Afghanistan Guide. Afghanistan Country Profile.

Country Profile: Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is in a very strategic position in the Middle East and for this reason has experienced a lot of turbulence in its long history, with several world powers and neighboring countries wanting to take control of it. It was part of the ancient and legendary trade route, the Silk Road. The country was in the middle of the Great Game between the British Empire ruling in Indian and Imperial Russia during the 19th century when they vied for influence over Afghanistan. The continuing instability in Afghanistan has displaced and made the majority of its inhabitants refugees. The Taliban temporarily restored order in Afghanistan when they ruled about 90% of country from September 1996 well late into 2001. The establishment of a base camp of Osama bin Laden once again placed Afghanistan in the news and at loggerheads with world powers.

Officially Afghanistan is addressed as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and locally known as Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Afghanestan. Its capital is Kabul.

:: Background of Afghanistan ::

The history of Afghanistan is long and turbulent, being in the crossroads of South, West and Central Asia, and a region that became the battleground between the show of might by the British and Russian empires. In ancient times, Afghanistan was a region where waves of migrants stayed and flourished, leaving behind a rich and colorful mix of ethnic languages and cultures. It was also an important base for great armies on their way to conquer Iran and parts of northern India. Being an important part of the Silk Road, trade used to flourish in the region and great empires were established in the country.

Ahmad Khan Adbali was elected ruler of the Afghans and given the title of king in 1747, the beginning of modern Afghanistan. He was given the name Durr-i-Durran. The resulting monarchy was named Durrani and their rule in Afghanistan lasted up to 1973. He was called “Ahmad Shah Durrani.” He applied his military training under Nadir Shah to conquer and increase the size of his domain and to protect his country’s boundaries.

Power struggle became one of the most frequent occurrences in Afghanistan. In 1818 the Barakzai, another Afghan tribe took over Kabul and drove the Durrani tribe out by 1826 and Afghanistan was divided and shared. The largest share went to Dost Mohammed and the rest divided among a few of his 20 other brothers. Dost Mohammed became the Amir and was recognized as such by the other Afghan tribes and foreigners.

At that time Russia was interested in establishing trade links with India and wanted to install a friendly post in Afghanistan, which alarmed the British who had established their own empire in India. The Amir showed more favor towards the Russian envoy which prompted the British to end negotiations but that led to the three attempts by the British to reinstall one of the members of the Durrani tribe as head.

Britain and Afghanistan engaged in several wars from 1838 to 1842 A.D. and again between 1878 and 1841. A difficult offensive by the British was successful and they were able to capture Kandahar and installed Shah Shuja as puppet ruler, crowned twice, first inside a mosque before being crowned again when Kabul was occupied by the British after four months of fighting. By 1840 Amir Dost Mohammed became a British prisoner and taken to India. Civil uprising by the proud tribesmen caused the British and Indian army to retreat and abandoned Shah Shuja who was later assassinated. Kabul was recaptured by the British in 1842 and restored the rule of Dost Mohammed in the succeeding year. He ruled for two centuries, enduring family in-fighting.

Sher Ali, one of the sons of Dost Mohammed ruled after him. This third son of his was pro-Russian and the British retaliated by capturing Kandahar and Jalalabad in 1878. A treaty with Sher Ali’s successor, his son Yakub Khan was signed in May 1879, with the British establishing a regular embassy in Kabul. The British rule was short-lived because all embassy personnel including the envoy were slaughtered later in the year. Yakub Khan was deported to India and the British recognized a new Amir, a grandson of Dost Mohammed, Abdurrahman Khan. He was previously expatriated by Sher Ali to Russia. This time the British were forbidden to have an emissary establishing residence in Afghanistan.

From 1880 to 1933, Afghanistan was under the rule of Abdurrahman Khan and his family. During their rule investment and technology practices gathered from the west were introduced. Habibullah Khan, a son of Abdurrahman ruled in 1901. He was able to maintain his country’s stance of non-participation during the First World War. When the war ended Abdurrahman called for the international community’s recognition of Afghanistan’s independence. The bold action caused the British to once again intercede in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Habibullah was assassinated in 1919 which left his son Amanullah to face the looming political situation on his own. Britain was unsuccessful in their campaign and was forced to recognize the country’s independence. Amanullah though was not able to stem the power struggle within his family and he was later expatriated. Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah reestablished order until 1933 as he too, was assassinated and ruling Afghanistan was left to his son Zahir Shah. He was only 19 years old when Nadir Khan was assassinated.

The political trend continued. Zahir Shah proved skillful and followed his predecessors’ stand of non-participation during the war. His move gained favor from USSR and the USA which brought modernization into the country by building hospitals and highways. He had tremendous help from his influential brother-in-law, Daud Khan who was the prime minister in 1953. He resigned in 1963 amid the border tensions with Pakistan. Zahir Khan instituted reforms and Afghanistan became a constitutional monarchy in 1964. This time conflicts between the parliament and the king ensued, aggravated by a major drought and famine in the 1970s. A bloodless coup was staged by Daud Khan in 1973 which exiled Zahir Khan in Europe.

Daud Khan was pro-Russia. He became the prime minister with the help of left-leaning members in the Afghan army. He became president in 1977 but his rule did not sit well with the rest of the citizens and another civil uprising broke out.

The Khalq or the People’s Party and the Parcham or the Banner Party, both leftist parties, successfully overthrew the government of Daud Khan in 1978 and jointly ruled. Nur Mohammad Taraki of the Khalq Party was President and Prime Minister and another member, Hafizullah Amin held a deputy prime minister post together with Babrak Karmal, the leader of the Parcham Party. They introduced reforms according to the suggestions given by Moscow. Their rule was short-lived and in 1979 a jihad was again called. Members of the Parcham Party that escaped the uprising fled to Russia while the members of the Khalq Party fight for power. Taraki tried to assassinate Amin but Amin’s supporters prevailed and Taraki has a questionable death soon after his capture.

Russia increased its influence in Afghanistan and brought back Babrak Karmal. But the Afghans were undaunted and continued to fight the Russians. The USA helped in their internal struggles. It also brought about the collaboration of seven guerilla groups in Afghanistan to fight for a common cause and formed the Islami Itehad Afghanistan Mujaheddin, as an attestation to their fighting spirit and love for their country. However, the devastation due to the civil unrest sent more that 3.8 million Afghans as refugees to Iran and Pakistan. Gorbachev removed Babrak Karmal and installed Mohammad Najibullah who proved to be as ineffective as Karmal and Gorbachev decided in 1988 to withdraw the Soviet troops from the devastated country.

Civil war continued and millions of Afghans became refugees. In 1994 a new guerilla group, the Taliban, initially composed of Sunni students attracted attention as their focus was more on Muslim fundamentalism. Pretty soon they gained a massive number of recruits and their fights proved successful, until almost 90% of Afghanistan was under their control. Amidst the fighting they wanted to have a joint government with the Northern Alliance. However their strict rules in imposing a consummate Islamic society again caused unrest, basically because contact with Al-Qa’ida fundamentalists had started.

