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Title: Nuristan  
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Subject: Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Massoud, List of ethnic groups, Taliban, Tourmaline, Hindu Kush, Badakhshan, Soviet war in Afghanistan, Kafiristan, Music of Pakistan
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This article is about the province in Afghanistan. For the province of Pakistan proposed to be named Nuristan Province, see Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The village of Aranas in Nuristan

Map of Afghanistan with Nuristan highlighted

Coordinates: 35°15′N 70°45′E / 35.25°N 70.75°E / 35.25; 70.75Coordinates: 35°15′N 70°45′E / 35.25°N 70.75°E / 35.25; 70.75

Country Afghanistan
Provincial center Parun
 • Governor Tamem Nuristani
Population [1]
 • Total 112,000
Time zone GMT+4:30
Main languages Kamkata-viri, Wasi-wari, Askunu, Kalasha-ala, Tregami, Pashayi,

Nuristān (Persian/Nuristani/Pashto: نورستان‎), also spelled Nurestān or Nooristan, is a region in Afghanistan embedded in the south of the Hindu Kush valleys. Its administrative center is Parun. It was formerly known as Kafiristan ("land of the unbelievers") until the inhabitants were converted to Islam in 1896, and thence the region has become known as Nuristan ("Land of Light").[2]

Today it is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, formed in 1989 and officially established in 2001 from the northern parts of Laghman Province and Kunar Province. Its administrative center, Parun, is located in the Parun valley. Before 2001 its administrative center was situated in Laghman province due to Mujahideen control over Nuristan province.

The primary occupations are agriculture, animal husbandry, and day labor. Located on the southern slopes of the Hindu Kush mountains in the northeastern part of the country, Nuristan spans the basins of the Alingâr, Pech, Landai Sin, and Kunar rivers. It is bordered on the north by Badakhshan Province, on the south by Laghman and Kunar provinces, on the west by Panjshir Province, and on the east by Pakistan.


Until the 1890s, the region was known as Kafiristan (Persian for "Land of the non-believers") because of its inhabitants: the Nuristani, an ethnically distinctive people (numbering about 60,000) who practiced animism, polytheism and shamanism.[2]

Advent of Islam

The region was conquered by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan in 1895–96 and the Nuristani were then converted to Islam.


British Missionaries wrote:


The region was renamed Nuristan, meaning Land of the Enlightened, a reflection of the "enlightening" of the pagan Nuristani by the "light-giving" of Islam.

Nuristan was once thought to have been a region through which Alexander the Great passed with a detachment of his army; thus the folk legend that the Nuristani people are direct descendants of Alexander (or "his generals").

Abdul Wakil Khan Nuristani is one of the most prominent figures in Nuristan's history. He fought against the British army and drove them out of the eastern provinces of Afghanistan. His monument stands in Chahrahi Dehmazung in the capital Kabul, Afghanistan. He is buried on the same plateau where King Amanullah Khan is buried.

Nuristan was the scene of some of the heaviest guerrilla fighting during the 1979–89 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. For a period of time during this era, the eastern area of Nuristan was a semi-autonomous region called the Islamic Revolutionary State of Afghanistan, or Dawlat. It was a Salafi Islamic state run by anti-Soviet warlord Mawlawi Afzal and was recognized by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The Dawlat dissolved under Taliban rule.[3]

Nuristan is one of the poorest and most remote provinces of Afghanistan. Few NGO's operate in Nuristan because of a poor security situation. Largely in response to a publicity campaign by Nuristan's second (and current) governor, Mohammad Tamim Nuristani, road construction projects were launched linking Nangarej to Mandol and Chapa Dara to Titan Dara.[4] Nuristani also worked on a direct road route to Laghman province, in order to reduce dependence on the road through restive Kunar province to the rest of Afghanistan. Other road projects were started aimed at improving the primitive road from Kamdesh to Bargamatal, and from Nangalam in Kunar Province to the provincial center at Parun. Another ambitious road project was started which was to connect Parun to the Landi Sin via Papruk. Due to lack of security and problems with contractors, these road projects have either been canceled or suspended.

