An Ethnic Battlefield

By: Shea Tarvin
Above is a color-coordinated map of ethnic division in Afghanistan. The map shows the geographic distribution of the main ethnic groups.

Ethnic division is a major obstacle in Afghanistan. The country is made up of seven major ethnic groups: Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Baluch, and Nuristani. There are also a few more minor groups. The Pashtuns are the dominant Afghan group, making up 41% of the population. The Pashtuns have maintained leadership since the 1800s and are the most powerful politically. They base their culture on a code called Pushtunwali and are made up of more than 50 tribes. The next biggest group is the Tajik which make up 38% of the population and dominate four of Afghanistans largest cities. They do not organize themselves into tribes and have common characteristics of dark hair and eyes and medium to fair skin. Hazaras make up 10% of the population. They have mongolian roots and mainly live in the Hazarajat region. The Uzbek making up 6% seems to have came with the Turkics and intermixed with Iranian tribes over time. The Turkmen are very similar to the Uzbek and contribute to 2% of the Afghan population. They are traditionally nomadic, but were forced to sacrifice their religion when the Soviet Union took over.

In the novel, The Kite Runner, there is a lot of ethnical tension throughout the novel. One major example of this is the relationship between Hassan and Amir. Amir has been surrounded by the idea that Hazaras are lower than Pashtuns. Ethnic background plays a major role in Afghan life. Heritage determines who you will marry, your social standing, where you live and other very major factors of life. As a child, Amir didn't consider Hassan as his friend because Hassan was a Hazara servant even though they grew up together. Hazaras were looked down upon and Amir was taunted for playing with Hassan. Pashtuns were usually the literate, wealthy, high-ranking people in Afghanistan. Assef believes that Hazaras should be wiped out completely. I think that his beliefs represent a lot of the Pashtuns feelings for Hazaras in today's society.