Ethnic Groups of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a loosily knit conglomeration of number of ethnic groups, chief of whom are Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. These ehtnic groups have obvious dissimilarity, despite collectively residing in the region for hundreds of years. These ethnic groups of Afghanistan have their own way of living, defined by unwritten code.
Ethnic Groups Population Ratio
Pashtun 42-60%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%
Mainstream Ethnic Groups
Pashtuns or Pakhtuns or Pathans or Afghans are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. They constitute about two-fifth of Afghan population. Pashtoons can be further segregated into tribes, most famous among whom are Durrani and Ghilzai. Other major tribes are Wardak, Jaji, Tani, Jadran, Mangal, Khugiani, Safi, Mohmand and Shinwari etc. They can be easily recognised from other Afghan ethnic groups, due to their Pashto language and peculiar way of living, called Pashtunwali.
Homeland of Pashtuns lies south of the Hindu Kush, but Pashtun groups are scattered all over the country. Most Pashtuns work in farmlands to earn their livelihood. Many of them live nomadic lifestyle too. These nomads live in tents made of black goat hair.
Tajiks or Tadzhiks constitute the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Populating around 4.5 million in early 1995, by the early 21st century they constituted about 1/5 of the population. They live in the Panjsher Valley north of Kabul and in the northern and northeastern provinces of Parwan, Takhar, Badakhshan, and also Baghlan and Samangan. Few Tajik people extend into the central mountains. Most Tajiks speak Dari Persian language.
Tajik community is not divided into tribes. In Afghanistan, the Tajiks do not organize themselves by tribes like Pashtuns instead they refer to themselves by the region, province, city, town, or village they are from; such as Badakhshi, Baghlani, Mazari, Panjsheri, Kabuli, Herati, Kohistani etc. For earning livelihood, Tajiks do sedentary mountain farming and sheep/goat herding. Tajiks grow variety of fine fruits and nuts.
Central regions of Afghanistan, known as Hazarat, are inhabited by the Hazaras. Good number of Hazaras also dwell in Badakhshan. Most of them are farmers and shepherds. Most Hazaras are the followers of the Shia sect of Islam. The Hazaras have their ancestors in Xinjiang region of north-western China. For a long time, the Hazaras were a neglected lot. However, they are now trying to get rid of their inferior status. Hazaras living in Afghanistan were estimated in 1995 at about one million and now Their population is estimated to be 1.5 to 3 million.
Uzbeks living in Afghanistan were estimated in the 1990s at approximately 1.3 million but are now believed to be 2 million. They live all across the northern areas of Afghanistan, mixed with Tajik population. The Uzbeks are the followers of Sunni sect of Islam and speak central Turkic dialects like Uzbeki. Most Uzbeks earn livelihood by farming and herding. However, several Uzbeks have become successful businessmen and skilled artisans. Uzbek social structure is patriarchal and leaders having the title beg, arbab or khan enjoy considerable power. The Uzbeks have no hesitation marrying with Uzbek and Tajik, but are averse to nuptial relations with Pushtuns.
Turkmens dwell along the southern side of Amu Darya. Most Turkmens are nomadic poeple who herd yaks. Turkmens speak both archaic form of Turkish and Persian. Many nomadic Turkmens still live in dome-shaped tents based on wooden frames. Men wear coats with long sleeves, while women also wear long dresses to cover their hands in cold weather.
The Nuristanis live in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. The region is so densily forested and rugged that it can be reached only by foot. They speak various dialects of Nuristani and Dardic. Usually, the Nuristanis are farmers, mountain herders and farmers. However, many of them have earned respectable place in the social order by getting into the army.
Baluchs in Afghanistan live in thinly populated deserts and semi-deserts of Helmand Province. Few Baluch enclaves can also be found in Faryab province. Number of Baluchs in Afghanistan is estimated around 100,000 in 90’s. Most people of Baluch ethnicity live in Pakistan and Iran. Most Baluchis can speak and understand Baluchi, Dari and Pashto. Chiefs of Baluch society are called sardars.
