of violence”

AIAS and ACKU hosted an event at the ACKU on 08 August 2018 to discuss the mental health and its link with the violence in Afghanistan.

At the beginning of the program, a welcoming note and introduction of the program were given by Mr. Asef Mehry.

Four of the professionals that are working for the mental health in Afghanistan were the speakers of the program.

Mr. Siddiqi dean of the psychology faculty of the Kabul University was the first speaker of the program. Mr. Siddiqi gave an introduction to the psychology faculty of the Kabul University and the role of the psychology in academia. Mr. Siddiqi pointed out a number of activities that have been done in the Psychology faculty of the Kabul University and its impacts on the society.

Mr. Siddiqi discussed and emphasized on the importance of having professional psychologists and psychiatrists in the country and giving the opportunities to these professionals to serve in the field of mental health care and mental health awareness.

Ms. Lyla lynn Schwartz, gave a presentation on the mental health awareness initiative by the AIAS and ACKU, discussing the aims and objectives of the program and how this program was initiated by a number of psychologists with the purpose of giving mental health awareness to the people of Afghanistan by organizing events and conferences and to work among mental health providers, psycho-social help providers to enrich the idea of providing this awareness for the people.

The main objectives of the program are to share tools, menus, technics, and training created by the NGOs and consultants. To collectively develop policies and strategies to improve mental health awareness in Afghanistan and to raise awareness about mental health and psychological needs in Afghanistan. These objectives can be achieved by creating a collaboration among the NGOs and consultant groups.

Mr. Bashir Ahmad sarwari the director of the mental health at the ministry of public health was invited to discuss the policy of government regarding the mental health in Afghanistan.

Mr. Sarwari discussed the importance of having a system for the mental health. Afghanistan’s mental health system has been launched as a new system in last few years and ministry of public health has started providing mental health services from the village’s level and has increased providing these services in the whole country.

Ministry of public health has made its mental health system according to the system provided by the world health organization that describes the mental health care system in different levels and with this system government is trying to provide mental health services to all the people despite the obstacles and the time taking process of making a services provider system to a country level.

Mr. Sajad a psychology lecturer at the university discussed the role of capacity building in the field of psychology and having professionals in the field by using the universities and creating more recourses in giving awareness about the mental health and mental health needs.

Dr. Rohullah Amin a psychologist, besides discussing the importance of mental health awareness, emphasized on taking steps in focusing on quality of the work and on taking the responsibility of mental health by everyone, not only government or psychologists as the self-care is the first step in mental health care.

Book launch and literary analysis of the book: “let me write for you”

AIAS and ACKU hosted an event for unveiling a novel written by Nahid Mehrgan on 11th July 2018.

The program was launched with the introduction of the book and speakers of the program, Dr. Rohullah Amin, and Dr. Yaman Hekmat, and in order to analyze and interpret the content of the book, speakers were requested to discuss the Novel.

In the beginning, Dr.Rohullah Amin analyzed the content of the book from the perspective of psychology. Dr. Amin began discussing stories, writing stories and explained the importance of the story in conveying the concepts of a message, experience, and a lesson.

The book tells the story of a girl from Herat who was born and raised in Herat and goes to Germany after marriage. The book highlights the bitterness and the good and bad experiences of a person who experiences different faces of life in different settings in Afghanistan and in Germany.

Dr. Amin pointed out the impact of these bad experiences on a person’s life that has been told in the story in the book.

One of the issues discussed psychologically was the issue of taboos that have been discussed in the book fearlessly and is not widely discussed among the people in general life.

Dr. Hekmat interpreted the story as one of the stories that tell the bitter truths of a society that most of the people living in a similar environment and society have experienced.

One of the characteristics of the book which was praised by the guests was the way the writer presents the characters of the story and the way these characters convey a message to the reader.

The program was ended with a series of questions from the audience and discussions by the guest speakers


AIAS, The Hollings Center for international dialogue, and the US embassy in Kabul arranged a per-orientation meeting for the second  Afghanistan-Pakistan partnership summit on 11 January, 2018.

This meeting included discussion about:

How can barriers to cooperation be overcome?  What are some major barriers to cooperation with Pakistan?

How have these barriers affected dynamics between Afghanistan and Pakistan? What governance issues exist?  What strategies, policies and measures role can government, businesses and civil society play to overcome barriers?

There are many opportunities that exist for cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  What is happening on the cooperation side?  What is working?  What are some local opportunities?  What larger regional integration opportunities could result from increased cooperation with Pakistan?  How can these opportunities be realized in the current environment? What national and international policy reforms are needed to enhance  synergies?

As a conclusion all the participants gave their recommendations and specified the outcome of the meeting.

Afghan Miniatures of 15th -18th Centuries

AUAF with cooperation of AIAS organized the program entitled “Afghan Miniatures of 15th -18th Centuries” by Dr. Michael Alexander Barry on 13 June, 2017.

Dr. Barry is lecturer in Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies Department since 2004 on the medieval and modern Islamic cultures of Iran, India, Pakistan, and most especially Afghanistan.

This lecture was an Illustration of the amazing art that was created in this Afghanistan between the 15th to 18Th centuries; many of the miniatures exhibited are known in foreign museums either the arts of Iran or India very rarely connected to the people who actually made these arts in Afghanistan. It was a little journey to the most beautiful miniatures created in Herat and Kabul between the ages of Timurid Sultans of Heart and their family members who became the kings of Kabul, whose reign then expanded to India.

Afghanistan Annual Lecture Series

The American Institute of Afghanistan Studies launched the inaugural Annual Lecture on Afghanistan in April of 2017. One of the few female combat journalists to cover Afghanistan and Pakistan, Christina Lamb spoke about the human costs of political failure in America’s longest war in her presentation titled, “From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World.” She draws on her experience as the Chief Foreign Correspondent for the UK Sunday Times and a best-selling author, to depict the impacts of war on Afghanistan’s people and society.

A Non-Anthropologist Looks at Tribes

AIAS and RANA university hosted a presentation by Michael W. Albin on 15 January, 2017.

This highly original and entertaining book spotlights the tribal leader from Biblical times to the present day, and from Morocco to Afghanistan. It strips away layers of romantic myth and misconception about tribal society, the fundamental building block of Middle Eastern culture. Yes, of course shaykhs were desert bandits, maritime pirates, and unruly subjects of sultans and dictators. But they are also diplomats, peacemakers, and businessmen. At their best they place the interests of their people above all else. At worst, they can be notorious leaders.

Chapters cover the defining moral foundations of tribal order: honor and equality; who is and who is not a shaykh; application of the tribal code in war and peace; administration of the code in everyday life; and the environmental, economic, and political changes that threaten stability and the very existence of each tribe. An analytical postscript tracks the shaykh as he struggles to rescue the tribal way of life in today’s Middle East cauldron of violence and instability. There are explanatory footnotes, maps, illustrations, glossary of terms, a bibliographic essay, and an index.

Michael W. Albin draws on a lifetime of academic and practical research and study at the Library of Congress (1975-2004) which included assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey. From 2007-2011.