Osama bin Laden and Al-Qa’ida established a base of operation in Afghanistan due to close ties with the Taliban whose leader at that time was Mullah Omar. He refused to hand over Osama bin Laden after the attack on September 11, 2001 on US soil, which prompted the US to attack the suspected hideouts and training camps of the Al-Qa’ida with the support of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The successive attacks weakened and destroyed most of the training camps and mountain hideouts of the Al-Qa’ida although Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar proved elusive, escaping through the numerous mountain passages created beforehand to escape the Russians.

The United States is playing a leading role in the rehabilitation of Afghanistan after more then 30 years of civil uprising, internal power struggle and corruption. They continue to struggle against the Taliban who had regrouped in Pakistan. While the US maintains a large contingent of US troops in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that gradual troop withdrawal will start in 2012 and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan announced that he will reach out to the leaders of the Taliban for a peaceful compromise.

:: Geography of Afghanistan ::

Afghanistan is located in Southern and Central Asia and landlocked by Iran on the west, Pakistan on the south and east and by Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on the north, A long narrow strip of land on the extreme northeast of Afghanistan is the Wakhan corridor, about 220 kilometers long and about 16 kilometers at its narrowest and 64 kilometers at its widest. It is a land corridor that links Afghanistan to China. Geographically, Afghanistan lies 33° 00” north and 65° 00” east of the equator.

In terms of size, Afghanistan is marginally smaller than Texas, with a total land area of 652,230 square kilometers.

Land Boundaries
Being landlocked, Afghanistan does not have any coastline or maritime claims. Its total boundary line measures 5.529 kilometers, with Pakistan having the longest border at 2,430 kilometers, followed by Tajikistan with 1,206 kilometers. Turkmenistan border runs for 744 kilometers, Uzbekistan for 137 kilometers and China for 76 kilometers on the extreme northeast.

Afghanistan has two distinct seasons, scorching summers and bitter cold winters. It has a sub-arctic mountain climate for the most part of the country although the lowlands can be arid to semi-arid. Some of the valleys near the Pakistan border and in the mountains experience maritime and tropical moist air during the summer months from the effects of the Indian monsoon.

Historically and up to this time, the terrain of Afghanistan is very rugged and exceedingly mountainous. The Hindu Kush mountains cut across the center of Afghanistan from a northeast to southwest direction, making about half of the land area of Afghanistan about 2,000 meters above sea level. Plains can be found in the southwest and in the northern parts of the country. The lowest point is Amu Darya River, which is 258 meters below sea level. The highest mountain peak in Afghanistan is Noshaq, which rises to 7,485 meters. It is located in the northeast section of the border with Pakistan, with the west and north faces of the mountain in Afghanistan and the eastern and southern sides situated in Pakistan.

Natural Resources
Afghanistan has numerous natural gas fields spread out across the land with substantial yet undeveloped oil reserves in the northern part of the country. It is also rich in mineral resources although the focus of mining and exploration are coal, copper ore, gemstones and iron ore. Talc, barites, lead, salt, chromite, lead and sulfur are also available.

Land Use
Despite its vast land area, due to the rugged terrain and several mountains dotting the landscape, only 12.13% of the land is arable, located on valleys near rivers and other water sources. Only 0.21% is planted with permanent crops and about 87.66% of the land is not cultivated, consisting of dry wasteland and mountainous areas.

Natural Hazards
The country experiences weather extremes and suffers from frequent droughts. The scarcity of water and the lack of finances to buy fuel prompted the citizens to excessively cut trees that contributed to numerous flooding. Earthquakes are frequent on the mountainous regions.

Environmental Issues
There are very limited sources of natural fresh water in Afghanistan as well as sources of water for drinking. Soil had been degraded and overgrazed and deforestation is rapid due to the need for building materials as well as fuel. Desertification, air and water pollution also threatens Afghanistan.

International Agreements
Afghanistan has entered into international environmental agreements on climate change, endangered species, desertification, biodiversity, ozone layer protection, marine dumping and environmental modification. Of all the agreements, Afghanistan has signed but not yet sanctioned the agreements on law of the sea, marine life conservation and hazardous wastes.

:: People of Afghanistan ::

July 2011 estimates place the population of Afghanistan at 29,835,392, a projection based on the last census held in 1979 that was not completed due to the invasion of the Soviet Union. The UN estimates that the population, according to 2010 estimates is 31,412,000. It is also estimated that the population growth is about 2.375%, with a net migration of 3.31 migrant per 1,000 nationals.

Age Structure
Majority of the population is in the 15-64 age group with 55.3%, divided into 8,460,486 males and 8,031,968 females. In the 0-14 age range, there are 6,464,070 males versus 6,149,468 females or 42.3%, while those in the 65 years and over bracket number is estimated to be about 2.4%, with 349,349 males and 380,051 females. The current median age for the whole country and for males and females is 18.2 years, based on the 2011 estimates.

Sex Ratio
The sex ratio at birth for the total population is estimated at 1.05 males for every female born in Afghanistan. The figures are the same for those under 15 years of age and those in the 15-64 age bracket. For the older generation, aged 65 years and over, there are 0.92 male for every female.

Infant Mortality Rate
Infant mortality rate in Afghanistan based on the 2009 estimates from the CIA World Factbook is 151.95/1,000 live births, placing Afghanistan in the number 222 position from the total of 224 countries. From the UN data figures for 2005-2010, Afghanistan is ranked the last at 197, with a death estimate of 135.95 for every 1,000 live births.

Life Expectancy at Birth
There are 5.39 children born for every woman of child-bearing age in Afghanistan, according to the 2011 estimate. The birth rate is 37.83 births/1,000 population while the death rate is 17.39/1,000 population. Life expectancy at birth is 44.79 years for males and 45.25 years for females, placing the life expectancy average at 45.02 years for the total population of Afghanistan.

Data for the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan is very sparse. However, according to the World Bank Report, there were 254 cases of HIV reported in 2007. The UNAIDS and World Health Organization places the figure much higher at about 1,000 to 2,000 cases, mostly from those who are injecting drug users and those who are engaged in unsafe sex from paid sexual workers.

Citizens of Afghanistan are called Afghans. Afghan is used as both a noun and as an adjective.

Ethnic Groups
Broadly speaking, Afghanistan comprises several ethnic groups. Majority belong to the Pashtun at 42%. The Tajik is about 27% and the Uzbek and Hazara are both around 9%, the Aimak at 4%, followed by Turkmen at 3%, the Baloch with 2% and the minor ones grouped at 4%.

While almost the majority of Afghans are Muslims, they follow different branches of the Muslim faith, with the Sunni Muslims being the majority at 80% and the Shia Muslims at around 19%. A very minor number, only about 1% follow other religions. Basically the Pashtuns and most of the Uzbeks, Turkmen and Tajiks follow the Sunni branch while the Shia branch of Islam is followed by the Hazaras, the group that suffered the most during the rule of the Taliban, composed mostly of Pashtun militant group who were partisan purists.

