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Iran Using Media To Corrupt Afghan National Languages – OpEd

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The vibrant new media in Afghanistan is a visible sign of the country’s rise from the Taliban medieval darkness.  Hundreds of professional new TV channels, radio, newspapers, and the online press have developed since the 2001 American invasion of the country.  However, on the flip side, a cloud of predatory endeavor by neighboring Iran to corrupt the Afghan national languages is looming on the horizon.  Spearheaded by a significant media section, the Iranian cultural infiltration has already produced fears among Afghans about the integrity of their long-established national identity.  That is cri de coeur that not many care to hear. 

Iran exercises soft power in Afghanistan by a cultural homogenization that involves altering aspects of phonological, semantic, and elocution of Dari, a variety and dialect of Farsi (Persian) that most Afghans can speak. The rationale for this homogenization campaign for the Afghan pro-Iranian media funded by Western tax dollars is an adaptation to correct and superior variety. 

Innumerable Iranian words, slang phrases, and idioms have been floating around via print and electronic media in Afghanistan, most of which aim to wipe out the traditional Afghan lexis.  Hyper Persian words such as chalish (problem), banu (madam), artish (army), majles (parliament), khalaban (pilot), shahrwand (citizen), dabir (secretary), durood (greeting), hukok (salary), amozgar (teacher), ustan (province), jan bakht (died), parwanda (dossier), daru (medicine), etc., have been interspersed into everyday language in TV, music, sport, and advertising.  Elite newsreaders and TV presenters in the media section controlled by pro-Iranian ethnic minorities mimic cut-glass Persian accent to hive themselves from the traditional Afghan vernacular.  

Efforts for cultivating a typical Iranian accent are also observable daily.  The Kabuli metropolitan accent, which was working very well as the standard dialect of Dari in Afghanistan, is at the risk of being changed into the Tehran accent.  Even Dari’s grammatical structure is not safe from this unlawful linguistic foray.  In Dari, the auxiliary verbs such as ‘have’ and ‘having,’ for identifying mood, stress, and voice of the tenses, find their way for the first time.   Iran copied the use of auxiliary verbs from European languages in recent decades.  The use of the Pashtu (another Afghan national language) alphabets are wiped out from Pashtu words when used in Dari.  The Iranian highfalutin tone often seems screamingly funny when the newsreaders pronounce the names and incomprehensive words (kakh for the palace, shukaa for shock, peezaa for pizza, mushak for a rocket, pazishk for a physician, bazargan for a merchant).  Similarly, they pronounce Korea as Kora, England as Inglis, Malaysia as Malizi, Sweden as Suid..

Hazaragi (a dialect of Farsi) spoken by the Afghan Shia ethnic minority is another victim of Iran’s cultural incursion.  As though facing a cultural cringe, many educated Afghan Hazaras adapted an Iranian accent and even paralinguistics.  If the trend succeeds, this will put the Afghan Hazaragi dialect into a slow and silent death. 

Regional accents, vocabulary, sound system is entirely a natural property of every human language, and any attempt to homogenize the languages of the same roots and heritage seems an imbecile practice.  There are many English(es), French(es) (spoken in 25 countries), and Spanish(es) (spoken in 15 countries) accents. Imagine if we ask an Irish man to stop using the number ninety for an excellent craic or bold for naughtiness or try to homogenize the Australian bushwalking, dooner, American hiking, comforter, and Kiwi tramping, or British duvet, American comforter, and Australian dooner.

The cultural export of Iran is not often successful.  As the Middle East Institute reported, Maldives rejected Iran’s offer to establish an Iranian media project.  The MEI added that “Iran provides funding and content to nearly a third of” the Afghan media. Even more interestingly, Tajikistan, a small central Asian nation that speaks another version of Persian (Tajiki), banned in 2016 the use of imported Iranian vocabulary, calling it a violation of the state language norms.  As Guardian reported, an individual or organization’s use of Iranian words is punishable by a fine of up to $200.

The government in Afghanistan is too weak and dysfunctional to have effective media regulations.  The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has a PhD in Afghan anthropology but seems unmindful of the ongoing dangerous tragi-comic cultural gamble. 

Regretfully, as hinted, millions of Western tax dollars have been drained off by media owners—the fattened of whom belongs to pro-Iranian sectarians—on this willy cultural project in the past two decades. The deliberate vandalization of the Afghan languages is buying support for the Taliban.  

Since language is a living and intangible cultural heritage of each nation, the Afghan threatened languages need intervention by UNESCO and other international organizations.

Given the Afghan history, Iran’s cultural encroachment will face a dismal fate of Russianization in the 1980s in Afghanistan when all Russian and communist lexis vanished away soon with the departure of the Russian troops from the country.