Other Ethnic Groups
Aimaqs live among nontribal people in the western regions of Badghis, Ghor and Herat provinces. They are Sunni Muslims and speak dialects resembling Dari. Several Arab enclaves can also be found in north-western Afghanistan. They are pastoralists who rear sheep and grow cotton and wheat. They speak not Arabic but Dari and Uzbeki. The Qizilbash are scattered all over Afghanistan. Traditionally, they have been holding administrative and professional positions. Sunni Brahui is a group living in the desert regions of south-western Afghanistan. Low in social heirarchy, they work as tenant farmers and hired herders for Baluch or Pashtun chieftains. The Wakhis live in small, remote hamlets in lower areas of Wakhan corridor and upper Badakhshan. The Farsiwans live near the Iran border or in some districts of Kandahar, Herat and Ghazni provinces. They are Dari-speaking agriculturalists.
Hindu-Sikh population in Afghanistan in 1990 was approximate 30,000. Under the reigns of Taliban, the Hindus were forced to wear yellow badges to identify themselves. Continuous violence caused rapid decline in Hindu-Sikh population.
Here is a link to a good BBC key map, it furthur illustrates the geographical locations of the ethnicities.
Uzbek ethnicity of Afghanistan.
Ancestors of the Altaic (Turkic)-speaking Uzbeks emerged in Central Asia as early as the 3rd century B.C. when nomads - possibly Hun descendants - began invasions that continued for centuries. Turks swept through in 1 A.D., followed by wide-ranging assaults by Mongol hordes in the 13th century. Uzbek genetic studies indicate Turkic-Mongoloid ancestry - reflected by lighter skin and flat facial features - with lesser Iranian admixture. Centuries before any country borders were drawn they settled in the Uzbekistan/Afghanistan region.
The group designated as Southern or Afghan Uzbek formed from waves of ancient migrations, as well as more recent ones in the 1920s-1940s from Russia when that government’s atheistic policies persecuted their Islamic religion and customs. Speaking Uzbeki, their own Turkish dialect, Uzbeks identify themselves as Hanafi Sunni Muslims, although this is largely a cultural identity now rather than a religious one. As Afghanistan’s fourth largest ethnic group (2.5 million) and nearly one-tenth of her total population, Southern Uzbeks still reside primarily in mountainous northern regions, particularly the Fariab Province. They live simply in small villages, often with Tajik neighbors but are averse to the Pushtan who moved into their homelands in numbers sufficient to render them a minority by the 1960s in territory they once controlled.
Afghan culture has been undeniably impacted by Uzbeks, particularly in music, carpet making and sport. Buzkashi, a violent game played by teams on horseback with a headless goat carcass and now synonymous with Afghanistan as its national sport, was introduced by Uzbeks / Mongols. A creative people, Uzbeks love poetry, music and playing unique instruments, such as the Uzbek 2-stringed fretted lute. Culture is preserved through folk dances and traditional hand crafts like metal working, wood carving, leather craft and wall or textile painting. Many urban Uzbeks are businessmen, others are skilled craftsmen. Women are noted for their exquisite rugs, an area of significant contribution to Afghanistan’s textile heritage.
Western dress is worn by younger or city-dwelling Uzbeks although men may add a skullcap with embroidery indicative of their home region. A yoked dress worn over long pants is traditional women’s attire while that of men is the Chapan - a loose, quilted cotton coat worn over a shirt and trousers, completed with the skullcap.
Many of the uzbek traditions are same whether they live in Afghanistan or uzbakistan. Uzbeks are very nice people overall and provide great hospitality to guests. Uzbeks have their own great music such as Koshuk, Lapar, and yalla etc. and The dances of uzbeks distinguish softness, smoothness and expressiveness of movements, easy sliding step, original movements on a place and on a circle.
Uzbeks are mainly skilled in Handicrafts, Uzbek craftsmen nowadays still practice ancient jewellery making techniques for cutting gemstones, grain filigree, granular work, engraving and enamelling. Embroidery is one of the most popular trends among the uzbek people. The art of carpet weaving is also a very ancient tradition amongst the Uzbek.