Wakhi people

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Yakovlev Mirza.jpg
Portrait of a Wakhi man
Total population
Est. 70,000-100,000
Regions with significant populations
Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan
Islam (Ismaili Shia), Ethnic religion

The Wakhi people, or Khik (called Gujali in Gojal, Pakistan), are an ethnic group in the Wakhan of today's Badakhshan region located in northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan. They also live in adjacent areas of Tajikistan, China's Xinjiang and in Pakistan, both in the Chitral District and in Gojal).[1][2] They speak the Wakhi language.

Population and demographics[edit]

The Wakhan Corridor under light snow, with a Wakhi man collecting firewood

A very rough estimate puts the population of Wakhis between 70,000-100,000,[3][4] the population is divided among four different countries: Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Xinjiang of China. Wakhi people from Badakhshan and Xinjiang region, migrated south due to oppression by local Sunni Muslim rulers and officials and formed the Wakhi settlements present today in north-western Pakistan and north eastern Afghanistan. This helped them guard the border from Afghans and Chinese incursions.[5]

In China, the Wakhi people, together with the Sarikoli people, are officially recognized as "Tajiks", with ethnic-minority autonomous status; in Afghanistan, they are officially called "Pamiris". In Tajikistan, the Wakhi are recognized by the state as "Tajiks", but they still self-identify as "Pamiris"; in Pakistan, they refer to themselves as "Pamiris" or "Gujali".

The major religion of Wakhis is Nizari Ismaili Shia Islam, being followers of the Aga Khan, as their ethnic religion.[4][6]


The Wakhi are primarily nomadic depending on their herds of yaks and horses,[7] they often have two residences one for winter and one for summer. Their houses are built of stone and sod.[7]

Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association[edit]

In Pakistan, the central organization of Wakhis is the Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WCA), an organization that is working with the Pakistani Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Lok Virsa Pakistan. The WCA aims to preserve the Wakhi language and culture and to record its poetry and music, the WCA has arranged more than twenty programmes since 1984, including cultural shows, musical nights, large-scale musical festivals with the collaboration of Lok Virsa Pakistan, Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP), and Pakistan Television. In 2000, the WCA won a "Best Programme" organizer award in the Silk Road Festival from the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.

Radio Pakistan's Gilgit station broadcasts the Wakhi radio programme "Sadoyah Boom-e Dunyo" (the Voice of the Roof of the World).

A computerized codification of Wakhi script has been released, it is hoped that this will help researchers record and document Wakhi poetry, literature and history.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Distribution of Wakhi Ethnic Group". Gojal.net. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. 
  2. ^ Phillips, David J. (2001) Peoples on the Move: introducing the nomads of the world Piquant, Carlisle, p. 271, ISBN 1-903689-05-8
  3. ^ Coates, Ken (2004). A global history of indigenous peoples: Struggle and survival. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 1403939292
  4. ^ a b West, Barbara (2008). Encyclopedia of the peoples of asia and oceania. Facts on File, ISBN 0816071098
  5. ^ Shafiq, Nadeem. "The Wakhi Community Settlements in Northern Pakistan". Journal of Political Studies: 1. The major Wakhi Community settlements in Pakistan are found in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan areas. Their ancestors fled to these regions due to a couple of reasons including wars, heavy taxation and oppression by the local rulers and Afghan officials. 
  6. ^ Shahrani, M. Nazif Mohib (2002) The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan University of Washington Press, Seattle, p. 216, ISBN 0-295-98262-4
  7. ^ a b "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: People and Tribes". Government of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Archived from the original on 16 March 2015. 


  • Felmy, Sabine (1996) The Voice of the Nightingale: A Personal Account of the Wakhi Culture in Hunza Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-577599-6.
  • Shahrani, M. Nazif. (1979) The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War University of Washington Press, Seattle, ISBN 0-295-95669-0; 1st paperback edition with new preface and epilogue (2002), ISBN 0-295-98262-4.

External links[edit]