Dr. Ehsan Azari Stanizi

Dr Ehsan Azari Stanizi is an Adjunct Fellow with the Writing & Society Research Group, University of Western Sydney (UWS)

6 thoughts on “Iran Using Media To Corrupt Afghan National Languages – OpEd

  • December 9, 2020 at 11:54 am
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    This is pure pushton-nationalist agenda driven targeting minorities as usual. This nonsense and drivel published here is not only tone-deaf but lacks even the basic grasp of how accents and dialects work and evolve.

    Reply
  • December 9, 2020 at 5:12 pm
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    Persian speakers worldwide share a common, standard language that can’t be divided or limited in terms of national boundaries. That is absurd. That is like saying English speakers in countries like the US, UK, and Australia should make an effort to avoid using the same words or sounding like one another, just for the sake of being separate. What does that accomplish really besides divide and conquer? And does Dr. Ehsan think that we didn’t notice, that he wrote this article in English, a standard variety of English that all English speakers worldwide use and understand? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Yes Persian is a language with different accents and regional dialects. It’s also one language that we all share, and we all play a part in developing the standard variety. Stop trying to tear us apart for chauvinistic or nationalistic reasons. The Persian language is bigger than the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; it is older than it and will outlive it.

    Even more offensively, the author of this article praises Tajikistan’s twisted and idiotic language policy. Banning Persian words in a country that speaks Persian? And what is a “Hyper Persian” word? A word that’s TOO Persian? Where is your list of words that are too English to be allowed for English speakers to use? Since when are Persian speakers not to use words like “daru”? All drugstores and pharmacies in Tajikistan are officially called DORUXONA داروخانه.

    I am ashamed that someone who purports to be a scholar wrote this.

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  • December 9, 2020 at 8:55 pm
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    We have a huge number of Language traffic officers. They are originally Pashto speakers, providing trafficking service totally for Persian.
    This guy who claims to be a medical doctor wrote an article on language, he is a great example of Language Traffic Officer. He does not have problem if people say “challenge” but if Persian speakers say “Chalish” he immediately steep in saying you used foreign word.

    It is a shame for Erosiareview to publish such articles.

    Reply
  • December 10, 2020 at 1:50 am
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    Ignorance like passion both is related to the same instinct. Everybody knows that Dari language spoken in Afghanistan is a version of Farsi or Persian but still our is Afghani Dari with the proviso that even the Persian language was originated in Afghanistan. The same languages do not mean that they should be arbitrarily homogenized. The Spanish that is spoken and written in Madrid, should not be copied in other Spanish speaking language countries. We cannot homogenize Irish and British Englishes, or Australian and New Zealand English. This is an undeniable truth for each language to preserve its national and demographic characteristics. The real chauvinism lies in homogenizing languages of two different countries, even if they speak the same. Every English, American, Australian, New Zealand, or Canadian has its own color and linguistic and phonological features.

    I understand that a substantial chunk of the Afghan media is controlled by sectarian mercenaries that facilitate Iranian pan-Farcism. Iranian theocracy reached a stage of regional imperialism like Safavid Empire. During the apex of Safavid empire, its Shiia proselytizing program in Afghanistan failed and bare-foot Afghans destroyed the two-century Safavid Empire in Iran in 1726.

    The truth and academic rationality is something alien to this chap with no national identity of his own.

    Ehsan

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  • December 14, 2020 at 12:17 am
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    This is just counter propaganda.

    There is no Dari and no Farsi. There is Tehrani which people call Farsi. There is Kabuli which people call Dari. I don’t want a Tehrani with his “oo” and “ii” telling me how to speak. Nor would I want a Kabuli who doesn’t pronounce “h” to tell me how to speak. I also don’t want an insecure Pashtun (such as the author) to tell me my language is different from the one they speak in Iran. Every region has its own accent. Neither Tehrani nor Kabuli is the standard. There is Mazari, Herati, Mashhadi, Bandari, etc. All of those are accents of the same language.

    The standard is the literary form. There is one standard of writing which has been more or less constant for over a millennia. This is rare for any world language and something that has produced one of the best literary traditions to have ever existed. The modern nation states are not important enough for us to destroy our linguistic diversity over it.

    Some Iranians want to claim the entire heritage of the literary tradition. Some Pashtuns get insecure when they see other Afghans who identity with the literary tradition of their mother tongue. Finally there are some confused Afghans who mistake affinity for literary tradition with pan-nationalism. All of these people are trash, just like the author.

    Have some shame. 150 years of Pashtuns leaders selling us out to the British for arms and funds is long enough. Grow a spine.

    Reply

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