Group of Pārsīwans in western Afghanistan, Herat Province, in 1878–80.
Group of Pārsīwans in western Afghanistan, Herat Province, in 1878–80.
Afghan soldiers from Herat in 1879 wearing the telpek, which was a part of their uniform.
Afghan soldiers from Herat in 1879 wearing the telpek, which was a part of their uniform.

Fārsīwān (Pashto/Persian: فارسیوان or its regional forms: Pārsīwān or Pārsībān,[1] "Persian speaker") is a contemporary designation for Persian speakers in Afghanistan and its diaspora elsewhere. More specifically, it was originally used to refer to a distinct group of farmers in Afghanistan[2][3][4][5] and urban dwellers. In Afghanistan, original Farsiwans are found predominantly in Herat and Farah provinces. They are roughly the same as the Persians of eastern Iran.[6] The term excludes the Hazāra and Aymāq tribes, who also speak dialects of Persian (Hazaragi and Aimaq).[7]

The Farsiwan are often mistakenly referred to as Tajiks.[1][8] Although the term was originally coined with the Persian lexical root (Pārsībān), the suffix has been transformed into a Pashto form (-wān) and is usually used by the Pashtuns to designate both the Tajiks and the Farsiwans. The ethnographer Michael Izady does not make a Tajik-specific distinction and defines Parsiwans as "urbanites of any ethnic background who speak only Persian and have lost all their ethnic and tribal affiliations."[9] In his 2013 study, he found that 4.2% of Afghanistan's population were Parsiwans and that the group were historically the most likely ethnic group to be employed in the government as bureaucrats and that "most of what people in the West know about Afghanistan has come to them through these three Persian-speaking minorities [Tajiks, Kizilbash and Parsiwans]."[9]


Like the Persians of Iran, the Farsiwan are often distinguished from Tajiks by their adherence to Shia Islam as opposed to the Sunni sect favored by the majority of Tajiks. However, there are also minor linguistic differences especially among the rural Farsiwan. The Farsiwan sometimes speak a dialect more akin to the Darī dialects of the Persian language, for example the dialect of Kabul,[10][11] as opposed to the standard Tehrānī dialect of Iran. However, most of the Fārsīwān speak the Khorasani dialect, native to the Afghanistan–Iran border region, namely Herāt and Farāh, as well as the Iranian provinces of Khorasan. Unlike the Hazara, who are also Persian-speaking and Shia, the Farsiwan do not show any, or very limited, traces of Turkic and Mongol ancestry.[12] Although the Qizilbash of Iran and Afghanistan are also Persian-speaking Shias, they are usually regarded as a separate group from the Farsiwan.[13]

Some confusion arises because an alternative name used locally for the Fārsīwān (as well as for the Tājiks in general) is Dehgān, meaning "village settlers", in the sense of "urban". The term is used in contrast to "nomadic".[14]

Geographic distribution

There are approximately 1.5 million Farsiwans in Afghanistan, mainly in the provinces of Herat, Farah[15] Ghor, and Mazar-i-Sharif. They are also the main inhabitants of the city of Herāt.[16] Smaller populations can be found in Kabul, Kandahar and Ghazni.[14][17] Due to the large number of refugees from Afghanistan, significant Farsiwan communities nowadays also exist in Iran (mostly in Mashhad and Tehran).

See also


  1. ^ a b The Encyc. Iranica makes clear in the article on Afghanistan — Ethnography that "The term Farsiwan also has the regional forms Parsiwan and Parsiban. In religion, they are Imami Shia. In literature, they are often mistakenly referred to as Tajik." Dupree, Louis (1982) "Afghanistan: (iv.) Ethnography", in Encyclopædia Iranica Online Edition 2006.
  2. ^ Maloney, Clarence (1978) Language and Civilization Change in South Asia E.J. Brill, Leiden, ISBN 90-04-05741-2, on page 131.
  3. ^ Hanifi, Mohammed Jamil (1976) Historical and Cultural Dictionary of Afghanistan Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, N.J., ISBN 0-8108-0892-7, on page 36
  4. ^ ""Afghanistan: Historical political overview" FMO Research Guide". Archived from the original on 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
  5. ^ Robson, Barbara and Lipson, Juliene (2002) "Chapter 5(B)- The People: The Tajiks and Other Dari-Speaking Groups" Archived January 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine The Afghans - their history and culture Cultural Orientation Resource Center, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C., OCLC 56081073
  6. ^ H. F. Schurmann, The Mongols of Afghanistan: an Ethnography of the Moghols and Related Peoples of Afghanistan. The Hague: Mouton, 1962: [1]; p. 75: "... the Tajiks of Western Afghanistan [are] roughly the same as the Khûrâsânî Persians on the other side of the line ..."
  7. ^ M. Longworth Dames; G. Morgenstierne; R. Ghirshman (1999). "AFGHĀNISTĀN". Encyclopaedia of Islam (CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 ed.). Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV.
  8. ^ Emadi, Hafizullah (2005) Culture And Customs Of Afghanistan Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., ISBN 0-313-33089-1, on page 11 says: "Farsiwan are a small group of people who reside in southern and western towns and villages in Herat. They are sometimes erroneously referred to as Tajiks."
  9. ^ a b Ethnic map of Afghanistan,
  10. ^ Ch. M. Kieffer, "Afghanistan v. - Languages of Afghanistan", in Encyclopaedia Iranica, printed version, p. 507 Archived 2009-04-14 at the Wayback Machine: "[...] 'Dari' is a term long recommended by Afghan authorities to designate Afghan Persian in contrast to Iranian Persian; a written language common to all educated Afghanis, Dari must not be confused with Kaboli, the dialect of Kabul [...] that is more or less understood by more than 80% of the non-Persian speaking population [...]"
  11. ^ E. H. Glassman, “Conversational Dari: An Introductory Course in Dari (= Farsi = Persian) as Spoken in Afghanistan” (revised edition of “Conversational Kabuli Dari,” with the assistance of M. Taher Porjosh), Kabul (The Language and Orientation Committee, International Afghan Mission, P.O. Box 625), 1970-72.
  12. ^ Library of Congress Country Studies - Afghanistan - Farsiwan (LINK)
  13. ^ Savory, Roger M. (1965) "The consolidation of Safawid power in Persia" In Savory, Roger M. (1987) Studies on the History of Ṣafawid Iran Variorum Reprints, London, ISBN 0-86078-204-2, originally published in Der Islam no. 41 (October 1965) pp. 71-94
  14. ^ a b M. Longworth Dames, G. Morgenstierne, R. Ghirshman, "Afghānistān", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Online Edition
  15. ^ Adamec, Ludwig W. (1997) Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, ISBN 0-585-21026-8, on page 106
  16. ^ P. English, "Cities In The Middle East", e.d. L. Brown, Princeton University, USA 1973
  17. ^ L. Dupree, "Afghanistan: (iv.) Ethnography", in Encyclopædia Iranica Online Edition 2006