Samangan - Program for Culture and Conflict Studies

Nested Applications
Samangan Data - Content

Samangan Province

Governor: Mohammad Hashem Zari

Population Estimate: 394,500

Area in Square Kilometers: 11,262 (4,348 square miles)

Capital: Aybak

Districts: Aybak , Dara-i-Suf,  Hazrati Sultan, Khuram Wa Sarbagh, Ruyi Du Ab.

Ethnic Groups: 30% Uzbek, 65% Tajik, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Arabs, Tatars.1

Religious Groups: Sunni Muslims, Shi'a Muslims

Occupation of Population: 36% Agriculture, 15% Livestock, 17% Trade and Services, 28% Non-Farm Labor, and some Manufacturing and Industry, Carpet Making, and Opium.2

Crops/Livestock: Cattle (meat and traction), Doubled Mixed Cropping of Rice, Wheat and Cotton in rotation with Fodder, Legumes, Potato and Vegetable Crops, also Pistachios, Water Melon, Carrots, Onion, Grapes, Tomatoes, Okra, Farm Forestry, and Cottage Fruit Production; Cattle, Oxen, Horses, Donkey, Camel, Goats, Sheep, Poultry.3

Literacy Rate: 5%, with illiterate women equalling 75,000.4 71,248 students are enrolled in schools, which is 1.26% of total number of students in Afghanistan.5

Total # of Educational Institutions: 1826

Primary Schools: 137

Lower Secondary Schools: 29

Higher Secondary Schools: 16

Islamic: 3

Tech/Vocational: 1

Active NGOs in the Province: ADRA, AMI, PWJ, BRAC Bangladesh, Solidarity, ARMP, Save the Children USA.

Transportation: The transport infrastructure in Samangan is not very well developed, with 28.3% of roads in the province able to take car traffic in all seasons, and 41.2% able to take car traffic in some seasons. In 28.4% of the province there are no roads at all. Distance from Aybak to Kabul= 312 km, to Pul-i-Khurmi= 82 km, to Tashkurghan= 60 km, and to Mzari-Sharif= 120 km.7

Estimated Population with Access to Electricity: 6% of households.8

Hospitals: 2 in Aybak and Dar-i-Souf.9

Clinics: 13

Sources/Availibility of Drinking Water: Small Rivers, Water Harvesting Schemes; 12.2% of the population use safe drinking water sources (i.e. pipes, tap, well, spring, rain water).10

Topographical Features: Samangan is nearly half mountainous terrain, (58.8% mountainous and 21.4% semi mountainous)  with only a small percentage of flat land (-20%).11

Maps - Thumbnail
Maps Thumbnail
Provincial Profile - Thumbnail
Provinical Profile Thumbnail
UNHCR Fact Sheet - Thumbnail
UNHCR Facts Thumbnail
Refugee Research - Thumbnail
Refugee Review Tribunal Thumbnail
Provincial Profile - Thumbnail
Provincial Profile Thumbnail
Provincial Survey - Thumbnail
Provincial Survey Thumbnail
Feroz District Development - Thumbnail
Freoz District Development Thumbnail
Dari Sug District Development - Thumbnail
Dari Suf District Development Thumbnail
Samangan - Content

Samangan Provincial Review

Samangan Province is located in northern Afghanistan and shares provincial borders with Balkh, Sar-i-Pul, Kunduz, Baghlan and Bamyan. With over 325,000 residents, Samangan like most of Afghanistan is ethnically diverse with Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazara, Tartars, Turkomen and even a minority population of Arabs living throughout the province. Most of the population makes a living through agricultural that is rain-fed reliant, animal husbandry and small scale business and industries like carpet-making.

The Governor of Samangan is Mohammad Hashem Zari. Born in Faryab province in 1953, Zari attended Kabul University and has worked in the Afghan Ministry of Commerce. Between 1982 and 1994, Zari was under pursuit by the National Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan and fled to Pakistan and parts of Turkey. He returned to Afghanistan in 1994, working in tribal affairs, as the governor of Jawzjan privince, and as a Presidential Advisor. He was appointed to be the governor of Samangan in June 2015 by Ashraf Ghani.19  

Taliban Shadow Governor: Jalaluddin is the province's most recently known shadow governor. Notably, Jalaluddin and a group of insurgents surrendered to local police forces and sought to join the Afghan peace process in October 2015.20


