AFGHANISTAN: ETHNIC DIVERSITY AND DISSIDENCE

Created: 5/1/1979

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Afghanimn-

Ethnic Ihrervty and Dmideocelu)

The erratic*ense of national uoity among the diverse people* of Afghaniium hu longhallenging problem to lis rulers. Afghanistanibal society, composed of somethnic groups of widely varying backgrounds and cultures. About tbe only cohesive elements among these groups are tbeir observance of Islamic law. martial tradition,istrust of govern ment.

Pashtons make up about one-half of Afghanistan's popuUtion. They are not only ihe largest ethnic group but also have traditionally wielded the greatest

politfcal power. Thb historic Pashtun preeminence fa inivisive issue between them and most of tbe other major Afghan ethnic groups. Other deep-Mated animosities exist among Ihe Iribal groups, including the iotratribal split between Suani and Shia Islamic sects. These factors have worked tog ether to thwart creation ofa unified front or strategy against central authority.

The present tribal insurgency began8 with the irtstalbuoo of tbe pro-Soviet Taraki regime.evoutly Muslim and fiercelytribal population believed that the new government was Communisi. atheist, and pro-Soviet. Reform measures brashly introduced by the governraent bolstered ihfa belief and were viewed as attemptsisplace the traditional social structure based on Islam and allegiance to family, clan, and irilhe recent visible presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan has fulfilled the worst fears of the population and has added additional fuel to the fires of insurgency.

Afghanistan:

Finnic Dm-nily ind Dissidcncr (u)

1

Soviet eatarion of Afghanistan in late9 climaxed nearly two year, of gradually increased Sorict support and presence in ihe cooauyaraat.regime fofiowmj tbe1 rcrolBUoa and the introduction of on popular social policiesnoaMaied iaiar-geacy that baa cooliaoed aadetter anccniaodiag of the anoeriying canes of this rnsnr-gency is provided through an eaaminadoo of the ethnic background and culture of the Afghan peoples aadcesKial

sjoveromenl eontrol generally.

Setdwg

Afghanistan, slightly larger than the state of Tcus, is the meeting placa of diverse physical and cultural worlds. Physically, Afghanistan is an ralenaiM of Ok high land mass known as the Iranian PUiean; nearly (wo-thirds of tbe country consists or roountabss.

la central and eastern Afghanistan thedoodnaied by the Hindua fcraidabte physical barrier andavorable rotten for tribal separatism. To tbe north, weal, and southwest, however. Afghanistan merges with the high plaiasand efetcau of casual and sooth Asia. Across this region of transit hasuccession ofAryans, Medea, Persians. Greeks, Turks, andon tilde *a! conquest; cten bare disbud the jmh= and erected the pfateana bearing the tneatageof Budoaisrn,Hinduism, and Islam. Il ss from this mislure of peopka aadt the modern state of Afghanistan has been em. :ging since tbelSib centary.

Each of the approsinuulythnic groups in Afghanistan has certain distinctive physical character'. differingstitiuiceM, aad varyiag acu1 The crigms and khubips among the many groupsailer of sthobrry coouoversy becaese of the leek of iadJaenous written records, fragmentary biaurlc sourcea, and soaary archaeological, anihropo-nKtrlc, and serological evidence.

By sue, Ibc major groups include tbe Pasbtun. Tajik, t'rbefc. and Haaara; other anportanl groups include the Caabar Aimafc. Tnriuuen. Naristini. Baluchi, and BraW Of the total oumiia!ofboutercent are Patbtno and nearlyercent are Tajik,nd llaaara. Total peculationhowever, a'e confused by the tuekii. or Afghanho numberillion and are membcra ot several ethnic groupa. Many of the tribal people have ethnic ties wilh peopka iaJubrting adjacent areas of the USSR, Iran, and

Despite coaoaderable divenity. there are ccanmontiea of language aad reiigiou that provide some element of oobcsrraxae among the groups. The cceurnoo language is Dari, Ihe Afghan form of Persianhich It used by all groups but is not ihe lint language of any group. Nearly afl of the ethnic groups are Mulimand about SO percent are of tne Sun ni sect, while the remainder are adherents of the Sbia sect. Although ihe two sects are oonlealious. Ittr dmiww hasfaulted in ihe bloody cocfroeuuaosther

I Urates

Tribes aad rribafism rerrssin important in Afghanistan, particularly antong the Paahtnn. whose Durrani tribal fimOies have ruled the country rinoe its ansfication by one of thesa inth ocntary. The Pushtu sie itrong insome of their iribes, tort is (he Durrani, OKJxai. and Yaznfaiai. individually haveegree of tribal loyalty.

.and

irhV! (coda and rivalries at limes have been dfrisivenumerous tubtribes or elans aad winery scattered, uoaJlj ban ralliedommon cause -ben thearose.

