From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Regions with significant populations
 Afghanistan38.9 million (2021 estimate)
Pashto, Dari and other languages of Afghanistan
Predominantly Islam
(Sunni and Shia) with minorities of Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity
Population of the Afghan diaspora worldwide

Afghans (Pashto: افغانان, romanized: afghanan; Persian/Dari: افغان ها, romanized: afghānhā; Persian: افغانستانی, romanized: Afghanistani) or Afghan people are nationals or citizens of Afghanistan, or people with ancestry from there.[1][2] Afghanistan is made up of various ethnicities, of which the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks are the largest; the pre-nation state, historical ethnonym Afghan was used to refer to a member of the Pashtun ethnic group. Due to the changing political nature of the state, such as the British-drawn border with Pakistan (then British India) the meaning has changed, and term has shifted to be the national identity of people from Afghanistan from all ethnicities.[3][4][5] The two main languages spoken by Afghans are Pashto and Dari (the Afghan dialect of Persian language), and many are bilingual.[6][7]


The earliest mention of the name Afghan (Abgân) is by Shapur I of the Sassanid Empire during the 3rd century CE,[8][9][10] In the 4th century the word "Afghans/Afghana" (αβγανανο) as reference to a particular people is mentioned in the Bactrian documents found in Northern Afghanistan.[11][12] The word 'Afghan' is of Persian origin to refer to the Pashtun people.[13] In the past, several scholars sought a connection with “horse,” Skt.aśva-, Av.aspa-, i.e.the Aśvaka or Aśvakayana the name of the Aśvakan or Assakan, ancient inhabitants of the Hindu Kush region, however according to some linguists, it would be extremely difficult to reconcile either Aśvaka or Aśvakayana with the world Afghan.[citation needed]

As an adjective, the word Afghan also means "of or relating to Afghanistan or its people, language or culture". According to the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan, all Afghans citizens are equal in rights and obligations before the law.[14] The fourth article of the current Constitution of Afghanistan states that citizens of Afghanistan consist of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashayi, Nuristani, Aimaq, Arab, Kyrgyz, Qizilbash, Gurjar, Brahui, and members of other ethnicities.[15] There are political disputes regarding this: there are members of the non-Pashtun ethnicities of Afghanistan that reject the term Afghan being applied to them, and there are Pashtuns in Pakistan that wish to have the term Afghan applied to them.[16][17][18][19][20]

Afghanistani and Afghanese[edit]

Less commonly Afghanistani (افغانستانی) is an alternative identity marker for citizens of the country Afghanistan. The term "Afghanistani" refers to someone who possesses the nationality of Afghanistan,[21] regardless of what race, ethnic, religious background.[22][23] In multiethnic Afghanistan, the term "Afghan" has always been associated with Pashtun people. Some non-Pashtun citizens such as Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks have viewed it as a part of Pashtun hegemony that devised to erase their ethnic identity.[24][25] The term Afghanistani has been used among some refugees and diasporas, particularly among non-Pashtuns.[26][27][28][29]


Afghanistan has never been a nation-state or dawlat-e milli.[30][31] Due to its tumultuous history, it has often defined as failed-state.[32][33] The local groups and communities across Afghanistan have rather strong local and regional identification as a tribes or ethnic groups (Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek or others). For the past two centuries, Afghanistan rulers have tried to create a state that represents Pashtuns.[34] Early efforts were made to create a strong centralized government based on a national identity of "Afghan," which privileged Pashtuns beyond their ethnic boundaries at state level as a whole. Non-Pashtun ethnic groups were not yet ready to accept a centralized state system let alone accepting a new national identity.[35][36] They did not have overall or even wider identification with Afghanistan as a whole, not to mention national identity or citizenship that was not given to them by the central government.[37]


From a more limited, ethnological point of view, "Afḡhān" is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Pashtō-speaking ethnic groups generally) designate the Pashtūn. The equation Afghans = Pashtūn has been propagated all the more, both in and beyond Afghanistan, because the Pashtūn tribal confederation is by far has maintained its hegemony in the country, numerically and politically.[38]

