Ethnic groups in Afghanistan

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CIA map showing the territory of the settlement of ethnic groups and subgroups in Afghanistan during late Cold War. Afghanistan ethnic groups 2005.jpg
CIA map showing the territory of the settlement of ethnic groups and subgroups in Afghanistan during late Cold War.

Afghanistan is a multiethnic and mostly tribal society. The population of the country consists of numerous ethnolinguistic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashai, Nuristani, Gujjar, Arab, Brahui, Qizilbash, Pamiri, Kyrgyz, Sadat and others. The Afghan National Anthem and the Afghan Constitution each mention fourteen of them, though the lists are not exactly the same. [1]

Contents

National identity

The term "Afghan" is synonymous with the ethnonym "Pashtun", but in modern times the term became the national identity of the people, who live in Afghanistan. [2] [3]

The national culture of Afghanistan is not uniform, at the same time, the various ethnic groups have no clear boundaries between each other and there is much overlap. [4] Additionally, ethnic groups are not racially homogenous. Ethnic groups in Afghanistan have adopted traditions and celebrations from each other and all share a similar culture. For example, Nauruz is a New Year festival celebrated by various ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

Ethnic groups

Aimaq

Aimaq, meaning "tribe" in Turkic-Mongolic (Oymaq), is not an ethnic denomination, but differentiates semi-nomadic herders and agricultural tribal groups of various ethnic origins including the Hazara, Tajik and Baluch, that were formed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They live among non-tribal people in the western areas of Badghis, Ghor and Herat provinces. They practice Sunni Islam, speak Aimaq dialect of the Persian close to Dari, and refer to themselves with tribal designations. [5] Population estimates vary widely, from less than 500,000 to around 800,000.[ citation needed ]

Baloch

Baloch men in Nimruz Province, Afghanistan Men in Zaranj-cropped.jpg
Baloch men in Nimruz Province, Afghanistan

The Baloch people are speakers of the Balochi language who are mostly found in and around the Balochistan region of Afghanistan. In the 1990s their number figure was put at 100,000 but they are around 200,000 today. [6] Mainly pastoral and desert dwellers, the Baloch people of Afghanistan are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Abdul Karim Brahui the former Governor of Nimruz Province, is an ethnic Baloch.[ citation needed ]

Hazara

Hazaras of Afghanistan Hazaras of Afghanistan.jpg
Hazaras of Afghanistan

The Hazaras are the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. [7] They reside mainly in the Hazarajat region in central Afghanistan. Linguistically the Hazara speak a dialect of Dari-Persian, known as Hazaragi, and sometimes their variant is interspersed with some Turkic and Mongolic words. They practice Islam, mostly the Shi'a of the Twelver sect, with significant Sunni, some Isma'ili and Non-denominational Muslim minorities. They are between 6 to 7 million. [8]

Some notable Hazaras of Afghanistan include: Abdul Ali Mazari, Commander Shafi Hazara, Ismael Balkhi, Karim Khalili, Sultan Ali Keshtmand, Habiba Sarābi, Sarwar Danish, Ustad Muhammad Akbari, Sima Samar, Ramazan Bashardost, Abdul Haq Shafaq, Sayed Anwar Rahmati, Qurban Ali Urozgani, Azra Jafari, Ahmad Shah Ramazan, Muhammad Mohaqiq, Ahmad Behzad, Nasrullah Sadiqi Zada Nili, Abbas Noyan, Fahim Hashimy, Rohullah Nikpai, Hamid Rahimi, Fariba Rezayee, Wakil Hussain Allahdad and Dawood Sarkhosh.