Thereuthat]asnaalat ate aaataimm at-

, itirflr a. aaasSst

Most of ihe major ethn* groans believe thatun by ihefor Ibehat prevails, in theirorm of internal colouialboi. Paibtuil* typically govern most provinces, even those where another ethnicn the majority, and hold most administrative pcau. The Pwhiuns' superioreflectedlie rrowtbmodcnunuoo of Kabul, wbid. provincial Uzbek* aad- as burgeoningeipenae. Although iraprcwemenl* in hcallh facOiies. roada.nd agriculture have been trade in other provinces, pan government effort* have been concenlraied in Paihlun-adminbtered or Pasbtun-seiMed provinces.

AQUtovtmrcoi.anu-PaihtonanieM-larly strong anx-si the Urt^ describedcoobti-cateO and capable people who provide most of the country'! professional men andibek often has Utile confidence, or feel* he ha* no real atake, io the economy and prefen tob wealth in the equivalentock under the mattress. Oo the other toad, the Uibek*epuUUoathe Paihrams for indolence aad proctssasJtion. though there has beei bilk if any active dueriminatioo or hostility between them.

The Harare* generally have preferredeep their central mountain homeland where they arc literally Almostll forma of government rathority--fromtaacc41eewcb>peto. In recent tears,ew thouiand have kft their mouo-tain* a* Army recruiu or to settle in cities where most of Ibem are employed ai manual laborers and servants. Traditional hostility toward them because of thetr adbereoce to the Sfcia sect of Islam, combined withMongoloid features aad their indifferenee to Kabul, has ccettriboted to their iofcricr aocial aad

Of the four major ethnic groups, the Tajik* are the leart likely to oppose act* of Pashtun colonialism. They are describedeacefultradiiionaIIy poets, dreamers, endarcla their pride of being: Tank. Tbe Tajik* havearmony wit* the Pa*htena.umber of them have held high aewernmeni posts. Nertbernor social intercourse between the twoommcci. however.

The kvekii iactnde members from nearly every etbn* group in the country and possibly represent ooe-founh of the total population. Tbe kueM regsrd* his way of life as Ihc most dignified and distrusts variation and change. For many years Ibe kvekii have taken their caravans to Pakbtaa and India lo trade wool and animal product* for goods they could in turn tradeirming coenasaaitiei in Afghanistan; the poorer nomad* go to Pakistan during ihe winter months to sell tbeir labor. The periodic closing of ibe Afghan -Pakistani border have caused all of tbem hardship. Government attempts to settle Ihe kuehh permnneniiy have met wiih Utile success because they are highly tuspicictii of any aitempt to restrict theii movements or record theirnd feel little if any loyalty to the abstract concept ofthe state or tbe Kabul-centered government.

he Regis***

Opposite aad resistance to the pro-Sovet Takan and Actio fegbneswere iocreating among thepeopleaof Afghanistan prior to tbe Soviet brvasioa. The bearyhanded swporesuon of the mullahs aad other government actions thai impinge on the Islamic way of life Mined hostility in the villages and rural area* whereercent ofthe population lives. Resentment also grew among the lea* conserva live urbanites- even unoni tome of those loyal to tbebecause ihey felt the rem"me* ebalknged basic Isbaue astrtutioBS thai they at least respect.

The pro-Soriet rtance of the regime* coupled with the presence of Soviet adviser* aroused historical feelings of miilrust of Russians. To an Afghan, the policies followed were unumeant to treasonhreat to bis fiercely held usdependrnceeelings have intea-stfkd witb the voabfc presence ofombeo of Soviet troops in the country and the installationuppet regime beaded by Babrak Karmnl.

grams of the Taraki-Amin regimes for social and land reform were another canse of oppositioo. Most of the reaauancc was in response to the go*ern-Baent's use of toce tn iu attempt to bring aboutne year that other Afghan government* failed toears. Thestubbornn'aiof the people was brasbly combated by cadres who vere a* fanatical in iheir

cffororing change a* the peopleheir resistance to that change. But. more importantly, the programs -ere regarded is allcmpts to dijpUee tribal struCure sod familyand wereas vioUtioo* of Islamic precepU of authority and purdah'

In implementing land reform, government official* found recipients reluctant to accept land because of loyalty to tribal leaders or fear of reprisal* if the regime -as overthrown. Little or no competition was paid for land confiscated by the government, contrary to Islamic law. aad most of the best land apparently

not redistributed. Moreover, the Taraki govern-ment did not offer alternatives when it did away witb. tbe traditional system of credit, -hereby farmer* borrowed from money lender* or landowners against future crops. Fanners -ho were given poor land Hut lacked adequate -iter or irrigation and who -ere without teed or cash limply abandoned iheir new holdings. The program also created hosulity between the landowners and the nomads who lost grazing lights recognized by the former landowners -ilh whom they bad ethnic and sometimes family lies- Pressure from their muIUbs and fellow tribesmen, together with the inability to profit from newly acquired land lo the short lime since the program era* initiated, dissuaded new landowners from cooperating with the government.

