The Taliban Takeover: Who Are the Afghans?

For the past few days, the world’s attention has been gripped with the news of Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan.

The fall of Kabul took place on Sunday, August 15, two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly two-decade war.

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As the attention of the global community shifted now to what happens next, we find it worthwhile to provide you with some information about the place and the people:

Who are the Afghans? What’s the history of the place, its ethnicities, circle of conflicts and so on?

Land & Borders

Afghanistan, officially known as Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is bordered by Iran on the west, Pakistan on the east and south, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan on the north; a narrow strip, the Vakhan (Wakhan), extends in the northeast along Pakistan to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.

Kabul is the capital and largest city, with an estimated population of 4.6 million people, mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.

The great mass of the country is steep-sloped with mountains. There are, however, within the mountain ranges and on their edges, many fertile valleys and plains. 

The Taliban Takeover:  Who Are the Afghans? - About Islam

Ethnic Population

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.

Arab Muslims brought Islam to Herat and Zaranj in 642 CE and began spreading eastward. Before Islam was introduced, people of the region were mostly Buddhists and Zoroastrians, but there were also Surya and Nana worshipers, Jews, and others.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the Afghan population is about 99.7% Muslim, and most are thought to be adhering to the Sunni Hanafi school. According to Pew Research Center, as much as 90% are of the Sunni denomination, 7% Shia and 3% non-denominational.

Dari and Pashto are the official languages of Afghanistan; bilingualism is very common. According to CIA Factbook, Dari Persian is spoken by 78% and functions as the lingua franca, while Pashto is spoken by 50%, Uzbek 10%, English 5%, Turkmen 2%, Urdu 2%, Pashayi 1%, Nuristani 1%, Arabic 1%, and Balochi 1% (2021 est).

The Taliban Takeover:  Who Are the Afghans? - About Islam

Women in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s population is roughly 34 million. Of these, 15 million are male and 14.2 million are female. About 22% of the Afghan people are urbanite and the remaining 78% live in rural areas.

As part of local tradition, most women are married soon after completing high school. Many live as housewives for the larger part of their lives

Gender roles are rigidly defined in Afghan culture. The men are viewed as the main income earners, while women are seen as the homemakers. Husbands are expected to provide economically for their wives and children throughout their lives. Therefore, it is generally believed that a woman does not need to be financially independent, as her husband or father’s earning power will support her.

Under Taliban, though women were banned from most jobs, including teaching, some women in the medical field were allowed to continue working.

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