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The Afghanistan Portal

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Afghanistan (, also pronounced /æv'?æn?stæn, æv':n?st?:n/; Pashto/Dari: , Pashto: Afnist?n [avnis't?n, ab-], Dari: Afnest?n [avnes't?n]), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast. Occupying 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi), it is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest. Kabul is the capital and largest city. The population is around 32 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.

Humans lived in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago. Settled life emerged in the region 9,000 years ago, evolving gradually into the Indus civilization (Shortugai site), the Oxus civilization (Dashlyji site), and the Helmand civilization (Mundigak site) of the 3rd millennium BCE. Indo-Aryans migrated through Bactria-Margiana area to Gandhara, followed by the rise of the Iron Age Yaz I culture (ca. 1500-1100 BCE), which has been closely associated with the culture depicted in the Avesta, the ancient religious texts of Zoroastrianism. The region, then known as "Ariana", fell to Achaemenid Persians in the 6th century BCE, who conquered the areas to their east as far as the Indus River. Alexander the Great invaded the region in the 4th century BCE, who married Roxana in Bactria before his Kabul Valley campaign, where he faced resistance from Aspasioi and Assakan tribes. The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom became the eastern end of the Hellenistic world. Following the conquest by Mauryan Indians, Buddhism and Hinduism flourished in the region for centuries. The Kushan emperor Kanishka, who ruled from his twin capitals of Kapi?i and Puru?apura, played an important role in the spread of Mahayana Buddhism to China and Central Asia. Various other Buddhist and Hindu dynasties also ruled the region, including the Saka, Kidarite, Hephthalite, Alkhon, Nezak, Zunbil, Turk Shahi, and Hindu Shahi. (Full article...)

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Prostitution in Afghanistan is illegal, with punishments ranging from 5 to 15 years imprisonment. The country is deeply religious and one of the most conservative countries in the world, where sex outside marriage is against the law. Despite the restrictions prostitution activities are reported to be thriving in the capital Kabul as well as in the Mazar-e-Sharif area in the north of the country. Mazar-e-Sharif has become unofficial capital of prostitution in Afghanistan. So much so that 'going to Mazar' has become a byword for Afghan men looking to pay for sex. Females for sale markets have also sprung up in eastern Afghanistan in recent years, where lawlessness has led to many petty crimes.

A large number of women from mainly China, Iran, Pakistan, Philippines, Tajikistan, and Uganda and other countries are imported for prostitution into Afghanistan. According to the Afghan Interior Ministry's department of sexual crimes, about 2 to 3 prostitution arrests were made each week in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2008. (Full article...)

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Some popular dishes in Afghan cuisine, from left to right: Lamb grilled kebab (seekh kabab), Kabuli palaw and salad, Tandoori chicken and Mantu (dumplings)

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