This recent census process will not include questions on language or ethnicity, for fear that the results will be too politicized and lead to another unsuccessful census. Some of the first results from Bamyan province, where the minority Hazaras are in a majority, put the population figures at less than half of official estimates, leading to accusations of number manipulation. More than 3.
More than , Afghan refugees returned in , many under considerable pressure from Pakistan. However, Afghanistan's lack of capacity to absorb large numbers of returnees and the risk that many will end up in a situation of displacement upon arrival has led numbers to drop. In November , the UN refugee agency UNHCR recorded only 50, registered returnees from Pakistan during the first three quarters of the year, compared with , the year before.
At around the same time, increased civilian casualties led Amnesty International to warn that the EU should stop forcibly returning rejected Afghan asylum-seekers.
The number of returns had tripled between and , with nearly 10, having been returned in alone. Meanwhile, a study published by the Norwegian Refugee Council in January concluded that three-quarters of returning refugees ended up in situations of displacement, with 72 per cent having been displaced at least twice.
Afghanistan's political life has always been dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, who are thought to make up more than a third of the population.
Pashtuns are overwhelmingly Sunni with the exception of the Pashtun Turi tribe who are Shi'a. Significant numbers of the Tajik community are also Sunnis, apart from some Imami Shi'a Tajiks living in western Afghanistan, and the Badakshan Tajiks who are Ismailis. There are small Hindu and Sikh communities, estimated in at about persons, but their numbers are thought to have dropped significantly over the past decades due to emigration. Following the parliamentary rejection of a presidential decree proposing a reserved seat for Hindus and Sikhs in December , political representation of these groups remained limited in However, in a historic appointment, in May the previous Afghan government selected a representative from the dwindling Hindu community for the diplomatic rank of ambassador for the first time.
Nevertheless, despite managing to secure positions in parliament by appointment, Sikhs and Hindus continue to report being pressured to convert and facing disruptions to funeral and cremation ceremonies by local officials. Socially ostracized, Sikhs living in Kabul reportedly face economic hardship, with many refusing to conduct business with them, but also due to land grabs in areas in which Sikhs have historically resided.
In addition to daily economic and social discrimination - sometimes manifesting as physical and verbal abuse - freedom to practise their religion has also been curtailed. Kabul was once home to eight Sikh places of worship or gurdwaras , but only one remains today.
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Considerable intermarriage, particularly between the Pashtuns and other groups has somewhat blurred ethnic distinctions among communities. There has also been mixing between Tajiks and later Mongolian and Turkmen migrants, and some between Hazaras and Uzbeks. Afghanistan is still largely a tribal society, divided into many tribes, clans and smaller groups.
Considerable variation in the types of terrain and obstacles imposed by high ranking mountains and deserts, account for the country's marked ethnic and cultural differences. The country's population reflects its location with the presence of several national minorities. The main ethnic groups are dispersed throughout the country as follows: Pashtuns, the majority group, are concentrated mainly in the south and south-east but also live all over the state; Tajiks inhabit mainly the north and north-east, and the Kabul region; Hazaras live in the centre Hazarajat and in Kabul; Uzbeks in the north; Aimaq in the west; Turkmens in the north; Baluchis in the west and south-west; and Nuristanis in the east.
The Constitution of Afghanistan came into force on 4 January It recognizes Afghanistan as an Islamic Republic and as an 'independent, unitary and indivisible state'. All these languages are to be effectively adopted and developed by the government, with publications and broadcasting proposed to be in all the spoken languages of Afghanistan.
The educational curriculum, however, is envisaged as being unitary and based on Islam and 'national culture'. Article 22 contains a basic non-discrimination clause, but it does not specify any conditions on which discrimination may be based. With regard to religious minorities, it is worth noting that it is the constitutional chapter on 'The State' that protects religious freedom rather than the chapter on 'Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens'. Article 2 recognizes Islam as the state religion and that, 'followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law.
Indeed, jurisprudence establishing harsh penalties for blasphemy and apostasy have been used to harass religious minorities.
