Afghanistan is home to a multiplicity of ethnic and linguistic
groups, as well as several sects within Islam and other religions.
Historic and geographic factors created and preserved this diversity
although varying degrees of cultural assimilation continuously
take place and a considerable degree of cultural homogeneity exists.
Ethnicity has been extensively explored by scholars; they often
disagree. Any simple classification is bound to have exceptions
for Afghan society has never been static within fixed boundaries.
The picture has been drawn and redrawn throughout the course of
Further, ethnicity means different things to different groups.
Every group uses the identification term qaum to explain
a complexity of affiliations, a network, of families or occupations.
Each has a rich density of meanings. Every individual belongs
to a qaum which provides protection from outside encroachments,
cooperation, support, security, and assistance, either social,
political or economic. Frequently a village corresponds to a qawm,
but it does not necessarily exist in a precise geographic setting.
In a more restricted sense qaum refers to descent groups,
from family kin to ethnic group. In tribal areas qaum
refers to a common genealogy from extended family, or clan, to
tribe to tribal confederation. Most simply, qawm defines
an individual's identity in his social world.
name Afghanistan conventional long form Islamic State of
Afghanistan conventional short form Afghanistan local long
form Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan local short form Afghanestan former Republic of Afghanistan
- total: 647,500 sq km land: 647,500 sq km water: 0 sq km
- mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
- arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
- landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide
the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in
the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
- 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
Natural hazards - damaging earthquakes
occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies
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