When it comes to flags, Afghanistan has had its fair share. No less than 25 flags in the last 300 years! The most recent, but no longer current, flag dated from 2013 and is only a slight variation on its predecessor, which lasted from 2003 until 2013. Although this isn’t the flag anymore, it’s probably still the flag most recognised and associated with Afghanistan, and is great for trivia nights, as it has few unique and interesting facts related to it.
2013-2021 National Flag
Firstly, it was one of only six national flags to depict itself on itself. Only five other countries have their national flag within their national flag – 10 points if you can name them! And if you can’t, here they are – Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador and Haiti. There’s something you can impress your team with next time you’re at the pub trivia night!
It was also one of only five national flags in the world to have a building on it. Another 10 points if you can name these ones… And if not, they are Cambodia, Portugal, San Marino and Spain.
The flag itself was a good old-fashioned vertical tricolour with black, red and green. The black represents the nation’s troubled history, especially regarding the events surrounding the Great Game and being stuck between multiple empires. The red represents the blood that was shed by Afghanistan's sons and daughters for the nation’s independence, and finally the green represents future hope and prosperity. With that in mind many believe that the green, quite logically, is to represent Islam, which is a very common feature of flags of Muslim majority countries, such as neighbouring Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
These three colours have been used on and off and in varying proportions since 1928, when the then King of Afghanistan travelled to Europe and was inspired by the German flag. Before that the majority of Afghan flags were all black with some white emblems on them.
Emblazoned over the tricolour is the national emblem of Afghanistan, which contains the Shahada, the Islamic creed that “there is no other god but Allah, and Muhammed is his messenger”. There is also a mosque in the middle, with two Afghanistan flags attached to it, while the entire emblem is surrounded by wheat (quite Soviet!). Finally, the emblem also contains the name Afghanistan and the Islamic year 1298, which is the year that Afghanistan finally gained independence from British influence.
Current Taliban Flag
Adopted on August 15 th 2021, Afghanistan’s official national flag is now the flag of the Taliban, which is very distinctive, and quite different from most incarnations of Afghanistan’s flag. It consists of a field of white, with a black Shahada written of course in Arabic script, a bit like an inverted ISIS flag. This is the same as the flag that the Taliban settled on when they were previously in power, although that time they did originally have a plain white flag with nothing else on it.
A very interesting and unique thing about this flag though, is that there is no one standardised version. It will always be white with a black Shahada on it, but the exact size or placement of the writing can vary, along with the font and style of the script itself.
Previous Flag Still in Use
Of course, using the Taliban flag to represent Afghanistan is controversial and far from accepted by everyone, so the last incarnation of the tricolour flag is still internationally recognised and of course is used by resistance movements inside Afghanistan.
The Flag of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA)
While the Afghanistan flag has been very similar for the last century, despite small changes, there are three distinct periods when the Afghanistan flag has been very different from its other incarnations. There was of course the first Taliban rule, and now the current Taliban rule, but what most people don’t realise is that there was also a brief period of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the Soviet backed communist state. During Afghanistan's brief flirt with communism they had a flag very similar to the Soviet flag, all read with a yellow emblem in the top left hand corner.