Blasphemy can be punishable by death if committed by a person of sound mind who has reached the age of majority, namely over the age of 18 for males or over the age of 16 for females. The accused is given three days to recant, or otherwise, face death by hanging. Conversion from Islam is considered apostasy and can be punishable by death. A fatwa issued in declared practitioners of the Baha'i faith as a blasphemous deviation from Islam.
Afghanistan's brutal conflict shows little sign of abating, with over 10, civilians killed or injured during Though all Afghans face the threat of violence, the risks are especially high for many of its ethnic and religious minorities, who have long suffered a history of discrimination that intensified into large-scale persecution during the Taliban's rule. Although violence along communal lines has greatly reduced since the US-led removal of the Taliban government in , attacks continue to be perpetrated against certain groups, particularly Shi'a Hazara who - as both a religious and visible ethnic minority - have long been targeted by the Taliban.
This situation has only worsened with the increasing presence of foreign Islamist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS , now operating for a number of years in Afghanistan. Attacks against religious minorities have been on the rise, with numerous recent suicide bombings targeting Hazara public events.
These include a December bombing that left at least 41 dead and another 80 injured in an attack on a Shi'a cultural centre in a Hazara neighbourhood of western Kabul. Another attack in March claimed by ISIS that resulted in the deaths of at least nine people also specifically targeted an area in Kabul frequented by Hazaras. After contested presidential elections in June , the National Unity Government NUG was formed through a deal to share power between the two leading presidential candidates.
In September , Ashraf Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, was named President and a new chief executive officer position was created for the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, an ethnic Uzbek. The power-sharing agreement outlined changes to the current system, to evolve from a presidential to a parliamentary system, in order to better facilitate the equal participation of all ethnic groups. Such changes were meant to be made two years after the formation of the NUG but have yet to effectively materialize.
A memo leaked in September , suggesting that some ethnic groups were being specifically recruited for Kabul's anti-riot force while excluding Tajiks, was interpreted by many as a symptom of broader discrimination within the Afghan government. Ethnic polarization is growing as parties are increasingly turning toward rhetoric split on ethnic lines. Ghani is accused of concentrating power in his office, and both he and Abdullah are accused of making political and security appointments on the basis of ethnic and tribal affinity.
In July , a coalition of ethnic minority leaders, including the ethnic Uzbek Vice President, and Tajik and Hazara politicians, formed the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan, calling on the President to devolve power to cabinet ministries and provinces. Parliamentary elections were supposed to be held in but have been postponed until October The creation of new electronic identification cards, as part of the electoral reform process, led to further disquiet among minority communities, as ethnic identity was included on the cards.
Many feared that identifying as a minority would lead to attacks or other repercussions. The long-delayed launch in May was clouded by further discord. The term 'Afghan' was rejected by many communities because it traditionally denoted Pashtuns. Complicating this situation are reports that the Taliban are expanding outside traditional territories by recruiting from minority groups that are disenchanted by the central government, including Tajiks, Turkmen and Uzbeks, enabling the Taliban's growth outside of the south and east. In the past, the Taliban had been comprised of mostly members of the Pashtun community.
Now minorities reportedly hold around one-quarter of the positions in the Taliban leadership council as well as provincial 'shadow government' positions. A continuing problem facing Afghanistan is the deeply entrenched culture of impunity. The government of former President Hamid Karzai adopted a transitional justice plan in December , but no further action was taken and it was essentially quashed by an amnesty law passed by the Afghan parliament in Many provinces where ethnic minorities are in the majority remain severely underdeveloped.
In the province of Bamyan, the traditional homeland of the Hazara, the government proposed to run a power route through the region, as part of an effort provide electricity from Turkmenistan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. When in the project was rerouted through another province, thousands of Hazaras demonstrated in Kabul.
Even though the project would have not necessarily brought much-needed electricity to Bamyan itself, Hazara saw the change in plans as a reflection of the administration's continuing neglect of their community. Tragically, it was this peaceful protest that was attacked by a suicide bomber in July , killing approximately Nomadic ethnic groups in Afghanistan also have not benefited from changes over the last decade.