Nuristani

Nuristani girl Girl in a Kabul orphanage, 01-07-2002.jpg
Nuristani girl
Pashai boy Young Pashai man with flowers in his hair.jpg
Pashai boy

The Nuristani are an Indo-Iranian people, representing a third independent branch of the Aryan peoples (Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Nuristani), who live in isolated regions of northeastern Afghanistan as well as across the border in the district of Chitral in Pakistan. They speak a variety of Nuristani languages. Better known historically as the Kafirs of what was once known as Kafiristan (land of pagans), they converted to Islam during the rule of Amir Abdur Rahman and their country was renamed "Nuristan", meaning "Land of Light" (as in the light of Islam).[ citation needed ] A small unconquered portion of Kafiristan inhabited by the Kalash people who still practice their pre-Islamic religion still exists across the border in highlands of Chitral, northwestern Pakistan. Many Nuristanis believe that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great's ancient Greeks, but there is a lack of genetic evidence for this and they are more than likely an isolated pocket of early Aryan invaders.[ citation needed ] Physically, the Nuristani are of the Mediterranean sub-stock with about one-third recessive blondism. [9] They follow Sunni Islam like most of the other Afghans. The population in the 1990s was estimated at 125,000 by some; the Nuristani prefer a figure of 300,000. [6]

Pashtun

Pashtuns of Afghanistan Pashtun people.jpg
Pashtuns of Afghanistan

The Pashtuns make up one of the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, comprising between 38% and 50% (2018 sociological research data by The Asia Foundation) [10] of the country's population. The majority of Pashtuns practice Sunni Islam. [11] After the rise of the Hotaki dynasty in 1709 and the Durrani Empire in 1747, Pashtuns expanded by forming communities in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan. [12]

There are conflicting theories about the origin of the Pashtun people, both among historians and the Pashtun themselves. A variety of ancient groups with eponyms similar to Pukhtun have been hypothesized as possible ancestors of modern Pashtuns. The Greek historian Herodotus mentioned a people called Pactyans , living in the Achaemenid's Arachosia Satrap as early as the 1st millennium BC. [13] Since the 3rd century AD and onward they are mostly referred to by the ethnonym "Afghan", a name believed to be given to them by neighboring Persian people. [14] Some believe that ethnic Afghan is an adaptation of the Prakrit ethnonym Avagana , attested in the 6th century CE. [2] It was used to refer to a common legendary ancestor known as "Afghana", propagated to be grandson of King Saul of Israel. [15]

According to scholars such as V. Minorsky and others, the name Afghan appears in the 982 CE Hudud-al-Alam geography book. Al-Biruni referred to a group of Afghans in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of Ancient India and Persia, which would be the area between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in what is now Pakistan. According to other sources, some Pashtuns may be the Lost tribes of Israel who converted to Islam during the Arab Empire. Since the 13th century, some Pashtun tribes conquered areas outside their traditional Pashtun homeland by pushing deeper into South Asia. [15]

The modern Afghan national identity developed in the mid 18th century under the rule of Ahmad Shah Durrani‌, who was the founder of the Durrani Empire. [16]

The Karzai administration, which is led by Hamid Karzai, is dominated by the Pashtun ministers. [17]

Some notable Pashtuns of Afghanistan include: Hamid Karzai, Ashraf Ghani, Nazo Tokhi, Wazir Akbar Khan, Malalai of Maiwand, Abdul Ahad Momand, Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan Girl, Hedayat Amin Arsala, Abdul Rahim Wardak, Sher Mohammad Karimi, Abdul Salam Azimi, Zalmai Rassoul, Omar Zakhilwal, Ghulam Farooq Wardak, Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, Daud Shah Saba, Mohammad Gulab Mangal, Gul Agha Sherzai, Asadullah Khalid, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Mohammad Ishaq Aloko, Mohammed Omar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Nashenas, Ubaidullah Jan, Naghma, Farhad Darya, Suhaila Seddiqi, Shukria Barakzai and Fauzia Gailani.

Sadat

On 13 March 2019, addressing the Sadat gathering at the presidential palace (Arg), President Ashraf Ghani said that he will issue a decree on the inclusion of Sadat ethnic group in new electronic national identity card (e-NIC). [18] [19]

President Ashraf Ghani decreed mentioning 'Sadat tribe' in the electronic national identity on 15 March 2019. [20]

Sayyids of the north are generally located in Balkh and Kunduz; while in the east they can be found in Nangarhar. While most are Sunni Muslims, some in the Bamiyan province are Shi'a Muslims. [21]