Became only aboutf the peoplerate, an illiteracy eradication program was initiated for everyone bet-eeo the ages ofeact-on to this program was panicalarty hostile, crotiafy because it forced women out of purdah into public life. Even these tribesmen not ccoeeed to their womenfolkead and write -ere incensed ai the idea of having them taught by male teachers. Theof education is general, the arrest andof mullahs, and tbe introductionolitically orientated curriculum further aroused ihe people.

Resistance to these programs not only resulted In the destruction of government offices and other official buildings but also in the assassination of government

itrtn In

llnuiM.ilwrt* i* bids. WiW>ftooudi ai unius. .ftfind umi of it* loial-.tnu or

t*as

arty cadres, teachers, and police seat into the provinces lo implement the programs. Manyate a*nd include women andalso kiBed. Violent cfcrnv nation of tbe uninvited has always been the espedient way of solving local problems in Afghanistan.

Theeihnic group of Taraki. Amin, andthe greatest threat to any Soiet-controiled government in Afghanistan. Theirdesire for revenge has grown over the past year with the purges instituted by the Taraki geweranscat: hardly an estended family has not had at least one member imprisoned or eliminated. As the principal Ur^owner* in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns abo have opposed Und reform programs. They are responsible for most ofthe Insurgency sincehough old internal rivalries have prevented much cooperation among the various tribes. Prior to the Sonet Invasion, the spread of Pashtan guerrilla forces and increased desertions from tbe Afghan Army baderious drain on tbe regime's resources.

The Soviet inwsior, and installation of Babrak Karmal as President of Afghanistan is unlikely to alter the

ue. and it* basse causes remain. Although theegime has sought lo broaden it* base of support and haslowing of radical socialast gulf leparalo* tbe objectivesoviet puppe: regime and the tribal tradition* and Islamicupon wbfchocietyaaed.

The People

Major Elhale Greupu The Pashtuns have been the dominant people in Afghanistan since its beginningstion in the lllb century. They are eoocesuraied in the east and south, but Inany were forcibly resettled north of tbe Hindu Ktssh. Loyalty to the clao or tribe varies from group to poop but is usually strong, and all have estf erne pride la ibeu Pashtun identity. Tbe majority of tbean are farmers, usually freeholders,umber are landlords en-pJcylng non-Pashtunsenants or laborers Exceptew tribe* which are Shiite, the Pashttto* are adhereni* of the Sunni sect of Islam. They are

predominantly light-skinned bruneties, longheaded wiih prominent facial features, and of slender build. Brown eyes predominaie bul hazel or blue eye* are not unusual among them. They speak Pashio, an Iranian variant of Indc-Enropeaa and related to Persian, Baluchi, and Kurdbh-

The Tajiks are ihe second Largesl ethnic group and are scattered throughout the country, with majorin Ihe carl and west. They are not considered tobiinct group, bul consist of several peoples who share no moreanguageersiannd sedentary livinghose in the west are sometimes called Fairswan and probably are distantly related to the people of eastern Iran. Those north of Ibe Hindu Kusb arc believed to be descended from ancient Iranians who have trtixed with Turkic peoples. The mountainho have Mongolian admixture, appear to have been among the earliest or. according lo Soviel elbnologbts. ihe indigenous inhabitant* of the far oonbeast.

Tajiks are noi uibaL but tbey dotrong sense of community loyalty. Most arc tenant farmers and laborers; some engage in trade orhey arc not belligerent except forfew group* of mounuin Tajiks who some consider as aggressive a* ibe Pashtun. Similar to ihe Pnshlun. the Tajiks are adherents of both the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, but tbe majority are Sunni. Scanty anthropometric studies describe the Tajiki as roundheaded with oval faces and usually of slender build. They are light-skinnedoccasionally there are individuab with reddish or yellowish colored hair. Even among ibe mountain Tajiks, lightness of skin and hair color can be found blended with Mongoloid traita.

The Uzbek live north of ihe Hindu Kush on the plain of the Amu Darya. Uzbekame applied to Turkic tribesmen who came to Afghanistan in the rasd-ISlh ceniury. The Uzbekis of Turko-Mongol people* who intermingled with descendants of an ancient Iranian plateau people. Modem Uzbek have either Mongoloid or Caucasoid features,lend of the iwo. They tend to be roundheaded, hare yellow, white skin color and broad cheekbones, andihe epicanthic fold. The Uzbek hare relinquished their tribal affiliations and nomadism and are mainly

fanners; however, many are successful sncrchaise and artisans. Unlike the Pashtun and Tajik, th= Uzbek irr tdherenls ofthe Sunni sect of Islam and have no Samey. Their language, Uzbekj. is believed toerivationlassical Turkic language.

