Afghanistan it is a unique and diverse country. It is located between the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and the Middle East, but does not belong to any of these three regions clearly. This has led to the intermingling of different ethnicities and cultures, with different interpretations of the islamic faith. Thus, in this country people from Iran and Turkey, in addition to small communities of origin Arabic, Mongolian and Indo-European.
It should be noted that until 1979, when the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, census data does not begin to be collected. This, added to the different conflicts that have taken place in the country throughout history, has made it difficult to compile statistics on the population and to know precisely the Afghan demographic composition. For this reason, the data currently used when preparing the ethnic map of Afghanistan is based on estimates and in the data collected in the 1970s.
Currently the most numerous group is that of the pastunes, known as pathans in Pakistan, where they are at least 12 million. They form around the 38% of the Afghan population and therefore many refer to them as simply ‘Afghans’. They are distributed in the east and south of the country mainly and were the origin of the Afghan state in the 18th century.
The tayikos They represent 25% of the population of Afghanistan and are of Persian origin (in fact they speak a Persian dialect). They are grouped around the city of Herat, in the west of the country, and in the mountains of the northeast, next to Tajikistan, where they have their own national state outside the Afghan borders.
Something similar happens with uzbekos, who have their national state in Uzbekistan, or the Turkmen, in Turkmenistan.
The baluchis and the baouis They are two ethnic groups that have mixed throughout history. The main focus of these villages is in southern Kandahar, along the border with Pakistani Baluchistan. On the other hand, nuristanisCalled ‘kafir’ (infidels) until their conversion to Islam in the 19th century, they live in the mountains of northeast Kabul.
Another of the majority ethnic groups in Afghanistan are the hazaras, since they represent around 15% of the country’s population. They reside in the central region, which they refer to as Hazarajat, and northeast Pakistan. They are the main enemies of the Pashtuns, since they profess the Islamic faith of the branch shiite, judged as heresy by the Sunnis. Their various attempts to gain autonomy, in cooperation with the northern resistance, have been violently repressed by the taliban.
Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam
The islam It is the second religion with the most faithful in the world, only surpassed by Christianity. In 2010, according to data collected by the Pew Research Center in the ‘Global Religious Futures’ project, there were some 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. In other words, 23% of all people on the globe professed the Islamic faith. In 2020, this percentage is estimated to have risen to 24.9%. One in four people is Muslim today.
However, the islan is not unique, but has been divided into two main factions since the death of the professed Muhammad: Sunnis and Shiites.
When the prophet died in 632, disagreements arose among his followers about who should be his successor. The faithful were divided into three streams:
– Shiites: The Shiites asked that Mahora’s successor be his son-in-law and cousin, Ali, who, according to them, had been designated as his successor by the prophet himself.
– Sunnis: The Sunnis wanted Mahora’s successor to his father-in-law, Abu-Bakr, a merchant from Mecca and a member of the Quaraish tribe.
– Jariyíes: The Kharijites, a minority branch today, thought that any Muslim could be a caliph and, although they initially supported Ali, they eventually split up and began to fight for their beliefs.
Eventually Muhammad’s successor was Abu-Bakr, his father-in-law, who became the first Caliph and expanded the empire of Islam. In addition, he made the first compilation of the quran, which until then was recited orally. Abu-Bakr was followed by Umar and Otman and finally Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and the true successor to the Shiites.
After Ali’s death at the Battle of Siffin, the shiites were persecuted and the Sunnis became more and more powerful.
For the Shiite branch, the imams are descendants and sons of Ali and supreme leaders of their community. Most Shiite Muslims still wait the arrival of the last imam, Ishmael. According to their beliefs, Ismael disappeared in the 19th century, but that he will return when the end of the world begins, when he will return to rescue his faithful from hell.
On Afghanistan, there is a Sunni majority. In fact, taliban, the religious fundamentalists who took power on August 15 after the Afghan president fled, come from the pastunes, Sunnis.
Some tayikos They are also Shiites but the majority Shiites are hazara, one of the most repressed peoples in Afghanistan.