Fifty percent of the population speaks one of the official languages of Afghanistan, Dari (Afghan Persian or Eastern Farsi). Pashto, another official language is used by 35% of the population. Turkic is spoken basically by 11% of the Uzbek and Turkmen tribes, while about 30 minor languages, mainly Balochi and Pashai are spoken by 4% of the population.

Afghans aged 15 years and over can read and write with literacy is placed at 28.1% of the population. Males stay for about 11 years in school so their literacy rate is higher at 43.1% while the females, staying in school for about 7 years, have a literacy rate placed at 12.6%.

:: References ::

Geography of Afghanistan: Important Geographical Information about Afghanistan

Although landlocked and traversed by a mountain range that divides the country into two, there are four important rivers that run through Afghanistan. The biggest is the Amu Darya. The others are Kabul River, Helmand River and the Hari River. Afghanistan also has lakes, streams, and smaller rivers that are mostly fed by the melting snow from the mountains.

Afghanistan looks like an irregularly-shaped leaf hanging from a branch. The Wakhan Corridor and the Pamir Knot or the mountain range formed by the junction of the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas, the Tian Shan, Kunlun and Karakoram. Currently Afghanistan consists of 34 provinces.


The terrain is rugged and the seasons are extremely harsh, with very hot and dry summers and winters that emulate the sub-arctic coldness of the Himalayas in some parts, where the snow can stay two to three months like in Kabul where the residents barely go out of their houses and need to sleep near the stove to keep warm. Seven months of the year from May to November the weather in Afghanistan can be erratic, from cold to warm and back to cold again. At Ghazni the winter temperature can sink to -15°F and the area is prone to snowstorms.

Summer temperatures can range from 110°F to 120° F in the shade. The temperature among the different regions in Afghanistan varies greatly. In Kabul the summer heat is tempered by the occasional cooling breeze from the mountains. In the Kandahar region the heat can be intense and snow seldom falls in this area. Simoon or violently hot sand-laden wind is frequent. All throughout Afghanistan, the summer months are characterized by intense dry and hot winds and severe dust storms.

Herat in the west, near the border with Iran has better summer climate as it is lower than Kandahar. Here the weather is more temperate and summer is tolerable while the winter is normally mild, with snow melting almost as soon as it falls. On the eastern region the winters are very cold that rivers are almost frozen solid that people can travel over them like regular roads.


Afghanistan is dissected by the Hindu Kush, a mountain range that is part of the vast Himalayan mountain ranges and part of the world’s tallest mountains, including the Pamir Knot and the Karakoram. These tall mountains are labeled as the “roof of the world.” The Hindu Kush originates from the northeast and runs across Afghanistan towards the southwest. Its highest peak is Nohraq, rising to a height of 7,492 meters, located in the northeast. The mountain range divides Afghanistan into the central highlands, the northern plains near the Central Asian borders of Turmekistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and the southwestern plateau near the border with Pakistan and Iran. The northern plains have the most fertile soils in the whole of Afghanistan. The general terrain of Afghanistan is sloping with the higher parts located on the northeastern side and the elevation gradually lowers towards the southwestern regions. While several mountains divide the country, there are several important mountain passes such as the Kotal-e that serves to connect Kabul with the northern region while the Sanglakh Range connects Kabul with the central region.

The Khyber Pass, which was part of the Silk Road of ancient times connects Afghanistan to neighboring Pakistan. The pass traverses the northeastern portion of the Safed Koh mountain range. One other important section is the Wakhan Corridor, a small strip of land where the Wakhjir Pass is located. This pass, with an elevation of 4,923 meters, links Afghanistan to the Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County in Xinjiang, a part of the People’s Republic of China. One interesting thing to note is that below the pass on the Afghan side, at the height of 4,554 meters is an ice cave that is believed to supply the Wahkjir River which in turn empties to the Amu Darya River.

Rivers and Lakes

Afghanistan does not lack sources of water because it has numerous lakes and rivers that flow through it. It is therefore ironic that Afghanistan suffers from severe droughts and water shortage. This is because of its sloping terrain and most of the rivers that flow through the country end up in the countries that border Afghanistan on the north and northeast. The major river Amu Darya starts from the Pamir Mountains located in the northeast of Afghanistan, flowing along the border between the country and three borders in the north, namely Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turmekistan. From the upper parts of the river, the water is turbulent. It gets calmer by the time it reaches the Kolcha River.

In the southwest is the Helmand River that starts from the Baba Mountains on the western side of Kabul. It bisects the southwest region and one of its tributaries, the Arghandab is utilized for irrigation although the water is briny. The Kabul River is a major water source for Kabul. There are no rivers or streams near the border with Iran on the west, while northwest the rivers Morghab and Hari flow into the Karakum Desert that is located in Turkmenistan.

:: References ::
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Information about the Afghani Flag: Colors and Meaning of the Flag of Afghanistan

:: Meaning of the Afghan Flag ::

It is very interesting to know that the flag of Afghanistan went through so many changes in the course of its history since 1747. In fact it is the only flag in the world to have these many changes, 20 in all. Some designs were only used for one or two years. In one four-year period, the national flag of Afghanistan made 7 modifications, reflective of the political changes in the country.

Currently the flag of Afghanistan has three equal vertical panels with solid colors. This was introduced when the Taliban was defeated in 2002. Black is on the hoisting side, red in the middle with an emblem in white and green on the flying side. The emblem or Mehrab has two wheat branches placed on each side of a mosque with a praying mat inside. The praying mat faces Mecca. There are also two flags flying on both sides of the mosque. An inscription indicating the name of Afghanistan is placed below the mosque. A Shahadah on top of the mosque means that “There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet.”

The current national flag of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with the ratio changed to 2:3. The tricolor and the seal from the previous flag used from 2002 to 2004 are retained. The Shahadah is still on top and the word “The Islamic State of Afghanistan” was shortened to “Afghanistan.”

The current national flag of Afghanistan was adopted from the design created by King Amanullah Khan in 1928. The black stripe was for the dark past of Afghanistan. The red center stripe represents that blood shed by the millions of Afghan who fought in the wars throughout their history and the green panel is for prosperity, hope and a future that is bright. Green is also the color of Islam. Green is also used to denote their independence. The sheaves of wheat signify the crown that was bestowed in the 17th century on the founder of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Durrani for his bravery.

:: History of the Afghanistan Flag ::

Afghanistan’s national flag underwent a series of changes through the course of the country’s history. Under the Durrani empire (1747-1826) the flag had three equal horizontal stripes, with the top and bottom stripes in very dark green. The middle stripe was white. There was no flag used in 1826 to 1880 under the Barakzai Dynasty. From 1880 to 1901 a solid black flag was flown during the reign of Abdur Rahman Khan to be replaced by Habibullah Khan in 1901 to 1919 with a black flag with his father’s seal in white in the center. The seal was the forerunner of the seal being used today. Amanullah Khan added rays to an octogram (8-pointed star) shape that encased the white seal over the solid black background for the period 1919-1926.