Tajik

Tajiks of Afghanistan Tajik people.jpg
Tajiks of Afghanistan

Tajiks form the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. [22] They are a native Persian-speaking people. [23] As a self-designation, the term Tajik, which earlier on had been more or less pejorative, has become acceptable only during the last several decades, particularly as a result of Soviet administration in Central Asia. [24] Alternative names for the Tajiks are Fārsī (Persian), Fārsīwān (Persian-speaker), and Dīhgān (cf. Tajik : Деҳқон, romanized:  Dehqon , literally "farmer or settled villager", in a wider sense "settled" in contrast to "nomadic"). [25]

Like the rest of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan, the origin of Tajiks is a mystery. They were only able to rule and at the same time legitimize their rule as second- or even as immediate sub-rulers with some significant influence on the foreigners – with the exception of the short 10-month rule of Habibullah Kalakani in 1929. [26] The total number of Tajiks in Afghanistan was around 4.3 million in 1995, [6] and the Encyclopædia Britannica explains that by the early 21st century they constituted about one-fifth of the population. [23] [27]

Tajiks are the major ethnic group in neighboring Tajikistan, a country that was created north of Afghanistan in 1991. [27] During the late 19th century and early 20th century, large number of Central Asian Tajiks fled the conquest of their native homeland by Russian Red Army and settled in northern Afghanistan. [28] [29]

In Afghanistan, Tajiks are the majority in the city of Herat. [30] The city of Mazar-e-Sharif is 60% Tajik, the city of Kabul is approximately 45% and the city of Ghazni 50%. [30] Many are known to be in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) while some in the major cities are bureaucrats, doctors, teachers, professors, traders, and shopkeepers. Others live in rural areas, particularly in Badakhshan, and engage in agriculture. Some notable Tajiks from Afghanistan include: Habibullah Kalakani, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ahmad Shah Massoud, Ahmad Zia Massoud, Mohammed Fahim, Yunus Qanuni, Ismail Khan, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Atta Muhammad Nur, Amrullah Saleh, Wasef Bakhtari, Abdul Latif Pedram, Massouda Jalal, Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, Mohammed Daud Daud, Abdul Basir Salangi, and Fawzia Koofi.

Turkmen

The Turkmens are a smaller Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Afghanistan. They are Sunni Muslims, and their origins are very similar to that of the Uzbeks. Unlike the Uzbeks, however, the Turkmens are traditionally a nomadic people (though they were forced to abandon this way of life in Turkmenistan itself under Soviet rule). [9] In the 1990s their number was put at around 200,000. [6]

Uzbek

Uzbeks of Afghanistan Uzbek people from Afghanistan.jpg
Uzbeks of Afghanistan

The Uzbeks are the main Turkic people of Afghanistan whose native territory is in the northern regions of the country. Most likely the Uzbeks migrated with a wave of Turkic invaders and intermingled with local Iranian tribes over time to become the ethnic group they are today. The Uzbeks of Afghanistan are Sunni Muslims and fluent in Southern Uzbek language. [9] Uzbeks living in Afghanistan were estimated in the 1990s at approximately 1.3 million [6] but are now believed to be 2 million. [31]

Some notable Uzbeks of Afghanistan include: Abdul Rashid Dostum, Azad Beg, Alhaj Mutalib Baig, Suraya Dalil, Husn Banu Ghazanfar, Delbar Nazari, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, Muhammad Yunus Nawandish, Sherkhan Farnood, Abdul Majid Rouzi, Abdul Malik Pahlawan and Rasul Pahlawan.

Smaller groups

Smaller groups include the Pashai, Pamiri, Kyrgyz, Arabs, Gujjar, Moghol, Ormur, Wakhi, Dards, Sikhs, Hindus, and others.

