Afghanistan Table of Contents

The Qizilbash of Mediterranean sub-stock speak Dari, are Imami Shi'a, and scattered throughout Afghanistan, primarily in urban centers. There are perhaps 50,000 Qizilbash living in Afghanistan although it is difficult to say for some claim to be Sunni Tajik since Shia Islam permits the practice of taqiya or dissimulation to avoid religious discrimination. The Qizilbash form one of the more literate groups in Afghanistan; they hold important administrative and professional positions.

The Qizilbash are traditionally considered to be the descendants of Persian Shia mercenaries and administrators left behind by the Safavid Emperor Nadir Shah Afshar (1736-47) to govern the Afghan provinces. Under Ahmad Shah Durrani, who served in Nadir Shah's bodyguard, and his successors, the Qizilbash acquired power and influence at court out of proportion to their numbers. This created resentment among the dominant Pushtun which hardened over the years, especially after the Qizilbash openly allied themselves with the British during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842). Amir Abdur Rahman accused the Qizilbash of being partisan to the enemy during his campaigns against the Shi'a Hazara in 1891-1893, declared them enemies of the state, confiscated their property and persecuted them.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress