Afghan “War Rugs”

Reaper Drone War Rug

I learned of these from a recent Atlantic story. appears to be the site of Kevin Sudeith, the trader in the story. It links to pieces like this from a decade ago:

In 1969, the Italian conceptual artist Alghiero Boetti (1940-1994) designed a world map, with each country represented by the patterns of its national flag as if that were its essential identity. Boetti then commissioned weavers in Afghanistan, where he traveled frequently, to embroider the map.

This one, from 2003, has some details of Kevin Sudeith’s business:

Less than 1% of Afghan rugs have war motifs. If a weaver is going to invest six weeks in making a 4-foot-by-7-foot rug, she usually picks a pattern guaranteed to please an average buyer–somebody who doesn’t want to be intellectually challenged by a floor covering.

He has been doing this since 1998 and has yet to meet the weavers of the rugs…

Although Afghan weavers are traditionally women, Western collectors and dealers only deal with intermediaries, so it’s difficult to verify who actually makes the rugs, and under what circumstances. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, lists those made in Afghanistan and Pakistan among the crafts that may involve child and forced labor. Sudeith himself never met the Afghan family that makes most of his rugs. “The brass ring for war rug people is to speak with weavers and hear their stories and motivations,” he confesses. “So far, it’s been impossible.”


Shafqat was falsely charged with kidnap and murder; and wrongfully convicted on the strength of one piece of evidence: a forced confession made after nine days of severe torture. Only 14, Shafqat was illegally detained, blindfolded, kept in solitary confinement, brutally beaten, electrocuted and burned with cigarette butts. The police told him they would continue torturing him until he agreed to “confess”; Shafqat said he would have admitted “that a deer was an elephant” by the time they were through.

Now, Shafqat may be executed any day. JPP filed Shafqat’s mercy petition with the office of the President of Pakistan on Saturday 20 December, 2014. A stay application has also been filed by JPP in the Sindh High Court.

Appeal from Reprieve: help save Shafqat Hussain from execution


Aatish Taseer, the son of an assassinated Pakistani leader, explains the history and hysteria behind a deadly relationship.

I am not quite sure if the picture of Pakistani identity that he describes in the first half is one that most Pakistanis would identify with. I can’t help thinking that it reflects his own, admitted identification w/ India more than how a Pakistani might see himself…

To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.

Why My Father Hated India