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BBC name change stirs language row in Afghanistan

Reuters KABUL (Reuters) — The BBC is facing an angry reaction in Afghanistan after it changed the name of one of its local language Facebook pages to BBC Dari, the official name of the Afghan version of Persian or Farsi but one rejected by many local Persian speakers.

The Facebook page and other social media sites were bombarded by criticisms of the change. Many Persian speakers say the name Dari has been imposed historically by the traditionally dominant Pashto ethnic group as an implicit denial of Afghanistan’s place in the wider Persian-speaking world.

The reaction highlighted the sensitivity of linguistic issues in Afghanistan, a country with a mix of over 35 languages spoken by ethnic groups, including Pashtuns, Tajiks and Hazaras as well as Uzbeks and Turkmen.

It also echoed some of the tensions around the government led by President Ashraf Ghani, which was formed after the disputed 2014 election and which is seen by many Persian-speaking Tajiks and Hazaras as favoring his own Pashtun ethnicity.

While the Persian spoken in Afghanistan and neighboring Iran have distinct accents and numerous variations in vocabulary and usage, other essentials are the same, with the gap between the two sometimes compared to the differences between the French spoken in France and Canada.Speech

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