Country Listing

Afghanistan Table of Contents



The Tajik form the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Estimates in 1995 averaged around 4.3 million. Afghan Tajik live mainly in the Panjsher Valley north of Kabul and in the northern and northeastern provinces of Parwan, Takhar, Badakhshan, and also Baghlan and Samangan. Tajik also extend into the central mountains. There is a tendency of some non-Tajik groups to classify any Dari speaker as a member of this group. Some also tend to categorize any urban resident who has become detribalized as Tajik. This is particularly true in Kabul. Tajik are also found north of Afghanistan's border in their own state of Tajikistan.

Tajik are physically from the Mediterranean substock. They speak various Tajiki dialects of Dari, an Iranian language in the Indo-European language family. Most are Hanafi Sunni, although a sizeable number living in areas from Bamiyan to eastern Badakhshan are Ismaili Shia. Tajik are not organized by tribe and refer to themselves most often by the name of the valley or region they inhabit, such as Panjsheri, Andarabi, Samangani, and Badakhshi. Those living among non-Tajik, such as those living among the Pushtun who refer to them as dehqan, often describe themselves simply as Tajik.

Tajik are predominantly fully sedentary mountaineer farmers and herders, who often make short-range seasonal migrations to alpine grazing meadows during which whole families move up to the mountains to harvest grain and melons. The Tajik areas are famous for a wide variety of fruits and nuts which are acknowledged to be among the finest in the country.

Many Tajik migrated to the cities, especially to Kabul, which was primarily a Tajik town until Timur, the son of Ahmad Shah Durrani, moved his court to Kabul in 1776 and declared it to be the Pushtun capital. In Kabul the Tajik are still dominant and well-represented in the uppermiddle class. Many are active in business and in government service; others find employment as cooks, houseboys or gardeners in the homes of foreigners. On the off-agricultural season Tajik may join the workforce at industrial complexes near their villages. Whether seasonally or permanently based in cities, Tajik tend to maintain close links with their rural kin.

Except for the short rule of the Tajik known as Bacha Saqqao in 1928, the Tajik have not dominated politically. Since 1978, however, several Tajik military leaders have gained substantial recognition, the most renowned being Ahmad Shah Masood from the Panjsher Valley. Burhanuddin Rabbani who served as President of The Islamic State of Afghanistan from 1992-1996 is a Tajik from Badakhshan.

Data as of 1997