Samangan Tribal Map


Human Terrain


The Uzbek people of Afghanistan are found north of the Hindu Kush in Afghan Turkistan. In Afghanistan, they number approximately 1.6 million. The presence of the Uzbek people in this region was facilitated by the frequent invasion of Central Asian Turks throughout history. Uzbeks are the most populous Turkish group in Afghanistan and are recognizable by their broad, flat faces and lighter skin when compared to the Pashtuns. They are historically farmers and stockmen, breeding the karakul sheep and an excellent type of Turkman horse. Their kinsmen reside in the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan. Many Uzbeks fled into northern Afghanistan in the 1920s to escape the suppression when the Soviet government was trying to stamp out their customs and Moslem religion.12 Uzbek militias represent one piece of a perennially complicated security puzzle within Northern Afghanistan.


Tajiks are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan after the Pashtuns. The Tajiks in Afghanistan tend to live in settled communities as opposed to a nomadic lifestyle. Pashtuns refer to them as Farsiwan, or speakers of Farsi, the lingua franca of Afghanistan (50% of Afghanistan speaks Farsi, as opposed to only 35% for Pashtu). Between the Tajiks and Pashtuns there has been significant animosity in recent years. Forming the backbone of the Northern Alliance, they also have a base in the nation of Tajikistan. They held out fiercely against the Taliban. Most Tajik are Sunni Muslims, but a few are Shi’a. Tajiks made up the majority of the Northern Alliance, both in terms of membership and leadership. Tribal ties have largely broken down among the Tajiks; therefore, social organization is defined primarily by geography. Despite their lack of cohesiveness the Tajiks are often brought together due to the perceived common threat posed by the Pashtuns.13 Currently, Tajik warlords vie for control of illicit opium and arms transport with competing Uzbek, and Ismaili militias throughout the Northern provinces. View the Tajik Tribal Tree


Turkmen are another Sunni Turkic-speaking group whose language has close affinities with modern Turkish. They are of aquiline Mongoloid stock. The Afghan Turkmen population in the 1990s was estimated at around 200,000. Turkmen also reside north of the Amu Darya in Turkmenistan. The original Turkmen groups came from east of the Caspian Sea into northwestern Afghanistan at various periods, particularly after the end of the nineteenth century when the Russians moved into their territory. They established settlements from Balkh Province to Herat Province, where they are now concentrated; smaller groups settled in the northwest portions of Kunduz Province. Others came in considerable numbers as a result of the failure of the Basmachi revolts against the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. Turkmen tribes, of which there are twelve major groups in Afghanistan, base their structure on genealogies traced through the male line. Senior members wield considerable authority. Formerly a nomadic and warlike people feared for their lightening raids on caravans, Turkmen in Afghanistan are farmer-herdsmen and important contributors to the economy. They brought karakul sheep to Afghanistan and are also renowned makers of carpets, which, with karakul pelts, are major hard currency export commodities. Turkmen jewelry is also highly prized.


As a distinct minority ethnic and religious group within the population of Afghanistan; they have often been the target of discriminatory and violent repression. Most likely descended from the Mongols of Genghis Khan, (there is also a strong argument that they are of Eastern Turkic origin), the Hazara are noticeably different in physical appearance when compared to the Pashtun majority. In terms of religion, the vast majority of the Hazara are of the Shia Muslim faith, again in contrast to the Pashtuns who are Sunni Muslim. Due to these differences, “the Hazara have experienced discrimination at the hands of the Pashtun-dominated government throughout the history of modern Afghanistan."14 As the traditional underclass of Afghan society, Hazara were exploited and made to work as servants and laborers. As a result, there tends to be an anti-government and anti-Pashtun bias among the Hazara. In present day Afghanistan, the Hazara are divided geographically into two main groups: the Hazarajat Hazara and those who live outside the Hazarajat. The Hazarajat is located in the Hindu Kush Mountains in central Afghanistan and is “centered on Bamiyan province and include[s] areas of Ghor, Uruzgan, Wardak, and Ghazni province."15 The Hazara living outside of the Hazarajat live in and around Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Samangan province. Due to atrocities committed against them by the Taliban, the Hazara by and large are opposed to the Taliban. In August 1998, the Taliban massacred approximately 4,000 Hazara in Mazara-e Sharif; this massacre was followed by another the next month when the Taliban killed another 500 Hazara in Bamiyan. The Hezb-e Wahdat (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan) is an umbrella political organization which commands the support of large numbers of Hazara. The Hazara are also often at odds with the Kuchi population within the Hazarajat.


