The book said a lot of things I didn’t know, things my teachers hadn’t mentioned…It also said some things I did know, like that people called Hazaras mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys.

Amir is reflecting on the history of Afghanistan and how information was presented to him as a young student. The Hazaras are a group originally from Asia, and therefore have more Asian than Arabic features, and were historically persecuted by the Pashtuns. The information he gets from teachers and books provides the historical context for the racism he knew on the streets growing up. The ethnic and racial prejudice towards the Hazaras is a driving force behind Amir’s betrayal of Hassan and Hassan’s rape.

Hassan and I looked at each other. Cracked up. The Hindi kid would soon learn what the British learned earlier in the century, and what the Russians would eventually learn by the late 1980s: that Afghans are an independent people. Afghans cherish custom but abhor rules. And so it was with kite fighting. The rules were simple: No rules. Fly your kite. Cut the opponents. Good luck.

Amir’s thoughts touch upon the ethnic pride of the Afghanistan people, a pride that Baba exhibits and represents throughout the book. Afghanistan has been at the heart of warring factions and shifting values for years, but through it all, a sense of independence and esteem for custom in the Afghanistan people remain intact. The kite tournament with its lack of complex rules represents this independence. The only rule is to act, and count on your luck.

The Taliban moved into the house,” Rahim Khan said. “The pretext was that they had evicted a trespasser. Hassan’s and Farzana’s murders were dismissed as a case of self-defense. No one said a word about it. Most of it was fear of the Taliban, I think. But no one was going to risk anything for a pair of Hazara servants.

As Rahim Khan explains to Amir the murders of Hassan and Farzana, the degree to which Afghanistan has descended into turmoil and chaos is apparent. Law and order have nearly vanished under Taliban rule, and cases are easily dismissed under flimsy pretenses. Racial and ethnic profiling are common, and the Taliban murders at will. The fact that “no one will risk” anything for “a pair of Hazara servants” shows just how oppressed the Hazara are in Afghanistan.

‘Afghanistan is like a beautiful mansion littered with garbage, and someone has to take out the garbage.’ ‘That’s what you were doing in Mazar, going door-to-door? Taking out the garbage?’ ‘Precisely.’ ‘In the west, they have an expression for that, I said. They call it ethnic cleansing.’

Assef says these words to Amir towards the end of the novel, after he has become a full-fledged member of the Taliban. Assef’s words reveal the powerful rhetoric behind ethnically driven murder. He has been taught that Afghanistan is a “beautiful mansion” and the Hazara and other ethnically suppressed groups are “garbage” that must be “taken out.” Amir’s comment that “in the west . . . they call it ethnic cleansing” offers a different kind of rhetoric, one that reveals the brutality of that vision.