Distribution

Of the major ethicities, the geographic distribution can be varied. Still, there are generally certain regions where one of the ethnic groups tend to dominate the population. Pashtuns for example are highly concentrated in southern Afghanistan and parts of the east, but nevertheless large minorities exist elsewhere. [32] Tajiks are highly concentrated in the north-east, but also form large communities elsewhere such as in western Afghanistan. [33] Hazaras tend to be mostly concentrated in the wider "Hazarajat" region of central Afghanistan, [34] while Uzbeks are mostly populated in the north. [35] Some places are very diverse: the city of Kabul for example has been considered a "melting pot" where large populations of the major ethnic groups reside, albeit traditionally with a distinct "Kabuli" identity. [36] [37] The provinces of Ghazni, Kunduz, Kabul and Jowzjan are noted for remarkable ethnic diversity. [34]

Ethnic composition

The population of Afghanistan was estimated in 2017 at 29.2 million. [38] Of this, 15 million are males and 14.2 million females. About 22% of them are urbanite and the remaining 78% live in rural areas. [39] An additional 3 million or so Afghans are temporarily housed in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, most of whom were born and raised in those two countries. This makes the total Afghan population at around 33,332,025, and its current growth rate is 2.34%. [40]

The Afghan government announced it will begin issuing e-ID cards (e-Tazkiras) in which the ethnicity of each citizen is to be provided in the application. This process is expected to reveal the exact figures about the size and composition of the country's ethnic groups. [41]

An approximate distribution of the ethnic groups is shown in the chart below:

Ethnic groups in Afghanistan
Ethnic group World Factbook / Library of Congress Country Studies (recent estimate) [42] [43] World Factbook / Library of Congress Country Studies (pre-2004 estimates) [6] [44] [45]
Pashtun 42%38-50%
Tajik 27%25.3%
Hazara 9%12-19%
Uzbek 9%6-8%
Aimak 4%500,000 to 800,000 individuals
Turkmen 3%2.5%
Baloch 2%100,000 individuals
Others (Pashai, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri, Gujjar, Qizilbash and etc.)4%6.9%

The recent estimate in the above chart is supported by the below recent national opinion polls, which were aimed at knowing how a group of about 804 to 13,943 local residents in Afghanistan felt about the current war, political situation, as well as the economic and social issues affecting their daily lives. Ten surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2018 by the Asia Foundation (a sample is shown in the table below; the survey in 2015 did not contain information on the ethnicity of the participants) and one between 2004 and 2009 by a combined effort of the broadcasting companies NBC News, BBC, and ARD. [46] [3]

Answers regarding ethnicity provided by 804 to 13,943 Afghans in national opinion polls
Ethnic group"Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (2004) [3]
"A survey of the Afghan people" (2004) [10]
"Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (2005) [3] "Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (2006) [3] "Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (2007) [3] "A survey of the Afghan people" (2007) [10] "Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (2009) [3] "A survey of the Afghan people" (2012) [10] "A survey of the Afghan people" (2014) [10] "A survey of the Afghan people" (2018) [10] "A survey of the Afghan people" (2019) [10]
Pashtun46%40%42%38%40.1%40%40%40%37%39%
Tajik39%37%37%38%35.1%37%33%36%37%37%
Hazara6%13%12%6%10.0%11%11%10%10%11%
Uzbek6%6%5%6%8.1%7%9%8%9%8%
Aimak0%0%0%0%0.8%0%1%1%1%<0.5%
Turkmen1%1%3%2%3.1%2%2%2%2%2%
Baloch0%0%0%3%0.7%1%1%1%1%<0.5%
Others (Pashayi, Nuristani, Arab, Qizilbash.)3%3%1%5%2.1%3%3%2%2%3%
Don't know-%-%-%-%-%-%-%-%1%-%

See also

Related Research Articles

Afghan refers to someone or something from Afghanistan, in particular a citizen of that country. The pre-nation state, historical ethnonym Afghan was used to refer to a member of the Pashtuns.

The Aimaq or Chahar Aimaq, also transliterated as Aimagh, Aimak and Aymaq, are a collection of Sunni and mostly Persian-speaking nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes. They live mostly in the central and western highlands of Afghanistan, especially in Ghor, Badghis. Aimaqs were originally known as chahar ("four") Aymaqs: the Taymani, the Firozkohi, the Jamshidi and the Timuri. Other sources state that the Aimaq Hazara are one of the Chahar, with the Timuri instead being of the "lesser Aimaqs" or Aimaq-e digar.

