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Afghanistan Main Page



The People of Afghanistan 


country comparison to the world: 41
note: this is a significantly revised figure; the previous estimate of 33,609,937 was extrapolated from the last Afghan census held in 1979, which was never completed because of the Soviet invasion; a new Afghan census is scheduled to take place in 2010 (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 43.6% (male 6,343,611/female 6,036,673)
15-64 years: 54% (male 7,864,422/female 7,470,617)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 326,873/female 353,520) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 18 years
male: 17.9 years
female: 18 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.471% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
Birth rate:
38.11 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 19
Death rate:
17.65 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3
Net migration rate:
4.24 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
urban population: 24% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 5.4% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 151.5 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 2
male: 155.15 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 147.67 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 44.65 years
country comparison to the world: 221
male: 44.45 years
female: 44.87 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
5.5 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.01% (2001 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria
animal contact disease: rabies
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)
noun: Afghan(s)
adjective: Afghan
Ethnic groups:
Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%
Sunni Muslim 80%, Shia Muslim 19%, other 1%
Afghan Persian or Dari (official) 50%, Pashto (official) 35%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%, much bilingualism
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 28.1%
male: 43.1%
female: 12.6% (2000 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 8 years
male: 11 years
female: 5 years (2004)
Education expenditures:

cia fact

Origin of the name

The first part of the name "Afghan" designates the Pashtun people since ancient times, the founders of Afghanistan and the largest ethnic group of the country. This name is mentioned in the form of Abgan in the 3rd century CE and as Avagana or Afghana in the 6th century CE.

The Encyclopædia Iranica states:

From a more limited, ethnological point of view, "Afghān" is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Paštō-speaking ethnic groups generally) designate the Paštūn. The equation [of] Afghan [and] Paštūn has been propagated all the more, both in and beyond Afghanistan, because the Paštūn tribal confederation is by far the most important in the country, numerically and politically. The term "Afghān" has probably designated the Paštūn since ancient times. Under the form Avagānā, this ethnic group is first mentioned by the Indian astronomer Varāha Mihira in the beginning of the 6th century CE in his Brihat-samhita.

A people called the "Afghans" are mentioned several times in a 10th century geography book, Hudud al-'alam. Al-Biruni referred to them in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. Ibn Battuta, a famous Moroccan travelling scholar visiting the region in 1333, writes:

We travelled on to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site of which is now occupied by a village inhabited by a tribe of Persians called Afghans...

Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah (Ferishta) explains extensively about the Afghans in the 16th century. For example, he writes:

The men of Kábul and Khilj also went home; and whenever they were ques­tioned about the Musulmáns of the Kohistán (the mountains), and how matters stood there, they said, "Don't call it Kohistán, but Afghánistán; for there is nothing there but Afgháns and dis­turbances." Thus it is clear that for this reason the people of the country call their home in their own language


Afghan soldiers of the Durrani Empire. The name


By the 17th century, it seems that some Pashtuns themselves were using the term as an ethnonym – a fact that is supported by traditional Pashto literature, for example, in the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak:

Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pashtun and Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans!

The last part of the name, -stān is a Persian suffix for "place", prominent in many languages of the region. The name "Afghanistan" is described by the 16th century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs as well as by later Mughal scholar Firishta, referring to territories south of Kabul that were inhabited by Pashtuns (called "Afghans" by them). Until the 19th century the name Afghanistan was used for the traditional Pashtun territory, between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Indus River, while the kingdom as a whole was known as the Kingdom of Kabul, as mentioned by the British statesman and historian Mountstuart Elphinstone. In 1857, in his review of J.W. Kaye's The Afghan War, Friedrich Engels describes "Afghanistan" as:

[...] an extensive country of Asia [...] between Persia and the Indies, and in the other direction between the Hindu Kush and the Indian Ocean. It formerly included the Persian provinces of Khorassan and Kohistan, together with Herat, Beluchistan, Cashmere, and Sinde, and a considerable part of the Punjab [...] Its principal cities are Kabul, the capital, Ghuznee, Peshawer, and Kandahar.

Other parts of the country were at certain periods recognized as independent kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Balkh in the early 18th century. With the expansion and centralization of the country, Afghan authorities adopted the name "Afghanistan" for the entire kingdom, after its English translation had already appeared in various treaties between the British Raj and Qajarid Persia, referring to the lands subject to the Pashtun Barakzai dynasty of Kabul. Afghanistan became the official internationally recognized name in 1919 after the Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed to regain the country's independence from the British, and was confirmed as such in the nation's 1923 constitution.

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