National Identity[edit]

Afghanistan's early efforts to create a sort of national identity began in 1919, after receiving its independence from the Great Britain.[39] This was the time when Afghanistan completely regain control over its sovereignty. Especially, the Hazara people who are still considered second-class citizens.[40][41][42] After the fall of monarchy in 1973,[43] Mohammed Daoud Khan, a staunch partisan of Pashtunistan,[44] who saw the country not as Afghanistan but a Pashtunistan, a land uniting Pashtuns from NWFP and FATA with Afghanistan.[45][46][47] Despite implementing some social and educational progress,[48][49] he failed to create a national identity.[50] After the Saur Revolution, the central governments tried to advocate for a broader Afghan identity through the use of modern education, but their efforts met with limited success.[51] One of the most common hurdles for fostering a common national identity was the fact they ethnic groups such as Hazara, Uzbeks, or Tajiks could not identify with elements of an identity that had strong base in Pashtun ethnicity that ruled the country.[52][53][54]

Other identifiers: Afghani and Afghanese[edit]

The term Afghani refers to the unit of Afghan currency. The term is also often used in the English language (and appears in some dictionaries) for a person or thing related to Afghanistan, although some have expressed the opinion that this usage is incorrect.[55] A reason for the confusion can be because the apparent incorrect term "Afghani" (افغانی) is in fact a valid demonym for Afghans in the overall Persian language and in Hindustani, whereas "Afghan" is derived from Pashto. Thus "Afghan" is the anglicized term of "Afghani" when translating from Dari or Hindi-Urdu, but not Pashto.[56] Another variant is Afghanese, which has been seldom used in place of Afghan.[57][58][59]


Ethnolinguistic groups in Afghanistan and its surroundings (1982)

Afghans come from various ethnic backgrounds. Pashtuns form a plurality of the population, while Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks are the next largest and altogether the four form almost 90% of the population. They are of diverse origins including of Iranian, Turkic and Mongol ethnolinguistic roots.[60]


The Afghan people of all ethnicities are predominantly and traditionally followers of Islam, of whom most are of the Sunni branch. Other religious minorities include the Afghan Hindus, Afghan Sikhs, Afghan Jews and Afghan Christians.