Hazaras Persian-speaking people native to central Afghanistan

The Hazaras are a Persian-speaking ethnic group native to, and primarily residing in, the mountainous region of Hazarajat, in central Afghanistan. They speak the Hazaragi dialect of Persian which is mutually intelligible with Dari, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan.

Tajiks Ethnic group native to Central Asia

Tajiks are a Persian-speaking Iranic ethnic group native to Central Asia, living primarily in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Tajiks are the largest ethnicity in Tajikistan, and the second-largest in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. They speak varieties of Persian, a Western Iranian language. In Tajikistan, since the 1939 Soviet census, its small Pamiri and Yaghnobi ethnic groups are included as Tajiks. In China, the term is used to refer to its Pamiri ethnic groups, the Tajiks of Xinjiang, who speak the Eastern Iranian Pamiri languages. In Afghanistan, the Pamiris are counted as a separate ethnic group.

Demographics of Afghanistan Aspect of human geography in Afghanistan

The population of Afghanistan is around 39 million as of 2021. The nation is composed of a multi-ethnic and multilingual society, reflecting its location astride historic trade and invasion routes between Central Asia, Southern Asia, and Western Asia. Ethnic groups in the country include Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbeks, Nuristanis, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch and a number of others which are less known.

Kunduz Province Province of Afghanistan

Kunduz or Qunduz is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the northern part of the country next to Tajikistan. The population of the province is around 1,136,677, which is mostly a tribal society; it is one of Afghanistan's most ethnically diverse provinces with many different ethnicities in large numbers living there. The city of Kunduz serves as the capital of the province. It borders the provinces of Takhar, Baghlan, Samangan and Balkh, as well as the Khatlon Region of Tajikistan. The Kunduz Airport is located next to the provincial capital.

Northern Alliance 1996–2001 anti-Taliban military front in Afghanistan

The Northern Alliance, officially known as the United Islamic National Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, was a military alliance of groups that operated between late 1996 to 2001 after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) took over Kabul. The United Front was originally assembled by key leaders of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, particularly president Burhanuddin Rabbani and former Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud. Initially it included mostly Tajiks but by 2000, leaders of other ethnic groups had joined the Northern Alliance. This included Karim Khalili, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Abdullah Abdullah, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Qadir, Asif Mohseni, Amrullah Saleh and others.

Charikar City in Parwan Province, Afghanistan

Charikar is the main town of the Koh Daman Valley and the capital of Parwan Province in northern Afghanistan. It has a population of around 171,200, which is majority Tajik populated.

Haji Abdul Qadeer

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Qala e Naw District District in Badghis, Afghanistan

Qala-e-Naw, also Qalay-e-Naw or Qalanou, is a district in the west of Badghis Province, Afghanistan. Its population was estimated at 82,525 in 1990; the ethnic makeup is approximately 80% Tajik, Hazara and Aimaq Hazara, with small numbers of Pashtun, Baloch, Uzbek and Turkmen.

Afghanistan is a multilingual country in which two languages – Pashto and Dari – are both official and most widely spoken.

Shindand District District in Herat Province, Afghanistan

Shīnḍanḍ District is one of the 16 districts of Herat Province, in western Afghanistan, and is situated in the southern part of that province. It borders Adraskan District to the north, Ghor Province to the east and Farah Province to the south and west. The population was 173,800. The district center is the town of Shindand, which has a very active market area. Shindand Air Base is located near the town. The main Herat-Kandahar road passes through the district. The Zerkoh Valley is in the district.

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The major ethnic groups of Pakistan include Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Saraikis, Muhajirs, Baloch, Paharis, Hindkowans, and other smaller groups. Smaller ethnic groups found throughout the nation include Kashmiris, Kalash, Chitralis, Siddi, Burkusho, Wakhis, Khowar, Hazara, Shina, and Baltis.

The persecution of Hazara people refers to discrimination against the Hazaras, who are mostly from Afghanistan, primarily from the central regions of Afghanistan, known as Hazarajat. Significant communities of Hazara people also live in Quetta, Pakistan, and in the city of Mashad, Iran, as part of the Hazara and Afghan diasporas.

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Anti-Pashtun sentiment refers to fear, dislike, or hostility towards Pashtun people or anything related to Pashtun culture.

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  46. See: