National Anthem Controversy Continues in Afghanistan

Back in the March issue of MultiLingual Computing & Technology I noted the language issues that have been raised in the writing of a new national anthem for Afghanistan.

The constitution requires that the anthem be in the Pashto language used by the Pashtun majority population, and it must include the names of the country’s major ethnic groups—all 14 that are listed in the constitution—and the words “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

President Hamed Karzai approved one version early in 2005 only to reject it a few weeks later, and now a new version is under consideration, according to a report from Wahidullah Amani of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting in Kabul. And even the author of the new version does not find it acceptable.

“I originally submitted a poem with nine ethnic groups in it,” Abdul Bari Jahani told IWPR. “They asked me to add five more, and I did so. This is in fact not a poem, but a list of tribes.”

But groups such as Afghanistan’s small Hindu community, for example, are not mentioned even on the full list, and representatives are quoted as saying that these communities feel ignored. 

The current anthem, written in the early 1990s, has lyrics in Dari, another of Afghanistan’s official languages, and is associated with the anti-communist mujahedin. Previous anthems were sung in Pashto or had no words.

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