Tajiks of Afghanistan

The Tajiks are mostly Sunni Muslims and speak Persian. They live predominantly in the north-east and in the west. Some also live in Kabul. Because they make up the bulk of Afghanistan's educated elite and possess considerable wealth, they have significant political influence. Their influence lies predominantly in the government ministries, public services and trade bodies. Those living in rural regions engage in agriculture and herding. They have no specific social structure and tend to adopt those of their neighbors.

The Tajiks are a sedentary people, numbering about 3.5 million, who live in many sections of Afghanistan. They are also the principle inhabitants of the republic of Tajikistan across the northern border. They are often called Farsiwans, meaning "Persian-speaking". Slender and light skinned, the Tajiks have aquiline noses and usually black hair, although occasionally red and blond. Their history is vague, and it is possible that they were living in this area before the Aryan invasion.

There are several important concentrations of Tajiks in Afghanistan. The plains-dwelling Tajiks live mainly in Herat Province on the Iranian border, in Parwan Province, and around Kabul. They are town- dwelling traders, skilled artisans, and farmers, many of hem prosperous enough to be regarded as middle class. Because they have settled in the towns, they have replaced tribal organization with village orientation and a strong sense of community loyalty. The landowners (zamindars) have emerged as village leaders.

Another group of Tajiks lives in the northeastern mountains of Afghanistan, where they are poor, village-dwelling farmers. From their ranks emerged one of the canniest resistance leaders, Ahmad Shah Masoud, whose successes in guerilla fighting brought repeated sweeps by the Red Army against the Tajik strongholds in the deep valleys of the north-east.\

The Tajiks are the second largest group after the Pashtuns. They are also the Pashtuns' closest rivals for power and prestige. However, with two brief exceptions, one in the 14th century and one for nine months in 1929, they never ruled their region. They survived the Soviet occupation in a much less fragmented state than the Pashtuns, thus putting them in a better position to challenge Pashtun dominance.


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