What can the story of a Pashtun family that fought on behalf of the Sikhs, the Afghans, and the British teach us about the flexibility of identity? The story of Afridi Khan reveals how Pashtun identity in the 19th century was a tapestry of overlapping, even conflicting elements.
The presence of Afghan refugees in Iran as mercenary troops for Assad’s counterinsurgency complicates present understandings of the foreign fighter, often affiliated with the catch-all figure of the jihadi. (Photo Credit: Mujtaba Jalali)
The Iranian national canon, whatever it means to different people, is primarily studied as a continuation of the “Persian literary canon” while Afghan and Tajik literatures are treated as a divergence, and consequently lose the Persian qualifier. Persian literary production outside of Iran is essentially treated as an exotic object in an uncharted terrain.
Afghan refugees in Turkey are in legal limbo in which their status is unclear. They have the right to reside in the country, but lack the right to work or the kind of state assistance needed to avoid working. To be a refugee in Turkey then requires navigating life between a state-acknowledged realm of illegality, and the uncertainty of how global trends can affect the fate of a refugee population.
The items collected for the Ajam Digital Archive will allow us to document and record history from below—how it was actually lived, experienced, and understood. It is precisely these histories that were ignored in favor of tales that focused exclusively on wars and revolutions, rarely giving us a sense of how life was lived amidst it all.