LAND AND PEOPLE
Official name: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Population: 28 150 000 inhabitants (2009 estimate)
Size: 652,230 square kilometers
Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 4.5
Official languages: Dari (persian) and pashto
Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, coal, cooper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones
Land use: Arable land 12%, permanent pastures 46%, forests and woodland 3%, other 39%
Literacy rate: 28.7 percent (UN Afghanistan Human Development
Report of 2005)
Major Religious, Ethnic, and Linguistic Groups
For centuries, Afghanistan has been a mosaic of people with diversecultures, religions and languages.
Afghanistan’s ethnically and linguistically rich and mixed population reflects its location at the
crossroads of Central, South and Southwest Asia. Communities with separate religions, languages,
and ethnic backgrounds have lived side by side for generations. Afghanistan still remains a country of
The main ethnic groups are Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, Baluch, Nuristani, and
Pashto and Dari are Afghanistan’s official languages. Afghanistan’s Consitution stipulates that all other languages are “official” in the areas in which they are spoken by a majority of the population. Dari is spoken by more than half of the population and Pashto is spoken throughout Kabul and eastern and southern Afghanistan. Many Afghans are multi-lingual. Tajik and Turkic languages are spoken widely in the north-east part of Afghanistan. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.
Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi School of jurisprudence. The remainder of the population is predominantly Shi'a.
Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, prior to the Soviet occupation and Taliban takeover, was a relatively liberal country with a progressive outlook on women’s rights. Afghan women made up 50 percent of government workers, 70 percent of schoolteachers and 40 percent of doctors in Kabul. However, the effects of war and the Taliban regime quickly effaced the rights of women in public life and relegated them to solely the domestic domain. In 2001, with the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghan women were once again able to enjoy some of the freedoms that had been stripped from them. In particular, the education and health sector have provided greater access to women and advanced their social development in an emergent state.
With the fall of the Taliban, women have been able to reenter schools and universities. In fact, girls composed a third of the nearly six million children who returned to school this year. Women have also started serving as teachers and faculty members again, and are filling political positions and participating in the national elections.
The health sector is working hard to improve the lives of Afghan women, and, free from the prohibitions of the Taliban, male physicians are now allowed to examine and treat female patients. However, while women can see male doctors, the availability of clinics and hospitals is nonetheless limited. Only 15 percent of births in Afghanistan are attended by qualified health professionals, thus contributing to the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world; one pregnant woman dies for every 6 live births. Besides pregnancy-related deaths, a lack of sanitation and potable water has led to outbreaks of tuberculosis, among which 64 percent of the deaths are women. Continued efforts in the health sector will be pursued to provide women with advanced healthcare and promote their wellbeing. Afghan women have suffered through war, poverty, famine and violence, but with the help of the international community and the Government of Afghanistan, they are reemerging with even stronger voices for change.