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Afghanistan: Glossary

A guide to the vocabulary of Afghan tribes and Anglo-Indian terminology.

Afghanistan: Sources in the India Office Records

abdali One of the two major groups of the Afghans (sense 1), rivals of Ghilzais, also known as Durranis; divided into 9 subtribes. Rulers of Afghanistan, 1747-1973, were all Abdalis with the exception of Baccha-i-Saqqo (Habibullah Ghazi).

afghans (1) An ethnic group: the Pushtun tribes inhabiting the area roughly lying between the Hindu Kush in the North and the Indus in the South; Pathans. Comes to mean Pathans residing in Afghanistan. Divided into two main groups, the Abdalis (qv) and the Ghilzais (qv). The predominant ethnic group in Afghanistan. (2) Any inhabitant of Afghanistan (modern meaning, probably not earlier than 19th century).

alizai One of the nine subtribes of the Abdali.

barakzai One of the nine subtribes of the Abdali; tribe to which the Muhammadzai clan, second dynasty of rulers of modern Afghanistan, belonged.

charkhi Family name of important group in late 19th to early 20th century Afghan politics.

chuprassi An office messenger or henchman.

durrani Title taken by Ahmad Shah on his accession to the throne; often applied generally to the Abdalis (qv) and Afghans (sense 1) as a whole.

ghilzai One of the two major divisions of the Afghans (sense 1). Ghilzai Mirs ruled in Persia, 1720-30.

hazaras A non-Afghan minority ethnic group living in Afghanistan: racially Mongoloid, Shi'ite Muslim in religion; mainly inhabit the Hindu Kush.

kafirs A distinct ethnic group inhabiting Kafiristan (now Nuristan) in the north east of Afghanistan. Animists forcibly converted to Islam by Abdur Rahman Khan in 1893. Speak Dardic, a complex non-Indo-European language.

kandahari Descendants of Payendah Khan, ruling in Kandahar sirdars.

kirghiz A minority Turkic group, migrated from Russian Turkestan, found only in the Wakhan region of Afghanistan.

lashkars of Persian origin, an army, a camp; or one belonging to an army, a soldier. The corrupt form 'Laskar' also means sailor.

muhammadzai A branch of the Barakzai tribe. The clan to which all rulers of Afghanistan since Dost Muhammad Khan belonged.

musahiban also known as Sultan Muhammed Khel or the Yahya Khel. Descendants of Sultan Muhammed Khan, ruler of Peshawar, brother of Dost Muhammad Khan, i.e. Muhammadzai Barakzais closely related to Amanullah. The family of Nadir and Zahir Shah.

nuristanis see kafirs

padshah an emperor, the great Mogul, a king. Of Persian-Hindu origin.

pathans see afghans. Comes to mean those tribes not living in Afghanistan itself.

payendah khel Descendants of Payendah Khan, head of the Muhammadzai branch of the Barakzai tribe during the reigns of Timur and Zeman Shah, who became rulers with the decline of the Saddozai dynasty.

popolzai One of the nine subtribes of the Abdalis. The tribe to which the Saddozai clan belonged.

pushtun A speaker of Pashtu; a Pathan or Afghan.

qizzilbashis Descendants of the Persian colony set up in Kabul by Nadir Shah of Persia. Played a significant part in dynastic struggles of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

saddozai The clan of the Popolzai tribe to which Ahmad Shah belonged. The first dynasty of rulers of modern Afghanistan.

shinwaris A tribe of south-east Afghanistan.

sirdar A leader, commander, officer, chief or lord. From Persian-Hindu, 'sardar'.

sultan muhammad kehl see musahiban

tajiks An ethnic minority group migrated from former Russian Turkestan, ethnically and linguistically Persian, residing north of the Hindu Kush and around Kabul.

tarzi An important family in 20th-century Afghan politics; in particular Muhammad Tarzi, the modernist intellectual.

turcomen Minority ethnic group migrated from former Russian Turkestan, mainly resident in Afghan Turkestan.

uzbeg/uzbek A minority ethnic group migrated from former Russian Turkestan, mainly inhabiting the northern areas.

vakil An attorney, authorised representative. Of Arab origin, 'wakil'.

vizier A minister under a (Muslim) prince. Arabic origin.

wazir see vizier

yahya khel see musahiban

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