From 1926 to 1928, the still black flag continued to be used but Amanullah Shah replaced the octogram with two sheaves of wheat. In 1928 Amanullah Shah decided to use three equal size horizontal stripes with black on top, red in the center and green at the bottom. The white-colored seal overlaps part of the black and green stripes.

From 1928 to 1929 the fourth flag design under Amanullah Shah was used. The tricolor stripes were vertical with black on the left, red in the middle and green on the right. The seal was changed. A yellow sun rising from two mountains capped with snow was included. In 1929, under Habibullah Kalakani the flag was changed into equal vertical stripes of red on the hoisting side, black in the middle and white on the flying side. The previous tricolor of black, red and green again appeared in 1929 to 1930 under the rule of Mohammed Nadir Shah, using the seal with the octogram over the red stripe. The second design under Mohammed Nadir Shah was used from 1930 to 1973, using the same vertical tricolor, with the seal enlarged and the octogram replaced by the sheaves of wheat. Between the mosque and the sheaves of wheat the date 1348 in Arabic was added. This was equivalent to 1929, the year that Mohammed Nadir Shah came into power.

From 1973 to 1974, the first flag of the Republic of Afghanistan was flown, using the same design as the one used in the 1973 flag but with the year removed. From 1974 to 1978 the size and orientation of the stripes varied. One-fourth of the flag was black (top), another quarter was red and half of the flag was green. A new seal appears on the canton. It showed an eagle with its wings spread. A pulpit was placed over the eagle’s chest to represent the mosque and above the eagle were rays of the sun. The wheat sheaves were retained. 1978 was the start of the communist rule in Afghanistan. The same flag design was used without the seal. During the 1978 to 1980 period, the flag was changed to plain red, with a yellow seal in the canton showing the wheat sheaves, a star on top to represent the five ethnic groups of Afghanistan and the word Khalq written in Arabic at the center of the seal. The flag was used under the rule of President Nar Muhammad Taraki until 1979.

During the period spanning 1979 to 1987, the horizontal tricolor stripes were back but the seal was changed. The seal showed a green field, a rising sun, a pulpit and the Qu’ran to represent Islam, ribbons in the national colors, a red star for communism and a cog wheel to represent industry. The seal was changed again for the period 1987 to 1992, with the green field curved to correspond to the horizon and the cog placed on the bottom.

A provisional flag was used in 1992 when the pro-Soviet rule fell. The horizontal stripes changed to green on top, white in the middle and black at the bottom. Arabic word for Allahu Akbar or God is Great was written on the green stripe in white while the Shahadah was placed in the white stripe in black letters.

From 1992 to 1996, the same colors of the stripes and their position were retained in the new design, but the words were removed and a yellow logo was placed in the center stripe. It included the Shahadah and the Arabic word for The Islamic State of Afghanistan written at the bottom of the logo.

During the first year of Taliban rule (1996 to 1997) a white flag was used. The Shahadah written in black letters was added for the 1997-2001 rule of the Taliban.

After the fall of the Taliban, the 1992 flag design was used for 2001 up to 2002. During the transitional period from 2002 to 2004, the vertical tricolor of black, red and green stripes were back in the new flag design and the seal included the year 1298 in Arabic.

:: References ::
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Extensive List of Languages of Afghanistan: Spoken and Extinct Languages

Afghan Sign Language
[afg] 500 (2007). Mainly Jalalabad, Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Heart, Kandahar and surrounding areas. Alternate names: Afghan Sign. Classification: Deaf sign language

[aiq] 480,000 in Afghanistan (1993). Includes 1,000 Jamshidi (1978 MARC). Population total all countries: 650,000. Central northwest Afghanistan, west of Hazara, eastern Iran, and Tajikistan (Jamshidi and Khazara). Also in Iran, Tajikistan. Alternate names: Barbari, Berberi, Chahar-Aimaq, Char Aimaq. Dialects: Taimuri (Teimuri, Timuri, Taimouri), Taimani, Zohri (Zuri), Jamshidi (Jamshedi, Djamchidi, Yemchidi, Dzhemshid), Firozkohi, Maliki, Mizmast, Chinghizi, Zainal. Dialect names may be ethnic names. Dari Persian dialects with some Turkic and Mongolian elements, possibly quite distinct. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Persian

Arabic, Tajiki Spoken
[abh] 5,000 in Afghanistan (Farhadi 1967), decreasing. Takhar Province, villages west of Daulatabad (Khushalabad), near Balkh (Yakhdan), Aq Chah (Sultan Aregh), Shibarghan (Hassanabad), and south of Talukan; 4 northern provinces. Some in Uzbekistan. Dialects: Balkh Arabic. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic

[ask] 1,200 (2000). Kunar Province, northwest of Asadabad, Pech Valley around Wama. Alternate names: Ashkund, Ashkuni, Wamais, Wamayi. Dialects: Ashuruveri (Kolata, Titin Bajaygul), Gramsukraviri, Suruviri (Wamai). Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Nuristani

Azerbaijani, South
[azb] Afshari in small groups north of Kabul, Chandaul quarter of Kabul City, Herat City. Alternate names: Azeri. Dialects: Afshari (Afshar, Afsar). Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Southern, Azerbaijani

Balochi, Western
[bgn] 200,000 in Afghanistan (1979). Southwest Desert Region, along Helmand River and Zaranj area. Alternate names: Baloci, Baluchi, Baluci. Dialects: Rakhshani (Raxshani). Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Northwestern, Balochi

[brh] 200,000 in Afghanistan (Dupree 1980). South, from Shorawak to Chakhansoor among the Baluchi [bgn]. Alternate names: Birahui, Brahuiki, Kur Galli. Classification: Dravidian, Northern

[drw] 10,000 (1983). Northernmost tip of Afghanistan, Darwaz town on Amu Darya River. Possibly in Tajikistan. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Persian

[rmt] Dialects: Churi-Wali. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Central zone, Dom

Farsi, Eastern
[prs] 5,600,000 in Afghanistan (1996). Population total all countries: 7,600,000. Provinces of Herat, Hazarajat, Balkh, Ghor, Ghazni, Budaksham, Panjsher; Galcha-Pamir Mountains; Kabul regions. Dari in Khorasan Province (Iran). Also in Iran, Pakistan. Alternate names: Dari, Parsi, Persian. Dialects: Dari (Afghan Farsi, Herati, Tajiki, Kaboli, Kabuli, Khorasani), Parsiwan. Radio Afghanistan broadcasts promote a standardized pronunciation of the literary language based on the old dictional tradition of the country, with archaic phonetic characteristics. Phonological and lexical differences between Iran and Afghanistan cause little difficulty in comprehension. Most Afghan dialects are more similar to literary Persian than Iranian dialects are. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Persian

[gwt] 8,000 in Afghanistan. Population total all countries: 9,500. Kunar Valley. 8 or 9 villages. Also in Pakistan. Alternate names: Arandui, Gowari, Narisati, Narsati, Satre. Dialects: Lexical similarity: 47% with Shumashti [sts], 44% with Dameli [dml], 42% with Savi [sdg] and Grangali [nli]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kunar