The Tatars, a group of Turkic people most of them live in Republic of Tatarstan of the Russian Federation, around the Volga River in Russia. Large ethnic Diasporas are Central Asian and Caucasus of the former Soviet Union, Turkey and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, many of the Tatars settled after either trying to escape the Russians, or as traders. Majority are Sunni Muslims.


Political Parties

Jumbish-i-Milli Islami Afghanistan (Islamic Movement of Afghanistan)

General Abdul Rashid Dostum controls  a political party called Jumbish-i-Milli Islami (National Islamic Movement) which is a core of Jabhe-ye-Motahed-e-Milli. He claims to have a strong support in up to eight provinces in the north of the country, including Samanagn province, predominantly populated by ethnic Uzbeks.  Dostum’s major power base is in Uzbek enclaves in the northern provinces of Jowzjan, Balkh, Faryab, and Samangan. Dostum’s headquarters is located in Jowzjan’s capital, Shiberghan. In the past, Dostum held various official positions (deputy defense minister, a special adviser on security and military affairs, President Karzai's representative in the north) until the relations between President Karzi and General Dostum deteriorated.

Jabhe-ye-Motahed-e-Melli (the United National Front)

The largest opposition block built by General Dostum and aimed against President Karzai. Burhanuddin Rabbani and the late Ahmad Shah Massoud’s closest advisers joined Dostum in his demands to change the presidential system into parliamentary, to negotiate with armed groups and to recognize the Durand line. On August 27 of 2008 the Front in a statement urged the neighboring countries, members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, and members of NATO alliance to hold a crisis meeting on Afghanistan.

Hezb-e Wahdat-e Eslami-ye Afghanistan (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan)

Hezb-e Wahdat-e Eslami-ye Afghanistan began as a Shi’a umbrella party led by Abdul Ali Mazari.  Abdul Ali Mazari died under mysterious circumstances while in custody of the Taliban.  During the Soviet invasion the party received support from Iran.  The party “remains the primary political force among the Hazara.”   During the period of Taliban rule, the party held on to the Hazarajat against the attempted blockade by the Taliban.  It is currently led by Mohammad Karim Khalili, who is currently the Second Vice President to Hamid Karzai.  For a time Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq was the military leader of the party under the political leadership of Khalili.  Mohaqeq and Khalili had a falling out, however, over Mohaqeq’s decision to run for president without the official approval of the party.  Subsequently, Mohaqeq split away and formed his own party, Hezb-e Wahdat-e Eslami-ye Mardom-e Afghanistan.  The original Wahdat party has begun to lose influence and support among the Hazara, in part because of the pull of Mohaqeq’s new party and likely because Khalili’s position as Second Vice President distracts from his efforts to look after the needs of the Hazara.

Jamiat-e Islami (Islamic Society of Afghanistan)

Led by Bahadruddin Rabbani, Jamiat-e-Islami became the dominant political resistance party in northeastern Afghanistan. In 1980, Jamiat was the second most popular resistance front and enjoyed strong support from the Tajik communities of Badakshan, the Panjshir Valley and Herat Province in the west.    Ahmad Massoud, Ismail Khan, Mullah Naqibullah and Zabibullah,  all influential Jamiat military commanders, would help galvanize Jamiat into one of the most formidable resistance movements of the Soviet-Afghan war. The failure of the Soviet Army to pacify the Panjshir Valley despite seven massive military offensives against the region between 1980 and 1984 solidified Ahmad Shah as a legendary commander and helped preserve popular support for Jamiat throughout the region. In general, Jamiat is considered to be a moderate Islamist movement that drew recruits from those educated in government schools (both religious and secular) and among the ulema (in the north) and the naqshbandi Sufi order found throughout the north. Although multiple ethnic groups including Pashtuns formed comprised Jamiat, it is most commonly referred to be dominated by Tajiks from the northeast.

