While I was in Afghanistan, I read quite a bit about Afghanistan culture. Having a degree in Creative Writing and being a writer and blogging et al, I took special interest in articles on Afghanistan poetry. From what I've learned, as in most tribal Islamic cultures, the poet has a special place in Afghan society.
This quote from a 2005 NPR article sums up Afghan feelings on poetry:
Afghanistan remains mostly illiterate, overwhelmingly so outside the cities. Rather than read, people store material in memory and, if literary, recite it by heart. And poetry, because of rhyme and rhythm, is much easier to memorize than prose… Many Afghans internalize segments off the great Persian classical poets, philosopher-mystics whose verse rises above daily hustle and bustle.Not too different from how people relate to good hip-hop verses, by reciting to heart those lines that motivate them through the grind. But that's a post for another day.
The result is something no longer valued in the modern, literate West: a memorized reservoir of poetic wisdom. Inherited from the great poets and internalized from early childhood onwards, this material serves Afghans as psycho-spiritual ballast — a buffer against misfortune, and a reminder, when times are good, the luck seldom lasts…
Way back in late June of last year, I saved an article about Khalilullah Khalili, one of the best poets in Afghanistan history. Khalili died in 1987 in Pakistan, but according to reports, President Karzi wanted to create a commemorative grave for Khalili, one that would assert Afghan poetry. Karzi doesn't want to end there. They also are in cultural battles with Iran and Turkey over ancient poets who they claim had Afghan roots, albeit when the nation was under Persian control.
Meanwhile, poetry is being used by different classes of Afghans to reclaim their voice and share their message with the world. This Al Jazeera article from May 2012 discusses how women are using poetry to express themselves. Unfortunately, many have to share their poetry through secret avenues as their families might not approve of them stepping out.
As women are using poetry to assert themselves as minorities, another more powerful subculture in Afghanistan is getting their words to prose. In June 2012, the book Poetry of the Taliban was released. This book is a collection of Taliban poems collected off the internet. For Westerners, the book is a unique look at the words of that is philosophically different to everything the West stands for. According to reviewers, the poems are not merely propaganda. They are pieces that describe all forms of human emotion, from sadness to remorse to love to contempt.