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History Of Afghanistan, From The First Anglo-Afghan War To The Civil War

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The First Anglo-Afghan War

The first Anglo-Afghan war was fought from 1839 to 1842. It was fought between the British Empire and the Emirate of Afghanistan. It’s also known by the British as the “disaster”. At that time, there used to be a king Emir Dost Mohammad of the Barakzai dynasty. 

The first Afghan War was fought because the British feared that an Islamic army would lead an uprising in India by the people and princely states, and thus, they decided to replace Dost Mohammed Khan with Shah Shujah.

The British successfully removed Emir Dost Mohammad and placed Emir Shah Shujah of Durrani when the British captured Kabul in August 1839. However, there were very harsh winters in Kabul, and during 1842, they retreated from Kabul. 

Then the British sent an army for retribution to Kabul to avenge the previous forces. Various parts of the capital were demolished. Finally, on 6 January, 1842 some 4,500 British and Indian troops with 1,200 camps marched out of Kabul.  

Also, Shah Shujah was murdered. In 1843 Dost Mohammed returned from his exile from India and continued his rule. The Afghans had victory over the British. 

The Second Anglo-Afghan War

Homes in Afghanistan
Representative Image. (Source: pxfuel)

The second Afghan War was fought from 1878–1880. It was fought between the emirate of Afghanistan and the British Raj. In November 1875, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli appointed Lord Lytton as the governor-general of India.

Lytton was quite concerned with India’s relations with Afghanistan. Also, Russia’s influence was growing in Afghanistan. So, Lytton was ordered to secure a strong frontier by force. Lytton noticed Shir Ali Khan, the third son of Dost Mohammad.

The Emir refused Lytton’s permission to enter Afghanistan and Lytton took action against the kingdom until 1878. Lytton decided to crush his neighbouring pipkin and began the second Anglo-Afghan war in November 1878. Shir Shah fled his country, died in exile in early 1878.

The British army occupied Kabul and a treaty was signed at Gandamak on 26 May, 1879 and it recognised Shir Ali’s son Yaqub Khan as the Emir. He agreed to gain a permanent British embassy at Kabul. 

On 3 September, 1879, the British representative, Sir Louis Cavagnari, and his escort were killed in Kabul. The British forces again dispatched and in October they again occupied Kabul. 

Nephew of Yaqub Khan, Abd al Rahman, became the Emir. During his reign, the boundaries of Afghanistan were drawn by the British and the Russians. In the second Anglo-Afghan war, the British had a victory over Afghanistan.  

The Third Anglo-Afghan War

The third Anglo-Afghan war began on 6 May, 1919 to 8 August, 1919. It was fought between the British and the emirate of Afghanistan. 

When the first world war began, there was widespread support of the Ottoman Empire in Afghanistan. But Habibullah Khan (ruler of Afghanistan) maintained the policy of non-involvement throughout the War. When Habibullah was assassinated on 20 February, 1919, his son Amanullah Khan took the throne. 

Britain still had some important influence on Afghanistan. However, Amanullah Khan declared total independence from Britain on his coronation. This led to the beginning of the third Anglo-Afghan war in May 1919.

There was a series of battles between the British-Indian army and the Afghan army. After this month-long War, Afghans gained control of their own foreign affairs. 

A peace treaty was signed at Rawalpindi on 8 August, 1919. However, before signing the final document, the Afghans concluded a treaty friendship with the new Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union. Because of this, Afghanistan became the first state to recognise the Soviet government. This friendship lasted till December 1979, when the Soviet Union captured Afghanistan during the Afghan War. 

The Afghan War (1979)

Kabul, 1979
Representative Image. (Source: flickr)

The Afghan War was fought from December 1979 to February 1989 between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. 

The Soviet Union negotiated in support of the Afghan communist government in its conflict with anti-communist Muslim guerrillas during the Afghan War and it remained till mid-February 1989.

In April 1978, the Afghanistan government, which Mohammad Duad Khan headed, was overthrown by Nur Mohammad Taraki. Power then was shared by two Marxist Leninist political groups, Khalaq and Parcham party, which was earlier one single organisation, the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which was recombined before the coup.

The new government had little support and shared close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless expulsion of all domestic opposition, land and social reforms that were bitterly disliked by the religious Muslim and largely anti-communist population. 

Tribal and urban groups collectively known as Mujahideen revolted against it. This led to coups and internal fighting within the government and between the peoples and banner fractions. 

This was the main reason why the Soviets invaded the country on 24 December, 1979 by sending 30,000 troops. Their aim was to emerge their new client state, headed by Banner leader Barbrak Karmal. The Mujahideen rebellion grew and it spread to all parts of the country. 

The Afghan War settled with a tie with more than 1,00,000 soviet troops controlling the cities, large towns. The Soviets attempted to remove the Mujahideen’s civilian support by bombing and destroying rural areas. There was a massive fight from the countryside. 

By 1982 some 2.8 million Afghans had looked out for asylum in Pakistan. Around 1.5 million fled to Iran. Eventually, the Mujahideen were able to invalidate Soviet airpower through anti-aircraft missiles supplied by Soviet rivals, the United States. 

The Mujahideen broke up into different independent groups. Throughout the War, there wasn’t much coordination between them. But the quality of arms and military organisation improved. A large number of arms and other war materials were shipped through Pakistan to the guerrilla by the United States and other countries. 

There was an undetermined number of Muslim volunteers who were known as Afghan Arabs. They travelled from all parts of the world to join the opposition. By the late 1980s, the War in Afghanistan was disintegrating the Soviet Union (some 15,000 dead and many more were injured). 

In 1988 the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union signed an agreement and the troops were withdrawn (completed in 1989). Then Afghanistan returned to non-aligned status. In April 1992, various rebel groups came together with unruly government troops. They stormed the capital of Kabul and Najibullah, the communist president, was overthrown who succeeded Karmal in 1986. 

The Afghan Civil War

U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan
Representative Image. (Source: flickr)

President Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of the Islamic society, a major Mujahideen group, refused to leave his office because of the power-sharing arrangement. As a result, other Mujahideen groups, specifically the Islamic party, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, surrounded Kabul and began to bombard the city with artillery and rockets. 

These attacks continued for several years and the countryside outside Kabul slipped into disruption. In response, the Taliban, an Islamic group led by Mohammad Omar, emerged in the fall of 1994 and seized power by occupying Kabul in 1996. 

Soon, the Afghan Arabs controlled the northern portion of Afghanistan, which was held by an insecure coalition of Mujahideen forces known as the Northern Alliance. 

Fighting continued till 2001 when the Taliban refused demands by the U.S. government to deport Saudi Arabia exile Osma Bin Laden, leader of Islamic extremist group, Al-Qaeda, which had a good friendship with the Taliban, was accused of launching terrorist attacks against the United States. 

U.S. special forces allied with Northern Alliance fighters and launched a series of military operations in Afghanistan, because of which the power of the Taliban declined. In 2004, an interim government was formed, but the new government struggled to secure centralised authority against the Taliban. 

It is estimated that over 1.5 million Afghans were killed before 1992. The exact number of people killed during combat and other conflicts is unclear. Thousands died due to starvation or because of different diseases and the numerous land mines. By the end of the 20th century, Afghanistan was one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. 

The number of Afghans displaced due to the Wars is estimated to be around 6 million.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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