The Katir/Katir or Kata Kafir group was numerically the most dominant group of the Siah-Posh (Persian "Black Wearer/Clothed") tribes. They owned approximately forty villages in the Bashgul valley and numbered about 40,000 (1890).
According to George Scott Robertson, the Katir Siah-Posh clan settled in Katirgul valley was called Kamtoz (or Camtoz) in Pashto and Lutdehhchis in Chitrali (The Kafirs of the Hindukush, p 71). But American investigator Richard Strand's website suggests that the name Kamtoz/Kamtozi may apply to all Katirs of the former Siah-Posh group, including the Ramguli and Kulam Katirs .
Alternative names for Kamtoz are Camtozi, Kantozi. Despite their fiercely independent nature, the Katis, together with the Kom tribe, were tributary to the Mehtar of Chitral. The nature of this tributary relationship was inconsistent because the Katis and Koms would often raid Chitrali territory for livestock and head-hunting. In retaliation the Mehtars would invade the Bashgul Valley and enslave entire villages. During the reign of Mehtar Aman-ul-Mulk the relationship was formalized and the Kafirs would pay an annual tribute of slaves.
Encounter with Timur (1398)
Timur invaded Afghanistan in 1398. On the basis of local complaints of ill-treatment and extortions filed by the Muslims against the Kafirs, Timur personally attacked the Kators of the Siah-Posh group located north-east of Kabul in Eastern Afghanistan. At this time, the Nuristani peoples followed a form of ancient Hinduism.
The Kators left their fort Najil and took refuge at the top of the hill. Timur razed the fort to ground, burnt their houses and surrounded the hill where the Kator had collected for shelter. The relic of the historic fort is said to still exist a little north to Najil in the form of a structure known as Timur Hissar (Timur's Fort). After a tough fight, some of the Kators were defeated and were instantly put to death while the others held out against heavy odds for three days.
Timur offered them the usual alternative of death or Islam. They chose the latter, but soon recanted and attacked the regiment of Muslim soldiers during night. The latter being on guard, fought back, killed numerous Kators and took 150 as prisoners and put them to death afterwards.
Next day, Timur ordered his troops to advance on all four sides to kill all men, enslave the women and children and plunder or lay waste all their property.
In his autobiography called Tuzak-i-Timuri, Timur boasted of the towers of the skulls of the Kators which he had built on the mountain in the auspicious month of Ramazan A.H. 800 (1300 CE) (See: Tuzak-i-Timuri, III, pp 400).
Forced conversion to Islam (late 19th century)
In 1895, following conquest by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan, the Katir Kafir people in Afghanistan were forcibly converted to Islam. The former Kafiristan Kafiri were renamed Nuristani (The Enlightened Ones) from the proper noun Nuristan (Land of Light). Presently they are known by Nuristani Kata or simply Kata.
Georg Morgenstierne visited the Bashgul Valley in 1929 during his field work on Nuristani (Kafir) languages. He encountered the two last remaining unconverted "Kafir" priests of the region, called Bagashai and Kareik. Both men were dead by 1935.
Around 1890, the Katir Kafir division was further sub-divided as under:
- The Katirs of Bashgul Valley.
- The Katirs or the Kti Valley,
- The Kulam Katirs of the Kulam country and
- The Ramguli Katirs of Ramgul Valley.
- The Kata of Chitral
- Hindukush Kafir people
- Nuristani people
- Nuristani languages
- H.H. Wilson, M. Elphinstone, Bombay Gazetteer, D. Wilber, M. C. Gillet, W. K. Fraser Tytler, R. L. Mitra, H. C. Raychaudhury, J.R.A.S. 1843, J.A.S.B. 1874 etc.
- Minahan, James B. (10 February 2014). Ethnic Groups of North, East, and Central Asia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 205. ISBN 9781610690188.
Living in the high mountain valleys, the Nuristani retained their ancient culture and their religion, a form of ancient Hinduism with many customs and rituals developed locally. Certain deities were revered only by one tribe or community, but one deity was universally worshipped by all Nuristani as the Creator, the Hindu god Yama Raja, called imr'o or imra by the Nuristani tribes. Around 700 CE, Arab invaders swept through the region now known as Afghanistan, destroying or forcibly converting the population to their new Islamic religion. Refugees from the invaders fled into the higher valleys to escape the onslaught. In their mountain strongholds, the Nuristani escaped conversion to Islam and retained their ancient religion and culture. The surrounding Muslim peoples used the name Kafir, meaning "unbeliever" or "infidel," to describe the independent Nuristani tribes and called their highland homeland Kafiristan.
- Enhet i mangfold? 100 år med religionshistorie i Norge 1898-1998. Wlodek Witek, With Camera to India, Iran and Afghanistan: Access to Multimedia Sources of the Explorer, Professor Dr. Morgenstierne (1892-1975), National Library of Norway, Oslo.
- The Kafirs of Hindukush, 1896, George Scott Robertson
- An Account of the Kingdom of Caubol, London, M Elphinstone
- Tribes of Hindukush, Craz (Austria), 1971, J Biddulph
- "The Kâta". Retrieved July 4, 2006, from Richard F. Strand: Nuristan, Hidden Land of the Hindu-Kush.