When it comes to flags, Afghanistan has had its fair share. No less than 25 flags in the last 300 years! The current flag of Afghanistan dates from 2013 and is only a slight variation on the previous national flag which lasted from 2003 until 2013.
The Flag of Afghanistan is great for trivia nights as it is one of only 6 flags to depict itself on itself. Only 5 other countries have their national flag within their national flag itself – Bolivia, Cost Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador and Haiti.
It’s also one of only 6 flags in the world to have a building on it, along with the flag of Cambodia, Portugal, San Marino and Spain.
The flag itself is a good old-fashioned 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 the green, quite logically, to represent Islam, a quite normal feature of flags of Muslim majority countries.
The current 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. The national emblem 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 when Afghanistan finally gained independence from British influence.
While the Afghanistan flag has been very similar for the last century, despite small changes, there have been two distinct periods when the Afghanistan flag has been very different from its current incarnation. The first period was under the Taliban. At first they had a plain white flag with nothing else on it, until the Taliban then changed to a white flag with the Shahada on it, kind of like an inverted ISIS flag. The other period, and one of our favourites, was during the Afghanistan Democratic Republic, 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.