[nli] 5,000 (1994). Grangali and Zemiaki, Pech River south side at Kandai, 2 small valleys; Nangalami in Ningalam village where Waigal and Pech rivers meet. Alternate names: Gelangali, Jumiaki. Dialects: Nangalami (Ningalami), Grangali, Zemiaki (Zamyaki). Zemiaki may be related to Waigali [wbk]. Lexical similarity: 63% with Shumashti [sts], 42% with Gawar-Bati [gwt]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kunar

[gju] 2,000 in Afghanistan (1994). Nomads traveling in summer in eastern valleys. Alternate names: Gojari, Gojri, Gujuri Rajasthani. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Central zone, Rajasthani, Unclassified

[haz] 1,770,000 in Afghanistan (2000). Population total all countries: 2,210,000. Central mountains between Kabul and Herat (Hazarajat); Kabul, between Maimana and Sari-Pul; north from immediately south of Ikoh i Baba mountain range almost to Mazar e Sharif; many refugees. Also in Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan. Alternate names: Azargi, Hazara, Hezareh. Dialects: Related to Dari [gbz]; possibly distinct. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Persian

[jat] 1,370 in Afghanistan (2000). Kabul, Jalalabad, Charikar. Alternate names: Jat, Jataki, Jati, Jatu, Kayani, Musali. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Lahnda

[xvi] 4,000 in Afghanistan (R. Strand 1973). Population total all countries: 6,000. Lower Bashgal Valley, Kamdesh and Kishtoz village areas. Also in Pakistan. Alternate names: Kamdeshi, Kamik, Lamertiviri, Shekhani. Dialects: Kamviri, Shekhani. Related to Kati [bsh]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Nuristani

[kaa] 2,000 in Afghanistan. North of Jalalabad; south of Mazar-i Sharif. Alternate names: Qaraqulpaqs. Dialects: Northeast Karakalpak, Southwest Karakalpak. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Western, Aralo-Caspian

[bsh] 15,000 in Afghanistan (1994). Population total all countries: 19,400. Western Kativiri in Ramgal, Kulam, Ktivi, or Kantiwo, and Paruk or Papruk valleys; Mumviri in Mangul, Sasku, Gabalgrom villages in the Bashgal Valley; Eastern Kativiri in upper Bashgal Valley. Also in Pakistan. Alternate names: Bashgali, Kativiri, Nuristani. Dialects: Eastern Kativiri (Shekhani), Western Kativiri, Mumviri. Mumviri may be separate language. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Nuristani

[kaz] 2,000 in Afghanistan (2000). North, especially Chahar Dara District west of Kunduz; Khanabad and Andkhoi areas. Alternate names: Kazakhi, Qazaq, Qazaqi. Dialects: Northeastern Kazakh, Southern Kazakh, Western Kazakh. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Western, Aralo-Caspian

Kurdish, Northern
[kmr] 200,000 in Afghanistan (2004). Kabul area. Alternate names: Kurmanji. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Northwestern, Kurdish

[kir] 750 in Afghanistan (2000). 445 in the Great Pamir, plus a few in Badakhshan. Extreme northeast, Great Pamir Valley. All from Little Pamir went to Pakistan and then Turkey in 1982. Alternate names: Kirghiz, Kirghizi, Kirgiz. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Western, Aralo-Caspian

[mld] 2,860 (2000). Southwest of Kabul, Logar north of Baraki. Classification: Unclassified

[mhj] 200. Ethnic population: A few thousand. Near Herat, Kundur and Karez-i-Mulla. 2 villages. Alternate names: Moghol, Mogol, Mogul, Mongul. Dialects: Kundur, Karez-I-Mulla. Unintelligible to other Mongol speakers; linguistically relatively well explored. Classification: Altaic, Mongolic, Western

[mnj] 3,770 (2000). Northeast, Munjan and Mamalgha Valleys. Alternate names: Munjani, Munjhan, Munjiwar. Dialects: Northern Munji, Central Munji, Southern Munji, Mamalgha Munji. Lexical similarity: 68% among dialects, 56%–80% with Yidgha [ydg] in Pakistan. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern, Southeastern, Pamir

[oru] 50 in Afghanistan. Ethnic population: 2,000–5,000 in Afghanistan. Logar, Baraki-Barak. Alternate names: Baraks, Bargista, Oormuri, Ormui. Dialects: Kanigurami, Logar. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Northwestern, Ormuri-Parachi

[phv] 2,100 (2000). Chakhansoor Province, Karim Kushta, Haji Hamza Khan village. Dialects: Similar to Dari [gbz]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Persian

[prc] 600. Ethnic population: 5,000–6,000. Hindu Kush Valley near Kabul, Nijrau and Tagau villages, Pachaghan, Shutul, Ghujulan. Dialects: Shutul, Ghujulan, Nijrau. Similar affinity to Ormuri [oru]. Dialect diversity seems slight. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Northwestern, Ormuri-Parachi

[paq] 250 in Afghanistan (2008). Alternate names: Afghana-Yi Nasfurush, Afghana-Yi Siyarui, Laghmani. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Central zone, Unclassified

Pashayi, Northeast
[aee] 54,400 (2000). Kunar Province west of Asadabad, side valleys between Kunar and Pech rivers. Dialects: Aret, Chalas (Chilas), Kandak, Kurangal, Kurdar. Unintelligible to other Pashayi speakers. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kunar, Pashayi

Pashayi, Northwest
[glh] Kapisa and Laghman provinces, Gulbahar to Nuristan on Alingar River, Alisheng Valley, valleys north of Sarobi. Dialects: Gulbahar, Kohnadeh, Laurowan, Sanjan, Shutul, Bolaghain, Pachagan, Alasai, Shamakot, Uzbin, Pandau, Najil, Parazhghan, Pashagar, Wadau, Nangarach. Unintelligible to other Pashayi speakers. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kunar, Pashayi

Pashayi, Southeast
[psi] 54,400 (2000). Upper and Lower Darrai Nur Valley, Damench, Shale (Shari); Nangarhar Province, north of Shewa; south Laghman Province, Alingar Valley area. Alternate names: Pashai. Dialects: Darrai Nur, Wegal, Laghman, Alingar, Kunar. Unintelligible to other Pashayi speakers. 10 villages in upper Darrai Nur (including Bamba Kot, Lamatek, and Sutan) form a single group with their own dialect. Residents of lower Darrai Nur (Nur River) are separate and perhaps not ethnically cohesive. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kunar, Pashayi

Pashayi, Southwest
[psh] 108,000 (1982). Includes all Pashayi languages or dialects. Northeast of Kabul, north of Sarobi, Tagau (Tagab) Valley. Dialects: Tagau, Ishpi, Isken. Not intelligible with other Pashayi languages. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kunar, Pashayi

Pashto, Northern
[pbu] Central Ghilzai area. Alternate names: Afghan, Pakhtoo, Pakhtu, Paktu. Dialects: Northwestern Pakhto, Ghilzai, Durani. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern, Southeastern, Pashto

