افغانستان Afghanistan populations

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
updated

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Ethnic GroupLanguageReligionOverview

Pashtun

Pashto

Hanafi Sunni
Turi are Shi'a

Basic physical type: Mediterranean substock of Caucasoid stock.

Tajik

Dari, Tajik

Mostly Hanafi Sunni
Isma'iliya Shi'a, especially in north

Concentrated in northeast where they usually refer to themselves by the valley or region in which they live. Those living in areas dominated by other ethnic groups refer to themselves as Tajik. Term Tajik from old Persian "Taz" or "Taj" meaning "Arab." Basic physical type: mediterranean substock; Mongoloid attributes increase from south to north.

Farsiwan

Dari

Imami Shi'a

Mainly agriculturalists living near the Iranian border, Herat, Qandahar, Ghazni and southern and western Afghan towns. Often mistakenly referred to as Tajik in literature. Basic physical type: Mediterranean substock.

Qizilbash

Dari

Imami Shi'a

Primarily an urban group scattered throughout Afghanistan. Descendents of military and administrative personnel left behind by Nadir Shah Afshar in the 18th century AD. Today many hold important bureaucratic and professional appointments. Among the more literate groups in Afghanistan. Some use the Shi'a prctice of taqiya and pass for Sunni to escape discrimination. Basic physical type: Mediterranean substock.

Hazara

Hazaragi Dari

Some Imami Shi'a
Some Isma'ilya Shi'a
Few are Sunni

Probably arrived in Afghanistan between AD 1229-1447 (Bacon, 1951) and are not descendants of army of Genghis Khan, as popularly believed. Basic physical type: Mongoloid, some Mediterranean admixture in ethnic gray zones.

Aimaq

Dari + Turkic vocab

Hanafi Sunni

Usually incorrectly referred to as Chahar Aimaq (Chahar, Dari "four"; Aimaq, Turkish "tribe"). People themselves never use "chahar" unless prompted by an interrogator. They refer to themselves with tribal designations. Some slough over into Iran and are called Barbari. Basic physical type: Mongoloid (less so than Hazara) with much Mediterranean admixture.

Moghol

Dair with Mongolian loan words. Elders consider Mogholi to be mother tongue. Some southern Moghol speak Pashto.

Hanafi Sunni

Originally concentrated in Ghor, several thousand Moghol now live scattered throughout central and southern Afghanistan, probably breaking up about the mid 19thth century or even earlier. The Moghol may be the descendants of the armies of Genghis Khan. Basic physical type: Mongoloid with occasional Mediterranean admixture; ie, blue or mixed eye combinations with blond or reddish hair.

Uzbek

Uzbeki (or Jagatai)
Turkic dialects

Hanafi Sunni

Mainly sedentary agriculturalists in north Afghanistan. Refer to themselves with old tribal names: Haraki, Kamaki, Mangit, Ming, Shesh Qara, Taium. Basic physical type: Mongoloid with much Mediterranean admixture in ethnic grey zones.

Turkoman

Turkic Dialects

Hanafi Sunni

Primarily semisedentary and seminomadic in north Afghanistan. Brought in qarakul sheep (Persian lamb) and Turkoman rug industry to Afghanstan in the 1920s during the Basmachi revolts against the Bolsheviks. Major groups are: Tekke, Yomud, Tariq, Lakai (Herat area); Tekke, Ersari (Aq Chah area), Saroq, Chakra (Andkhui); Salor (Maimana); Ersari, Mawri (Daulatbad); Salor (Maruchak). Basic physicl type: aquiline Mongoloid.

Kirghiz

Kipchak Turkic (U/A) dialects

Hanafi Sunni

Several thousand transhumants live in the Afghan Pamir Mountains. Basic physical type: Mongoloid.

Pamiri
(Ghalcha,
Mountain Tajik)

Various Pamiri or East Iranian (I/E) dialects

Some Isma'iliya Shi'a; some Hanafi Sunni

Several thousand mountain farmers, mainly in Badakhshan, Wakhan. Major groups: Parachi, Munji, Roshani, Sanglichi, Shughni, Yaghnobi, Ormuri, Wakhi, Iskashimi. Basic physical type: Mediterranean substock, with Mongoloid admixture.

