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Assessment for Tajiks in Afghanistan

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Tajiks in Afghanistan, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 21 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Afghanistan Facts
Area:    6,522,250 sq. km.
Capital:    Kabul
Total Population:    24,782,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The political situation of the Tajiks changed radically in 2001, when the United States led a coalition in overthrowing the Pashtun-dominated Taliban government. Although led by a Pashtun, Hamid Karzai, the interim government set in place by 2002 was dominated by ethnic Tajiks. Tajiks are unlikely to rebel against the central state so long as they maintain representation. However, Tajiks continue to be involved in intercommunal warfare, primarily with Pashtuns. Until the central government is strong enough to contain warlordism, such clashes are likely to continue.

Tajiks have engaged in moderate levels of protest, a situation that is unlikely to change. However, Tajik energy seems mostly directed at conventional electoral mobilization.

Analytic Summary

Tajiks, who speak Dari (a Persian dialect) are concentrated in the northeast of Afghanistan, with smaller numbers in the west of the country. Like the majority of Afghans, they are primarily Sunni Muslim, although some, who live mainly in and around the western city of Herat are Ismaili Shi`i. They are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, after the Pashtun, and have been the Pashtuns' most serious rival for power in the country. Tajiks have a history of autonomy (AUTLOST = 1), with fairly extensive powers (AUTPOW90 = 3). Partially as a result of this history, they are strongly cohesive organizationally (ORGCOH94 = 7) and have a relatively strong identity (COHESX9 = 5). Afghanistan's Tajik community, as represented by the Jam'iat-i-Islam party and under the guidance of Burhanuddin Rabbani, gained control of the country's government in 1992. Rabbani was overthrown in 1996 by the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, which led to a protracted civil war in the country. Tajiks dominated the Northern Alliance, the opposition grouping fighting the Taliban and the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan.

In 2001, following the September 11 attacks on the United States, the U.S. led a coalition of forces to overthrow the Taliban regime, which sheltered leaders of Al-Quaeda. The coalition cooperated with the Northern Alliance, whose members dominated the interim government although it was headed by a non-aligned Pashtun, Hamid Karzai.

Tajiks are represented by a variety of political organizations and parties, the dominant one continuing to by Jami'at-i-Islami. However, in the 2005 legislative elections, no parties were allowed and all candidates ran as individuals. Thus, Tajiks also are represented by non-aligned Tajiks as well.

Tajik grievances center on political participation. They desire greater involvement in the central government and also greater control over Tajik-majority regions of the country. They also desire greater economic opportunities.

Tajiks have not engaged in rebellion since the overthrow of the Taliban. However, they have engaged in high levels of communal conflict with Pashtuns (COMCON03 = 5). There has been limited Tajik protest (PROT03 = 3).


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