Since January, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee AJSC recorded 73 cases of violence and threats against journalists, including deaths, detentions, beatings, and intimidation. Government officials and security personnel were responsible for slightly more than half of the cases; insurgent groups were responsible for the deaths of 10 journalists in suicide attacks in Kabul and Khost. On June 2, civil society groups, political activists, and relatives of victims of the May 31 truck bomb attack converged in central Kabul to protest deteriorating security conditions.
Some participants threw stones at police, and the group included some armed men among the crowd. Security forces, principally the presidential palace guard, used water cannons to disperse the crowd, but then used live ammunition despite no real threat to public safety—first firing guns over the heads of demonstrators, injuring some protesters, then shooting into the crowd, killing seven.
The government promised to conduct an investigation. As of December, the results of this investigation had not been made public.
The government subsequently accelerated its consideration of new legislation to restrict demonstrations. Civil society groups condemned the law, which as of December, was pending before parliament. Despite the fact that the government in criminalized military recruitment of Afghans under 18 years old, the practice continued, most notably among the ALP and pro-government militias.
Both the ANSF and the Taliban continued to occupy or use schools for military purposes in contested areas, affecting the access to education of thousands of children, especially girls. Conflict-related deaths and injuries of children continued at high rates, with deaths and 1, injuries in the first nine months of Almost half of the children detained in relation to the conflict reported being tortured or mistreated.
On August 22, US President Donald Trump outlined a new US strategy for the war in Afghanistan, vowing to expand military operations to target criminal and terrorist networks, pressure Pakistan to end support for Afghan insurgents, and set no timetable for withdrawal. In September, the Trump administration reportedly was considering a CIA request to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan; the US military has had exclusive authority to carry out such strikes. Trump authorized the deployment of an additional 3, troops, but the Pentagon acknowledged that actual troop levels were already close to 11,, significantly higher than the 8, previously reported.
US airstrikes increased through , and the US provided Black Hawk helicopters and other equipment to support expanded Afghan government air operations. In September, diplomatic sources indicated that the US was supporting an Afghan government initiative to create an additional village defense force, the Afghan National Army Territorial Force. The force would reportedly absorb some existing militias under army command, though it remained unclear how it would avoid replicating the record of the abusive Afghan Local Police. The US military command in Afghanistan also began classifying key data related to the development of Afghan security forces, most of which has been public since In February, the European Union EU signed a new agreement with Afghanistan requiring it to accept rejected asylum seekers from Europe and undertake other measures to reduce migration.
In fact, there are more public and private K schools, colleges, and trade schools in that country today than ever before. Private schools including higher education at the international level, such as American University in Kabul, have also emerged and are at full capacity. This high level of enrollment in school over the past decade has led to a more skilled labor force with less dependence on agriculture, and lower unemployment rates and higher levels of productivity compared to the Taliban era.
This aid came from internationally financed public works projects and Coalition Forces outsourcing part of their logistics and construction to the locals. This aid not only provided jobs for the locals, but also capital for reinvestment back into the economy. Public works projects included reconstruction of bridges, highways, local roads, and irrigation systems as well as redevelopment of government institutions and capacity building of its work force.
Capacity building of locals is beginning to show positive results with less dependence on international mentors. Today, an ever-increasing number of locals are taking leadership roles in both the private and public sectors. In addition, the work force is more balanced, with reintegration of women into government institutions to include security forces, hospitals, schools, as well as private industries. The revitalization of the central bank and new Afghan currency paved the way for local and international banks to begin operations in country. These banks, in turn, have provided locals with much-needed loans to fund their ventures.
Increased levels of security and commerce attracted additional investments into the growing economy. Case in point, the revitalization of media, which was entirely banned during the Taliban era, is now on par with surrounding nations. Afghan telecommunications and media now includes six mobile phone carriers, 75 television channels, over radio stations, and hundreds of print publications. Collectively, these sources of communication enable local Afghans to build their identity and brand name. The investment into this industry is tremendous and would not have come about without better security and an educational system to provide a capable workforce to operate these media outlets.
In , market segments in every industry were open to new entrants for those investors that had the appetite for risk.