See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Garner, Bryan (2009). Garner's Modern American Usage (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-19-538275-4.
  2. ^ Siegal, Allan M.; Connolly, William (2015). The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (fifth ed.). New York: Crown Publishing Group. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-336-02484-7.
  3. ^ "Ask Johnson: Afghans, Afghanis, Afghanistanis". The Economist. September 21, 2011.
  4. ^ Kieffer, Ch. M. "Afghan". Encyclopædia Iranica. Archived from the original on 16 November 2013. From a more limited, ethnological point of view, "Afḡān" is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Paṧtō-speaking ethnic groups generally) designate the Paṧtūn. The equation Afghans = Paṧtūn has been propagated all the more, both in and beyond Afghanistan, because the Paṧtūn tribal confederation is by far the most important in the country, numerically and politically.
  5. ^ "ABC NEWS/BBC/ARD poll – Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (PDF). ABC News. Kabul, Afghanistan. pp. 38–40. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  6. ^ "The Constitution of Afghanistan". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Archived from the original on 29 August 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Article Sixteen of the 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan". 2004. Archived from the original on 28 October 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2012. Pashto and Dari are the official languages of the state. Uzbek, Turkmen, Baluchi, Pashai, Nuristani and Pamiri are – in addition to Pashto and Dari – the third official language in areas where the majority speaks them
  8. ^ "History of Afghanistan". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  9. ^ "Afghan and Afghanistan". Abdul Hai Habibi. 1969. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  10. ^ Noelle-Karimi, Christine; Conrad J. Schetter; Reinhard Schlagintweit (2002). Afghanistan -a country without a state?. University of Michigan, United States: IKO. p. 18. ISBN 3-88939-628-3. Retrieved 2010-09-24. The earliest mention of the name 'Afghan' (Abgan) is to be found in a Sasanid inscription from the 3rd century, and it appears in India in the form of 'Avagana'...
  11. ^ Balogh, Dániel (12 March 2020). Hunnic Peoples in Central and South Asia: Sources for their Origin and History. Barkhuis. p. 144. ISBN 978-94-93194-01-4. [ To Ormuzd Bunukan , ... greetings and homage from ... ) , Pithe ( sot ] ang ( ? ) of Parpaz ( under ) [ the glorious ) yabghu of [ Heph ] thal , the chief ... of the Afghans
  12. ^ Sims-Williams, Nicholas (2000). Bactrian documents from northern Afghanistan. Oxford: The Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press. ISBN 1-874780-92-7.
  13. ^ "Definition of AFGHAN". Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  14. ^ "Article 1 of the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan". Government of Afghanistan. Archived from the original on 2011-09-17. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  15. ^ "Constitution of Afghanistan". 2004. Archived from the original on 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2013-02-16. National sovereignty in Afghanistan shall belong to the nation, manifested directly and through its elected representatives. The nation of Afghanistan is composed of all individuals who possess the citizenship of Afghanistan. The nation of Afghanistan shall be comprised of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkman, Baluch, Pachaie, Nuristani, Aymaq, Arab, Qirghiz, Qizilbash, Gujur, Brahwui and other tribes. The word Afghan shall apply to every citizen of Afghanistan. No individual of the nation of Afghanistan shall be deprived of citizenship. The citizenship and asylum related matters shall be regulated by law.
  16. ^ "Who is an Afghan? Row over ID cards fuels ethnic tension". Reuters. February 8, 2018 – via
  17. ^ Moslih, Hashmatallah. "Q&A: Afghanistan's Tajiks plea for federalism".
  18. ^ "Identity Politics in Afghanistan: Nation-State or State-Nation?". May 25, 2018.
  19. ^ Valentini, Nicole (July 6, 2021). "Nation, identity and the future of Afghanistan".
  20. ^ "Miranshah PTM Jalsa Lar Ao bar Nary لر او بر یو افغان" – via
  21. ^ "Afghanistani Definitions | What does afghanistani mean? | Best 2 Definitions of Afghanistani". Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  22. ^ Bulut, Meryem; Şahin, Kadriye (2019-10-02). Anthropological Perspectives on Transnational Encounters in Turkey: War, Migration and Experiences of Coexistence. Transnational Press London. ISBN 978-1-912997-26-8.
  23. ^ Bezhan, Faridullah (2006). Afghanistani Storytelling and Writing: History, Performance and Forms. Monash Asia Institute. ISBN 978-1-876924-44-7.
  24. ^ Rubin, Barnett R. (2013-05-09). Afghanistan in the Post-Cold War Era. OUP USA. ISBN 978-0-19-979112-5.
  25. ^ Boon, Kristen; Lovelace, Douglas; Huq, Aziz Z. (2011). Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Conflict in Afghanistan. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-975825-8.
  26. ^ Calendars, Country 2020 (2019-12-25). Made In Britain With Afghanistani Parts: Afghanistani 2020 Calender Gift For Afghanistani With There Heritage And Roots From Afghanistan [check the title of this book, for instance]. Independently Published. ISBN 978-1-6506-1917-0.
  27. ^ Bezhan, Faridullah (2006). Afghanistani Storytelling and Writing: History, Performance and Forms [this book with title Afghanistani was published in 2006]. Monash Asia Institute. ISBN 978-1-876924-44-7.
  28. ^ "Afghanistani mother responds to pregnant Kiwi journalist's plea". 1 News. Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  29. ^ "راه‌حل‌های راهبردی برای پناهندگان افغانستانی [UNHCR Iran uses Afghanistani]". آژانس پناهندگان سازمان ملل در ایران (in Persian). Retrieved 2022-05-26.
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  38. ^ Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2022-05-02.
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  41. ^ Silverstein, Jordana; Stevens, Rachel (2021-02-04). Refugee Journeys: Histories of Resettlement, Representation and Resistance. ANU Press. ISBN 978-1-76046-419-6.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]