Supervisory Council of the North (SCN)

In 1984, top resistance commanders operating the northern provinces of Takhar, Badakhshan, Balkh and Kunduz formed a council under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Massoud.  The Supervisory Council of the North became an integrated military unit comprised of both political and security components and posed the greatest threat to the communist occupation of Afghanistan in the north. Although many of the SCN leaders were affiliates of Rabbani’s Jamiat-e-Islami, the SCN established deep ties with local communities and ran its affairs independently from the Jamiat leadership based in Pakistan.  Many former SCN commanders and fighters continue to exert influence and power at various levels throughout the Northern provinces.

Shuria-e Nazar

The party was founded by Ahmed Shah Masood in an effort to offset the power of Pashtun ethnic majority in Afghanistan.  The Shuria-e-Nezar group was a key player in the Afghan Civil war that followed the anti-Soviet Jihad.  After the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, this same group re-emerged in Afghan politics and has continued to seek power.

Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HiG)

Mujahideen party active since the Soviet invasion; led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. HiG was famous for its shifting loyalties, and was the favorite party of Pakistan’s ISI until the rise of the Taliban. Former members continue to wield considerable influence. Thus far, HiG has been actively opposed to US-led and Afghan national forces. Hekmatyar is a Kharoti Ghilzai and, therefore, less influential than the much more respected and powerful Khugianis, such as Haji Din Mohammad and Anwarul Haq Mohammad.


General Level of Security

The security situation in the province is stable. The region, a home of the former Northern Alliance, with little Pashtu population, has opposed the Taliban in the past and communities continue to resist Taliban infiltration. In May 2010, the Taliban Shadow Governor for Samangan, Mullah Gulistan, also known as “Akhundak” and “Shamsur Rahman,” was captured during a police operation. He is allegedly linked to the Haqqani Network and has carried out attacks in Ghazni province before being appointed to Samangan. While operating in Samangan, Mullah Gulistan orchestrated the attack that killed the Dehna Ghori district mayor and his son. The small but present Taliban cadres in Samangan are mainly operating within the provincial capital of Aymak. These groups occasionally launch small scale attacks, such as the police ambush north of the city on July 8, 2009 and a suicide attack in Aymak that left one person injured on April 13, 2009.

The larger threat to the province comes from natural disasters which is chiefly a spell of floods and landslides caused by heavy rains and droughts. In late May nearly 200 families were displaced in the Hazrat Sultan district. The locals are vulnerable to these floods occurring during spring months which destroy homes and causes humanitarian problems for population and authorities.  According to the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority, in 2007, flash floods wiped out hundreds of homes and killed approximately 400 people.

Another great challenge for the province is extreme hunger, unemployment and extreme poverty. Despite generally high level of poverty in the country, Samangan province is among top most impoverished regions.  According to Ghulam Sakhi, the former deputy of Samangan province, five thousand families have no food and need urgent help. Inability of the government to solve these socio-economic problems undermines the government’s credibility which eventually may cause pro-Taliban sentiments among locals.


Back to Northern Afghanistan

References - Menu

1 According to UNFPA, Afghanistan has never had a complete census of its population. The last attempt to conduct a national population census was in 1979 and that operation had to be abandoned before enumeration was completed due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation. The census is planned for 2010.

2 NRVA, 2005.

3 Regional Rural Economic Regeneration Strategies (RRERS), Provincial Profile: SAMANGAN. Afghanistan investment Support Agency, at Link.

4 Samangan Key Indicators, UNICEF, at Link.

5 Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ministry of Education: School Survey Summary Report, 2007, at Link.

7 Ibid.

8 Source: UNAMA. NSP: National Solidarity program.

9 Source: CSO (Analysis by AIRD)

10 MRRD, NRVA Survey Results: Access to Electricity Report, 2005, at Link.

11 World Health Organization, at Link.

12 Samangan Key Indicators, UNICEF, at Link.

13 The Afghan Network: Ethnic Group Profiles, The Turkish Groups of Afghanistan, at Link.

14 2007 CIA World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, at Link.

15 US State Department Afghanistan Culture and Ethnic Studies, 2004.

16 US State Department Afghanistan Culture and Ethnic Studies, 2004.

17 World Culture Encyclopedia: Africa/Middle East, Pashai, at Link.

18 Afghan Meli Tolena: US and the Warlords in Afghanistan, at Link.

19 Official Samangan Governor Office, at Link.

20 Tolo News, at Link.

CCS disclaimer
Material contained herein is made available for the purpose of peer review and discussion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.  Most of the content available on this website was updated as of March 2017.