BY: TYLER FYFE
In Afghanistan, weavers have used designs on rugs as a way of preserving the cultural fabric of home. Weavers of the past were drawn to images of flowers and traditional geometric patterns. But with over a decade of military occupation under its belt today’s weavers in Afghanistan are drawn to more modern normalized imagery—drones.
The Afghan War Rug has roots that stretch back deeper than the invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Weavers initially began putting images of Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and AK-47s in their work as a method of protest against the Soviet occupation that began in 1979 and lasted for nine years. And the rugs didn’t just incorporate symbols of war, according to Smithsonian they offered an accurate historical depiction, showing maps of battles and Soviet tanks retreating to the North. Hauntingly, some rugs that symbolize the tragedies of war bare the inscription “ Made In Afghanistan.” When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban government, the imagery began to evolve.
Afghan weavers are using images of drones, aircraft carriers, and tanks as a form of silent protest against the wake left by over a decade of military occupation.
The rugs are made using vegetable dye and Persian knots and a large rug typically taking between six and nine months to complete.
Barry O’Connell, a Washington-based rug enthusiast said in an interview, “Women in that part of the world have a limited ability to speak out, these rugs may be their only chance to gain a voice in their adult life.”
While this is one perspective, it’s important to remember that much of the profit ends up in the hands of the dealers, the typically female rug-makers suffer the long-term physical effects of the meticulous work for comparatively little compensation. Tourists are the primary market of Afghan war rugs as they are typically too expensive for Afghanis. They can range in price from between $300 to thousands depending on quality of fabric and complexity of design. Colors Magazine notes that overseas orders rose substantially following 9/11. Domestic sales boomed during the years of occupation as foreign aid workers would often buy the rugs to commemorate what they had witnessed.
According to The Intercept, which just released secret documents that reveal details of Operation Haymaker, a U.S. special operations airstrike campaign in Afghanistan, almost 90 percent of people killed were not designated targets over a five month period of the operation. From January 2012 to February 2013, two hundred Afghanis were killed in American airstrikes. Only thirty-five were intentional targets.