Pashto, Southern
[pbt] 1,090,000 in Afghanistan (2000). 8,000,000 all Pashto in Afghanistan. Kandahar area. Dialects: Southwestern Pashto, Kandahar Pashto (Qandahar Pashto). Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern, Southeastern, Pashto

[prn] 1,000 (2000). Nuristan, Prasun (Parun) Valley on upper reaches of Pech River, Shupu (Ishtivi, Shtevgrom), Sech, Ucu, Ushut, Zumu villages. Alternate names: Parun, Prasun, Veron, Verou, Veruni, Wasi-Veri. Dialects: Upper Wasi-Weri, Central Prasun, Lower Prasun (Ushut). Very closely related to Kati [bsh] but more archaic. The most aberrant Nuristani language. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Nuristani

[sgl] 1,000 in Afghanistan. Population total all countries: 1,500. Ethnic population: 1,000 in Afghanistan (1990 A. Kibrik). Sanglech Valley, Ishkashim area. Ishkashimi in 17 villages; Sanglechi in 2. Also in Tajikistan. Dialects: Zebak (Zebaki), Sanglechi, Ishkashimi (Ishkashmi, Ishkashim, Eshkashimi). Dialects may be separate languages. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern, Southeastern, Pamir

[sdg] 3,000 in Afghanistan (1983). Kunar River, Sau village. Possibly refugee camps in Pakistan. Also in Pakistan. Alternate names: Sau, Sauji, Sawi. Dialects: Lexical similarity: 56%–58% with Phalura [phl]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Shina

[sgh] 20,000 in Afghanistan (1994). Both sides of Afghan-Tajikistan border, 50 kms. north of Ishkashim, Pamir Mountains. Dialects: Roshani (Rushani, Rushan, Oroshani), Shughni (Shugni, Shighni, Shughnani, Shugan, Khugni, Kushani, Saighani, Ghorani), Bartangi (Bartang), Oroshor (Oroshori). Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern, Southeastern, Pamir, Shugni-Yazgulami

[sts] 1,000 (1994). West side of Kunar Valley between Pech Valley and Jalalabad. Alternate names: Shumasht. Dialects: Lexical similarity: 63% with Grangali [nli], 47% with Gawar-Bati [gwt]. Heavily influenced by Northeast Pashayi [aee]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kunar

[tnf] 10,000 (1994). Northeast Badakhshan, east of Darwazi on the Amu Darya. Possibly in Turkmenistan. Alternate names: Tangshuri. Dialects: May be Eastern Iranian. Probably closely related to Darwazi [drw]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Unclassified

[tra] 100. Ethnic population: Possibly 5,000. Southeast of Jalalabad, west of Khyber Pass, Nangarhar village. Dialects: Most closely related to Kohistani languages of Pakistan. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kohistani Nearly extinct.

[trm] 1,000 (1994). Nuristan, Tregam Valley, Katar and Gambir villages. Alternate names: Trigami. Dialects: Lexical similarity: 76%–80% with Waigali [wbk]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Nuristani

[tuk] 500,000 in Afghanistan (1995). Turkmenistan border, Fariab and Badghis provinces; Herat City, Andkhoi town. Alternate names: Trukmen, Turkman, Turkoman. Dialects: Salor, Teke (Tekke, Chagatai, Jagatai), Ersari, Sariq, Yomut. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Southern, Turkmenian

[uig] 3,000 in Afghanistan. Badakshan and Abi-i-Barik, a few villages. Possibly in Iran and Taiwan. Alternate names: Uighor, Uighur, Uiguir, Uyghuri, Wighor. Dialects: Kashgar-Yarkand (Yarkandi), Taranchi. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Eastern

Uzbek, Southern
[uzs] 1,400,000 in Afghanistan (WA 1991). Population total all countries: 1,451,980. North, Fariab Province, Maimana town. Possibly in Germany. Also in Pakistan, Turkey (Asia). Alternate names: Usbeki, Uzbak, Uzbeki. Dialects: Limited comprehension of Northern Uzbek [uzn]. Differences in grammar and loanwords from Western Farsi [pes]. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Eastern

[wbk] 1,500 (Van Driem 2000). Southeast Nuristan, Central Kunar Province north of Pech. Varjan in north Waigal Valley, Waigal, Zonchigal, Jamach, Ameshdesh villages, and east in Veligal Valley villages; Chima-Nishey in lower valley villages. Alternate names: Kalasha-Ala, Suki, Wai, Wai-Ala, Waigala, Waigalii, Waigeli, Zhonjigali. Dialects: Varjan, Chima-Nishey. Lexical similarity: 76%–80% with Tregami [trm]. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Nuristani

[wbl] 9,570 in Afghanistan (2000). Ethnic population: 18,000 in Afghanistan (A. Kibrik 1990). Pamir Mountains, east of Ishkashim, Panj River left bank in Wakhan Corridor, as far as Sarhad village. 64 villages. Center is Khandud. Alternate names: Guhjali, Khik, Vakhan, Wakhani, Wakhigi. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern, Southeastern, Pamir

[wrd] 5,000 (1994). Northeast, Werdoge River area west of Ishkashim. Dialects: Probably a Western Farsi [pes] dialect. Classification: Unclassified

[wsv] Extinct. 60 households in Katarqalai in 1935; 1 speaker found in 1955. Nuristan, south of Waigali area, Wotapuri and Katarqalai towns. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Dardic, Kohistani

:: Reference ::

Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version:

Famous Afghani People: Afghani Artists, Scientists, Leaders, Musicians, Politicians and Athletes

The following people made their mark on both the local and international scenes. They are just some of many famous Afghani people who have made a difference in our world.

:: List of Famous People from Afghanistan ::

Sayed Jamalludin Afghan

Sayed Jamalludin Afghan was a scholar born near Kabul in the year 1838. He spent his life working for the unity of the Muslims and was considered as the founder of the modernization of Islam. He traveled and studied in India when he was 18 years of age and was inspired by the ideas put forth by Sayed Ahmad Khan. His inspiration led to the publication of his book, “The Truth About the Neichari Sect and an Explanation of the Necharis.” It was first printed in Hyderabad in 1881 and later translated in Arabic by Muhammad Abduh and given a different title – “The Refutation of the Materialists.” The translated version was published in Beirut in 1886. He spent some time in Istanbul and in Egypt before deciding to give lectures and classes in Egypt from 1871 to 1879.

He became the special adviser to Shah Nasirruddin of Iran in 1886 but he had a difference of opinion in some of the political policies of the Shah. The conflict led to Sayed Jamalludin Afghan to move to Russia for a three-year stay in Russia. On his way to Paris via Munich he again met the Shah of Iran and was again offered a high position. Although he accepted the position he still expressed his different views on the political policies of the Shah. And in 1891 Sayed Jamalludin was finally was deported and stayed in Istanbul. He was accused in 1896 of murdering the Shah of Iran. On March 9, 1897 Sayed Jamalludin died of cancer in Istanbul. His remains were transferred from Istanbul to Kabul, Afghanistan in 1944. A mausoleum was built for him and there were many learning institutions erected in his honor. One of these is The Sayed Jamalludin Afghan School, Kabul’s biggest school.

