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Mon 22 December 2014
29 Safar 1436 AH  


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PEOPLE

  • Ethnic origins and languages

The Afghan people are ethnically and linguistically diverse because of its location in Central Asia.They are related to many of the ethnic groups in Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The borders drawn between these groups are arbitrary.

The Pashtoons, who make up about two-fifths the population, have traditionally been the dominant ethnic group. They are composed of approximately comprise 60 clans of varying size and importance, each of which occupies a particular territory. Their homeland lies south of the Hindu Kush, but Pashtoon groups live in all parts of the country. Many Pashtoons also live in northwestern Pakistan, where they are called Pathans. Male Pashtoons live by ancient tribal code called Pashtoonwali, which stresses courage, personal honor, resolution, self-reliance, and hospitality. The Pashtoons speak Pashto, which is an Indo-Iranian language.

The Tajiks, a people of Iranian origin, are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. They live in the valleys north of Kabul and in Badakhshan. The Tajiks speak Dari (Afghan Persian), also an Indo-Iranian language. Dari is more widely spoken than Pashto in most of the cities. The Tajiks are closely related to the people of Tajikistan.

Ethnic groups also include the Hazara, the Uzbeks, among others. Pashtu, Dari (Afghan Persian), various Turkic languages, and 30 minor languages, are all spoken in Afghanistan. For the most part, Afghans are farmers, artisans, or merchants, although a significant minority follows a nomadic lifestyle.The population of Afghanistan has a life expectancy at birth of 46.5 years (47.5 for males and 46 for females) and an infant mortality rate of 143.7 deaths/1,000 live births. Afghanistan's infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, with 147 deaths for every 1,000 live births. It has an annual population growth rate of 3.5 percent.

Prior to the war important political positions were distributed almost equally among ethnic groups. This kept ethnic tensions and violence to a minimum, though the Pashtoons in Kabul were always the politically dominant group. In the mid-1990s attempts were made to reestablish shared rule. However, many of the ethnic groups sought a greater share of power than they had before the war, and violence was a common result of the disputes.

  • Religion

Almost the entire population is Muslim. Official data suggests that 84 percent of the Afghan population in Afghanistan professes to be Sunni Muslims, 15 percent acknowledge Shi'ia Muslim affiliation, and a remaining 1 percent claim other religious affiliations. Sikhs and Hindus make up most of this remaining 1 percent. As such, the religion of Islam has played a central role in unifying the population. Although the Taliban rule exacerbate sectarian differences in the country, Sunni Islam functioned as the predominant religious sect, since the emergence of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan the mid-1990s shifted the religious climate in a significant manner.
Sources: The U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization, the UNDP.

  • Population and Settlement

The last official census in Afghanistan was in 1979, when the population registered at 15,551,358. A 2001 population estimate was 26,813,057, though the effect of the war, with its casualties and refugees, makes estimating difficult.
In 1999 some 79 percent of the population lived in rural areas. Of the urban dwellers, probably about half lived in Kabul, the capital city. The nomadic population was estimated to be about 2.5 million people. During the war with the Soviets the number of Afghan refugees outside the country escalated dramatically, with as many as 2.5 million to 3 million refugees in Pakistan and another 1.5 million in Iran. About 150,000 Afghans were able to migrate permanently to other countries, including the United States, Australia, and various European countries.

The growth rate is 4.8 percent in urban areas, reflecting migration to urban centers. In the beginning of the civil war, the population of Kabul swelled to 2 million people because of the extensive fighting in the countryside. Now that situation has reversed because much of Kabul has been destroyed by rocket attack and other combat.

  • Education

Two separate systems of education exist in Afghanistan. The older system is a religious one, taught by the mullahs, who conduct schools in the village mosques. They teach the religious precepts of the Qur'an, reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The other system was introduced in Afghanistan's 1964 constitution and provided for free and compulsory education, although this was rarely achieved. Prior to the civil war the respected Kabul University (founded in 1932) was a major seat of learning with free tuition. Nine other colleges were established within it from 1938 through 1967, each with assistance from such countries as France, Germany, the United States, Egypt, and the USSR. Before 1961 only men could receive a higher education, that year all faculties were made coeducational. University of Nangarhar (1962) in Jalalabad was established to teach medicine and other disciplines. Special emphasis was placed on primary education. Secondary schools existed in Kabul and the larger towns. Five years of primary school and five years of secondary school were expected, although many Afghans could not attend because they lived in areas where there were no schools.

The education system adopted by Taliban is largely a derivative of the socialist order: no fees, no charge for lodging, boarding, books, etc...Even in the medical colleges, where expenses are quite high, the education is entirely free.The facilities, however, were highly inadequate because of the paucity of resources.

In 1996 the country reported 52 percent of primary school-aged children were enrolled in school; 22 percent of the relevantly aged children attended secondary school. In terms of literacy, it was estimated to be 58 percent for all Afghans aged 15 and older in 2001, 71 percent for males and 25 percent for females. However, some experts believe these figures are too high, since up to 80 percent of the schools had been destroyed by this time. The current civil war has caused the closing or dismantling of most lower, middle, and higher education facilities and the results is that generations grew up without any formal schooling.
Sources: The U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization, the UNDP.

 












 


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