Kite Runner Notes

The Kite Runner chronicles the lives of specifically two boys, Amir and Hassan within the politically, socially and culturally charged landscape that is Afghanistan. Hassan, a Hazara, is Amir’s servant, best friend, half-brother and a survivor of an unconscionable discrimination and betrayal. Amir, a Pashtun, is a confused youth who allows emotions, society and privilege to overshadow what he knows is right and wrong. The story is a riveting tale that clearly documents the trials and tribulations of adolescents and their friendships, as well as their ever-changing values and moral systems especially in the face of ethnic conflict, war and social stigmas.

Pashtuns are the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan, about 42% thereby constituting just under half of the population. They are the highest ethnicity on the social ladder and dominate governmental bodies. Pashtu is their native language. They consist mainly of Sunni Muslims.

The Hazara ethnic group resides mainly in the central Afghanistan mountain region called ‘Hazarajat’ • They make up approximately 9% of Afghanistan’s population • There are also significant populations of Hazaras in Pakistan and Iran • Historically, the Hazara seem to have Mongolian origins, as evidenced by physical attributes and parts of the culture and language • It is commonly believed that the Hazara are descendants of Genghis Khan’s army, which marched into the area during the 12th century. Proponents of this view hold that many of the Mongol soldiers and their family members settled in the area and remained there after the Mongol empire dissolved in the 13th century, converting to Islam and adopting local customs handout 1.1 15 • Most of the Hazaras are Shi’ite Muslims, and, the 1% of the population which is not Muslim is either Hindu, Sikh, or Jewish • In The Kite Runner, it is evident that Hazaras are considered to be on the lower end of the socio-economic scale.

The Kite Runner is one of few novels that truly demonstrate both internal conflicts within individuals and countries as well as the external conflicts that affect them. Afghanistan’s multi-ethnic mosaic of citizens allows for a truly memorable tapestry of storylines about fathers and sons, servants, best friends, love, family, loyalty, betrayal, reconciliation, redemption, war, fundamentalism and discrimination. The story          acts as a powerful platform that creates a space to discuss a vast variety of human rights issues.

This surprising story of a young man’s struggle with his family, country and with his own self is so profound and everlasting that its effects and lessons will forever remain with the reader.

Kite-running (Gudiparan Bazi) has been a favourite pastime in Afghanistan for the last 100 years, but there are few on the streets of Kabul that can forget the terror of living under the Taliban regime for so many years. Under Taliban rule, if you were caught with a kite, many times you would be beaten and the spool would be destroyed. However, since the fall of the Taliban regime, kite-running has again resurfaced tenfold.

Kite-running is a two-person affair, with one person called the “charka gir” and the other called the “gudiparan baz.” The charka gir is in charge of the holding the wooden kite spool, around which the wire, or “tar” is wound. The second person, called the “gudiparan baz” actually is in control of the movement of the kite in the air. Kite flyers stand on tops of buildings, fighting with kites from all over the city. The object is to strike down the kite of your opponent with the string of your kite, after which you will be called the winner. The strings are often made with razor wire which gives the sharpness to cut down other kites. After an opponent’s kite is set free, it flutters away into the wind where it is usually picked up by the local children, who fly it the next day as their own.

 

Posted by Tracey Hames

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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