Baluch

Baluchi (I/E)

Hanafi Sunni

Caraveeners, nomads (and slavers until the British ended slavery in the 19th century), the Baluch are now semisedentary or seminomadic. Some Baluch live in NW Afghanistan, others travel from Sistan to Herat in summer, returning to Sistan in winter. Most Baluch are Rakhshani, and main subgroups include: Sanjarani, Nahrui, Yamarzai, Sumarzai, Gumshazai, Sarabandi, Miangul, Harut, Salarzai. A specialist Baluch group of hunter-fishermen (called the Sayyad) live in the Sistan swamps. They are not a separate ethnic group as previously reported. Some Sayyad are Farsiwan. Another Baluch group, the Gaudar, specializes in cattle raising. Basic physical type: Mediterranean substock with more brachycephalic tendencies.

Brahui

Brahui (D); most also speak either Pashto or Baluchi

Hanafi Sunni

Located in southwestern Afghanistan, usually tenant farmers or hired herders for Baluch or Pushtun khans. Main Brahui groups include: Aidozi, Lowarzi, Yagizi, Zirkandi, Mamasani. Brahui often refer to themselves as a Baluch subgroup. Basic physical types: Veddoid, with much Mediterranean admixture.

Nuristani

Kafiri (I/E) dialects

Hanafi Sunni

Located in eastern Afghanistan, Amir Abdur Rahman Khan forcibly converted the Afghan Kafirs to Islam in the late 19th century AD. Refer to themselves by the valleys or region in which they live: eg, Waigali, Wamai, Krueni. Basic physical type: Mediterranean, with about one-third blondism in the population.

Kohistani

Dardic (I/E)

Hanafi Sunni

Distinct linguistic groups on the southern fringes of Nuristan: Pashai, Gawarbati, Sawoji, Deghani, Kuwar (Gabr). Most also speak Pashto. Basic physical type: Mediterranean.

Gujar

Dialect related to Hindustani

Hanafi Sunni

Cattlemen-farmers on eastern fringes of Nuristan. Most also speak Pashto. Basic physical type: Mediterranean.

Jat Guji (called Gujar in North) Changar Musali, Chalu, Sheikh Mohmandi (traders only; claim Arab descent)

Dialects related to Hindustani (I/E)

Hanafi Sunni

"Gypsy-like" bands of tradesmen, tinkers, musicians, fortune tellers. Most speak Dari and/or Pashto. many claim to be of "Arab" descent. Basic physical type: Mediterranean.

Arab

Primarily Dari (I/E) or Pashto (I/E)

Hanafi Sunni

Many have reported Arabic-speakers in Afghanistan. I have yet to meet a group with Arabic as mother tongue. Many groups, however, call themselves "Sayyid," claim Arab descent, and speak some Arabic (S) or an arabized Persian. Basic physical type: depends on area, either Mediterranean, Mongoloid or admixture.

Hindu

Mother tongue either Hindustani (I/E), Punjabi (I/E) or Lahnda (I/E)

Hinduism

Mainly in urban centers as merchants, traders and moneylenders. Basic physical type: North Indian.

Sikh

Same as Hinud; mainly Punjabi or Lahnda.

Sikhism

About 10,000 scattered throughout cities and towns of Afghanistan as merchants, traders and moneylenders. Both Hindus and Sikhs speak Dari and/or Pashto, most are Afghan citizens, and worship without undue interference. Basic physical type: Mediterranean with extreme hirsuteness; Sikhs are world's hairiest people.

Jew (Yahudi)

Few speak Hebrew (S); all speak Dari (I/E) and/or Pashto (I/E)

Judaism

Several thousand living in Kabul, Qandahar, Herat as merchants, traders and moneylenders. Several hundred left for Israel but most subsequently returned. Evidence of early Jewish contacts (ca 5th century AD) with Afghan area recently discovered. Basic physical type: Mediterranean.