The Hazara homeland,alled Hazarajat. consuls of the upper Helmand valley area west of Kabul. Smaller groups are located farther north bt Bamian and in the far northeast in BadakhshasL The Hazara are believed to be of Turko-Moogol origin Tbey possibly are descendants of Mongol soldiers who intermarriedounuin Tajik population inh and Uth centuries, although it is more likely that their ancestors predate the Mongol conqoa;:

Wbatever their origin, tbe Hazara culturally rcsctnble the mounuin Tajiks butersian dialect caBed HazaragfaL Physically, tbey have coarse black hair, yellow to yellow-brown skin color, are rcwasdheaded wiih broad faces and promineni cheekbones, aadigh incidence of tbe cpicantbic fold.

Unlike Ihe Tajiks, ihey are divided into tribes and. although some are nomadic, the niajority arehe Hazara are the only major Afghan ethnic group that adheres io ihe Shia sect of Ufctm.they are physically strong. enduring, and tssdsn-trious. They make good soldiers and are regularly recruited into ibe Afghan Army.

Other Ethnic Groups. To the north and west of tbe Hazara live the Chahar Aimak ethnic group,ivided Into four main subdivisions orhe mam group includes small cultural groups of mounuin peoples, about whom little is known. Tbe Chahar Aimak are generally believed to be of Twko-Mooge* origin, butheoryoples of Indo-European origin have been included in ihu group. Mongoloid traits, however, are dominant among the Chahar Aimak population. Many of tbe Chahar Aimak are seminomadic and live in yurt* or yurtlike tents; the remainder are fanners. Tbeyialect of Farsi that contains many Turkic loan words, and tbey follow ihe Sunni sect of Islam.

Tbe Turkmen, woo live, mainly in the northwest, arc another Turkic (roup like the Uzbek. Most authorities believe tbe Turkmen descended from tbe Oghuz Turks who came to Afghanistan Inh century, although they may have other strains In their ethnic background. Theyialect of tbe Turkic family or languages and are adherents of the Sunni Islamic sect. TH Turkmen, unlike the Uzbek, are itil! pastoral tribal nomads, and they maintain few contacts with other Afghans. Duringheir numbers increased when Turkmen entered Afghanistan from the north is refugees from Soviet collectivism. Theyistinct economic role as breeders of Karakul sheep whoseand astrakhan or Persiana main Afghan esport. The Turkmen women are the dyers and weavers of the deep red "Bokharen'* rug. another leading export.

The nomadic Baluchi speak an Iranian language and are adherents of the Sunni sect of Islam. They arc found in ihe sparsely populated southern borderlands of Afghanistan and are related to the Baluchi who settled la villages south of Herat during the migration of the Baluchi eastward from Iran in earlier times.

The Brahiti. also located in southern Afghanistan. Include both farmers and nomads whoravidian language They are believed to berom sa sfcorliiaai people driven south by thend possibly toommon ancestor with other dark-skinned.peaking peoples of south Asia.

The Nurittanis live in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan. Their origin aad kinship are ethnic mysteries, for theyange of skirt, eye, and hair coloration thatlond strain. At one time they were considered to be descendants of ancient Greeks, b'ut it Is now thought they may be related to an earlier people from central Asia. They are renowned rnouniaineers. Subdued by an Afghan ruler Inh century, many were converted to Islam (Sunnind tbe name of their country was changed from Kafiristan {land of Infidels) toNuristan (land of light).

The Nuristanis consist of two main groups subdivided intoa number of tribes. They speak dialects of en Indie variant of Irtdc-European that is closely related to

Dardlc. Their traditional religiousnowombination of animism and polytheism, featuring ancestor worship, animal ucriflcea, wooden idols, and grave effigies. The Nuristams carryixed agricultural and pastoral economy, farming the lower slopes but perching their villages high above the valley floor. They prefer the isolation of their mountains and deeplyvert--ment interference.

The KizJIbath, descendantsurkish garrison left in Kabulersian conqueror in the mid-Uth century, are an urban group which adheres to the Shia sect of Islam. Tbcy generally are well educated, and some hold impwrant government positions or are traders. Other strictly urban groups include Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews, who primarily are merchants, traders, and moneylenders In the towns and cities throughout Afghanistan. The Kirghizastoral Mongoloid people whourkic dialect, are members of the Sunni sect of Ilia m, and inhabit the Wakhan Corridor area in the far northeastern extension ofOther minority groups arc the Moahuls, who live in the western and northern parta of the country and claim descent from Ghcngls Khan, and the nomadic "Arabs" orho live on the northern plaint.

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