Since Nuristan is a highly ethnically homogeneous province, there are few incidents of inter-ethnic violence. However, there are instances of disputes among inhabitants, some of which continue for decades. Nuristan has suffered from its inaccessibility and lack of infrastructure. The government presence is under-developed, even compared to neighboring provinces. Nuristan's formal educational sector is weak, with few professional teachers. Due to its proximity to Pakistan, many of the inhabitants are actively involved in trade and commerce across the border.


99.9% are Nuristani, 0.1% Gujar

Nuristan Province on [5] 90% speak the following Nuristani languages:[6]

The Pashayi language is spoken by 15% people.[6]

The main Nuristani tribes in the province are:

  • Katta (38%)
  • Kalasha (30%)
  • Ashkori or Wamayee (12%)
  • Kam (15%)
  • Parsoon (4%)


Districts of Nuristan Province
District Center Population[6] Area[7] Notes
Bargi Matal
Du Ab Est. 2004 formerly part of Nuristan District and Mangol District
Kamdesh Kamdish
Mandol Lost territory to Du Ab District in 2004
Nurgram Est. 2004 formerly part of Nuristan District and Wama District
Parun Est. 2004 formerly part of Wama District
Wama Lost territory to Parun District and Nurgram District in 2004


From 2005 Mohammad Tamim Nuristani was governor of Nuristan Province but was fired by Afghan president Hamid Karzai in July 2008. His replacement as governor, Hazrat Din Noor, was killed in a car crash on September 5, 2008.[8] He was replaced by Jamaluddin Badar. Mohammad Tamim Nuristani was reappointed governor in 2011.

Operation Enduring Freedom

A map from the Ministry of the Interior produced on August 5, 2009 showed the western region of Nuristan to be under “enemy control”. There have been numerous conflicts between the Taliban, at times in tandem with other militias, and coalition forces. On 6 April 2008 elements of the 3rd Special Forces Group led Afghan soldiers from the Commando Brigade into the Shok valley in an unsuccessful attempt to capture the leader of the insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. On July 13, 2008 approximately 200 Taliban guerrillas attacked a NATO position just south of Nuristan, near the village of Wanat in the Waygal District, killing 9 US soldiers.[9] In the following year, in early October, more than 350 Taliban fighters backed by members of the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin and other militia groups fought US soldiers and Afghan police in the Battle of Kamdesh at Camp Keating in Nuristan. The base was nearly overrun; more than 100 Taliban fighters, eight US soldiers, and seven Afghan security officers were killed during the fighting.[10][11][12][13] Four days after the battle, in early October 2009, U.S. forces withdrew from their four main bases in Nuristan, as part of a plan by General Stanley McChrystal to pull troops out of small outposts and relocate them closer to cities.[14] The U.S. has pulled out from some areas in the past, but never from all four main bases.[15] A month after the U.S. pullout the Taliban was governing openly in Nuristan.[16] In June of 2012, US Forces moved back into Nuristan Province.

In popular culture

  • Nuristan is the subject of the book A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by the British travel writer Eric Newby.
  • Nuristan was the location of three of the missions in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin.
  • Rudyard Kipling's short story The Man Who Would Be King and the film inspired by it are set in pre-Islamic Nuristan.

See also


  • Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1977): An Historical Guide to Afghanistan. 1st Edition: 1970. 2nd Edition. Revised and Enlarged. Afghan Tourist Organization. LINK
  • Richard F. Strand. (1997–present) Richard Strand's Nuristan Site LINK. The most accurate and comprehensive source on Nuristan, by the world's leading scholar on the languages and ethnic groups of Nuristan.
  • M. Klimburg. NURISTAN in Encyclopedia Iranica. LINK

External sources

  • Linguistics and ethnography of Nuristân and neighboring regions, collected and analyzed by Richard F. Strand
  • University of Montana presentation on Nuristan
  1. redirect Template:Districts of Afghanistanml:നൂറിസ്ഥാന്‍
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