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Gambling has been a popular form of entertainment for quite a long time in Afghanistan. Afghans like to gamble in ways that might not be typical for other countries, such as in casinos or poker. In fact, casinos have been forbidden since the rise of Sharia law which considers it being from Satan. Taliban prohibited gambling and casinos in 1996 when it rose to power and incorporated this prohibition to the new Afghani legal system.
Gambling is seen evil for two main reasons: the addiction it creates as well as the style in which a person earn money through gambling. As Muslims, Afghanis are to earn their living through work, not by chance. Because of the ban on gambling, even if not enforced as strictly after the downfall of Taliban, those wishing to play have the possibility of joining the online casinos. While this is also forbidden, casinos on internet are hard to track down on international sites. The same goes for playing poker, bingo or bet on sports. While only twelve percent of population has access to internet, gamblers may find this a rather safe alternative.
Despite the regulations and prohibition on gambling, this activity is deeply rooted in the Afghani culture. Sports betting is probably the popular, and this is not limited to recognized sports. Afghans like to bet on animal fights, which they set up. It is not uncommon to bet on dog or cock fights, or even sheep fights. Traditional quail fights are also held regularly in some of the provinces.
Fighter kite flying is another very typical form of gambling in Afghanistan. Being considered a national sport in Afghanistan, it has over one hundred years old tradition in the country. After a short-termed ban by Taliban, kite flying is back on the scene. The fights are organized on Fridays after the mid-day prayers in the mosques, ideally in the autumn when the winds are ideal. The kites in Afghanistan are about 0.5 metre to 1.5 metre large and some of them can go up to the height of over three kilometres.
Kite fights are done by cutting the line of the opponent kite. The line, on which they are attached is made of cotton and covered with crushed glass. The kites used for fights are therefore very sharp. In order not to get hand injuries, competitors use string for their hand position. The ultimate goal is to destroy the opponents’ kites. Kites which strings are cut, fly out of the scene. Such kites are called “azadi rawest” or free kites. Practice of running after these fights in order to capture it and keep it is called kite running.