The Qizilbash of Mediterranean sub-stock speak Dari, are Imami Shi'a, andscattered throughout Afghanistan, primarily in urban centers. There are perhaps50,000 Qizilbash living in Afghanistan although it is difficult to say for someclaim to be Sunni Tajik since Shia Islam permits the practice of taqiyaor dissimulation to avoid religious discrimination. The Qizilbash form one ofthe more literate groups in Afghanistan; they hold important administrative andprofessional positions.
The Qizilbash are traditionally considered to be the descendants of PersianShia mercenaries and administrators left behind by the Safavid Emperor NadirShah Afshar (1736-47) to govern the Afghan provinces. Under Ahmad Shah Durrani,who served in Nadir Shah's bodyguard, and his successors, the Qizilbash acquiredpower and influence at court out of proportion to their numbers. This createdresentment among the dominant Pushtun which hardened over the years, especiallyafter the Qizilbash openly allied themselves with the British during the FirstAnglo-Afghan War (1838-1842). Amir Abdur Rahman accused the Qizilbash of beingpartisan to the enemy during his campaigns against the Shi'a Hazara in1891-1893, declared them enemies of the state, confiscated their property andpersecuted them.
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