Maulaana Jalalludin Balkhi

Maulaana Jalalludin Balkhi was born in Balkh, Mazir-i Sharif in the northern region of Afghanistan in 1207. The Mongolian invasion led to his family moving to Turkey where Maulaana Jalalludin became known as “Rumi.” This father was a mystic, practiced theology and was a legal expert. He was also the first teacher of Maulaana Jalalludin. During his travels he met a Persian mystic and poet known as Attar who was so impressed by Maulaana because according to some records Attar saw Rumi’s future as a spiritual leader. At the same time Attar made a deep impression on Rumi and the book that Attar gave to Rumi, the “Asrarnama” became his inspiration.

Rumi traveled extensively as he and his family preached. He married twice and had two son by his first marriage. Sultan Walad was the first born and his second son was named Ala-eddin Chalabi. After the death of his wife Rumi remarried and begot a son whom he named Amir Alim Chalabi as well as a daughter who was named Malakeh Khatun.

Rumi’s father was the head of a religious school and practiced Sufism, the inner and mystical side of Islam. The other name for Sufi is Dervish. Rumi succeeded him after his death. One of his father’s students continued Rumi’s training in “Tariqa” or Islamic religious order to find the ultimate truth as well as on “Shariah”, the Islamic code of conduct or Islam’s religious law. His travels to Damascus in 1244 led to a meeting with Shams-e Tabrizi, a dervish. He became Rumi’s mentor and spiritual friend and most of Rumi’s poetry referred to him. Rumi wrote several masterpieces including the six volumes of “Masnavi.” Rumi was able to predict his own death when he fell ill in December of 1273 and died on the 17th of that month. His death is celebrated by followers of Sufism up to this day. The whirling dervishes commemorate his death by going to the mausoleum built on Rumi’s honor and hold a song and dance event from the 10th to the 17th of December of each year, whirling from right to left just like how Maulaana Jalalludin did it. The event is again repeated for one day every 3rd of May to celebrate his coming from Karma.

The whirling dervish dance is performed in 2 parts. During the first part the dancers wear black cloaks representing graves and long cone caps on their head representing tomb stones. They perform the Sima Ceremony by circling around the chamber slowly 3 times. The circling with the black cloaks represent the personal revival in God’s presence, followed by the follower seeing God and thirdly entering the stage where the follower is able to be in God’s presence. The black cloaks are discarded after this first stage to show the white cloaks underneath. This time the sequence is composed of 4 circles or whirling to represent the vision of God, accept His greatness, level of knowledge and finally the coming together in God’s presence.

Khushal Khan Khattak

An outstanding poet writing in Pashtun, Khushal Khan Khattak, who was born circa 1613 was also a chief of their Khattak tribe and a warrior. He encouraged Afghan solidarity and unity to fight the Mongols through his poems. Prior to being a poet he was a celebrated warrior. His family, from the time of his grandfather, actually served the Mongol Empire. After his father’s death Shah Jehan, Emperor of the Mogul Empire appointed him as successor and he started to serve the Mongols. But the successor of the Shah, Aurangzeb was suspicious of Khushal and ordered him exiled in Delhi. When he was allowed to return to his tribe, he led the revolt against the Mongols. The revolt lasted for more than 2 years. Although the Mongols were able to take control of some areas, due to bribery and diplomacy tactics devised by Aurangzeb, they were not able to completely subdue the rebels. However, Khuskal was believed to have gone on an expedition to Tirah but died along the way. February 25, 1689 was the recorded date of his death. Historians who have done research on Khushal Khan Khattak’s works indicated that he wrote over 45,000 poems and over 200 books. Some of the books include Farrah Nama, Fazal Nama, Baz Nama and Distar Nama.

Zalmai Araa

His name is sometimes spelled as Zalmay Araa, an Afghan singer and comedian who presently resides in California. Zalmai was born in the 1950s in Kabul. He immigrated to the United States in the 1990s, married an Afghan girl and settled in Fremont, a city in California, USA.

He achieved worldwide fame for his comedic performances, which include singing, short comedic situations and stand-up comedy, sometimes laced with sexual humor without help from other actors or comedians. His shows all relate to Afghanistan. His early shows usually start with humorous accounts about life and people in his native country but his most recent shows are now more focused on the travails of living a life of exile as an Afghan in America.

Rohullah Nikpai

Rohullah Nikpai, 24 years of age is the first Afghan to win a medal in any Olympic event. His sport is taekwondo, which he started to learn at the age of 10 in his hometown of Kabul. His family was forced to stay in an Afghan refugee camp in Iran where he and some of his fellow Afghan refugees formed a taekwondo team. The Afghan government provided an Olympic training facility upon his return to Kabul sometime in 2004. He first competed in the Asian Games held in Doha, Qatar as a flyweight in 2006 but he was defeated by Thailand’s Nattapong Tewawetchapong in the 16th round. During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing he was in the 58-kilogram category. He was able to defeat Spain’s Juan Antonio Ramos, a two-time world champion to win his first Olympic bronze medal. He also won a bronze medal in the Asian Taekwondo Championships in 2008 held in Luoyang, China, competing in the same weight division. He earned his third bronze medal in May 2011 when he competed in the flyweight division in the 2011 World Taekwondo Championships in Gyeongju, South Korea.

For his Olympic performance, Ruhollah got a personal congratulatory phone call from President Hamid Karzai who gave him a house paid for by the Afghan government.


His full name was Abdul-Rahim Sarban, shortened to just Sarban, a singer from Kabul who became popular for his unique voice and his musical style that is said to still be incomparable up to this day. He also gained fame in Tajikistan and in Iran. His songs were in the soft rock and classical category. Not much is known about Sarban’s childhood and he died an impoverished man in Pakistan. His remains were transferred to Kabul 12 years after his death. It was documented that Sarban has a chronic drinking problem which eventually affected his career and caused his downfall. While he had recorded hundreds of songs, the Gul Parast’, or Flower Worshiper in English was the most memorable. Sarban was also attributed to be the first singer to pen lyrics for the song played for brides during their wedding entitled “Auhista Boro” which means Go Slowly in English.

Zalmay Khalilzad

Zalmay Khalilzad was born in Mazar-i Sharif in Afghanistan on March 22,1951. His father was a Sunni Pashtun, a government official during the reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah. Khalilzad is fluent in Arabic, English, Dari and Pashto. He first came to the United States as an exchange student in high school through the Intercultural Programs of the American Field Service. He earned his bachelor’s and masters degrees in Lebanon, enrolling in the American University of Beirut before moving back to the United States to get his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Now a US citizen, Khalilzad currently serves as a counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. The CSIS is a think tank for foreign policy. Khalilzad is also the president of his own international business consulting company, Khalilzad Associates, which is also based in Washington. This company provides consulting services for companies interesting in investing in Afghanistan and Iraq. When George W. Bush was president of the United States, Khalilzad was appointed as the US Ambassador to the United Nations. He was also became the US Ambassador to Afghanistan and US Ambassador to Iraq during the Bush administration. Khalilzad also is a member of the board of the American Abroad Media, the Middle East Studies Center of the RAND Corporation, the American University of Afghanistan, American University of Iraq and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Abdul Ahad Mohmand

Born on January 1, 1959, Abdul Ahad Mohmand was a former Air Force pilot in Afghanistan. He holds the distinction of being the first Afghan to be an Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut who spent 9 days in 1988 in the Mir space station. He earned his pilot degree from the Air Force Academy of Afghanistan and served the Air Force. He trained to be a professional astronaut and pilot in the Soviet Union. The government of Afghanistan was supportive of his efforts and when he was in space, President Mohammad Najibullah even had his mother invited to the his office so she can talk with Abdul Ahad to reassure her. His feat earned him a Hero of the Soviet Union title. When the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan Mohmand sought asylum in Germany and applied for citizenship, which was granted in 2003.

Ahmad Zahir

Ahmad Zahir was a very famous singer, composer and songwriter who was considered as the King of Afghan Music. His songs are mostly based on well-known poems in Persian and recorded his songs in Persian as well. He was born on June 14, 1946 to Abdul Zahir, a minister of health, royal court doctor and one-time Prime Minister of Afghanistan. His father was a very influential political figure during the time of Zahir Shah and even helped with the writing of their constitution.

Ahmad Zahir started his singing in high school bands but went to a teacher’s college before going to India to get a degree to be able to teach English. But music beckoned and started his career as a singer, writing his own compositions, some of which have political undertones that criticized the Afghan government and recording more than 30 albums during his career. He died on his birthday in 1979. His death was attributed by his son as an assassination ordered by a communist official but the official report claimed that Ahmad Zahir’s death was due to a car accident. He was hailed a national hero and his music and his family background paved the way for the establishment in 1974 of the Kabul Music School.

Farhad Darya Nasher

He is an established music producer, composer and singer who hails from Kabul but now lives in Virginia, USA with his wife and son. He is known for his patriotism and most of his songs are aimed at helping his countrymen unite. He formed bands while still in school but started a professional band named the Rain band when he was already in college. For a time he taught western classical music at the Polytechnical University of Kabul before going to Europe. He met his future wife in Paris. He sings in different languages such as English, Uzbek, Urdu, Persian and Pashto; has recorded about 24 albums and had won the Best Singer of the Year in Afghanistan and also in Copenhagen.

Atiq Rahimi

Born on February 26.1962 in Kabul, Atiq Rahimi sought political asylum in France after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He studied at Sorbonne and worked for a Paris-based production house after graduation. He produced several commercials and 7 documentaries for French TV. He took time off from being a producer to concentrate on his writing. His first bestseller in was entitled Earth and Ashes which was published in 2000 and became an instant hit in South America and Europe. A film based on his book was directed by him. It won the Prix du Regard vers l’Avenir during the Cannes Film Festival in 2004. The film was entered in 50 other film festivals and managed to win 25 awards. It was the best feature film at the Zanzibar International Film Festival and received the Golden Dhow award.

His book entitled Syngue Sabour won the Prix Goncourt award in November 2008. The English translation of the book was entitled Stone of Patience. He went back to Afghanistan in 2002 and worked as Senior Creative Advisor for Moby Group, the largest media group in Afghanistan. The conglomerate owns a magazine, an FM radio station, a recording company, a production company and TV stations. Rahimi develops programs and different styles of the various media concerns of Moby group including training budding Afghan directors and filmmakers while shuttling back and forth between Paris and Afghanistan. A film version of his book Syngue Sabour, based on his own screenplay is also directed by him. It was already in the pre-production stage in 2010.

Fahim Fazli

Fahim Fazli was born in Kabul on May 30, 1966. His family was affluent and he did not lack for anything until he was 12 years old. When the Russian invaded Afghanistan, he was left behind together with his father and a younger brother while his mother, his older brother and his younger sisters fled to the United States. Fahim backed the resistance movement and later joined the freedom fighters. During the course of their involvement with the resistance movement they were able to reach Pakistan. They had to wait 6 yeas before they were able to leave and join the rest of their family in the US. Fahim dreamt of becoming a movie star but had to work to help support his family. He did get his break in the movies and on TV, mainly being cast as a bad guy. He was seen in Season 6 of the hit TV series 24, making Jack Bauer’s life more difficult. He played the terrorist in Iron Man. In 2009 he went back to Afghanistan after 30 years to work as interpreter for the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines of the India Company stationed in the southern part of Afghanistan.

Siyar Bahadurzada

Siyar Bahadurzada hails from Kabul where he was born on April 17, 1984. Siyar is a mixed martial arts artist. He currently reigns as the Light Heavyweight Champion in Shooto. Siyar now fights in the middleweight category and uses the nickname Siyar, the Great in MMA. He is also called by other nicknames such as Afghan Killa, Aumid and The Killer. He said that his fighting sense and ability as well as his character was shaped by the constant war in Afghanistan where he lived for 15 years before his family decided to migrate to the Netherlands. He was able to beat up kids older than him when he was younger, which prompted his grandfather to call him The Killer.

In the Netherlands he started training at the Tatsujin dojo under the tutelage of Martijn de Jong who was a well-known and respected authority figure for mixed martial arts in the Dutch community. Bahadurzada immediately became the top student of De Jong. In his 25 professional matches, he had 20 wins, 4 losses and one draw. Of his 20 wins, ten were by knockout, 6 by submission and 4 by decision. He lost two matches each by decision and by submission.

Hammasa Kohistani

Hammasa Kohistani was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where her Afghan parents lived to escape the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. She was born in 1987. They returned to Kabul when the Russian left but had to leave again when the Taliban started to rule most of Afghanistan in 1996. They settled in the United Kingdom and her father started a restaurant in Southall. Hammasa and her parents eventually acquired British citizenship which allowed Hammasa to be crowned in 2005 as Miss England, and became the first Muslim beauty contestant to do so. She represented England in the 2005 Miss World competition that was held in China.

Zamarai Kamgar

He is considered one of Afghanistan’s wealthiest, with an estimated net worth of $400 million. He is the president of the first privately-owned airline company. His family went through several wars – with the British, with the Russians and with the Taliban, and managed to survive. His godfather is a leader of an Uzbek ethnic party and a warlord, General Abdul Rashid Dostrum. During the war with the Taliban in 1998, Kamgar was the supplier of food and fuel to the army led by his godfather. After the war, the food and fuel bill had amounted to $3 million. His godfather did not have the cash to pay Kamgar and instead gave him a $2 million-worth Boeing 727 from which he started his Kam Air. Initially the plane was never allowed to leave the ground due to some political conflicts with President Hamid Karzai. In 2003, Kam Air had its maiden voyage with capital infused by Kamgar Trading Group, with serving routes such as Mazar, Herat, New Delhi, Dubai, Iran and Istanbul. The airline is performing quite nicely, netting $5 million in 2006.

:: References ::

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