Aimaq in Afghanistan

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Subgroups: 6

Subgroup Name Population
Aimaq, Taimani 494,000
Aimaq, Char 249,000
Aimaq, Firozkohi 247,000
Aimaq, Hazara 192,000
Aimaq, Timuri 123,000
Aimaq, Jamshidi 109,000

Introduction / History

From ancient times, Afghanistan has been the crossroads of Asia, inviting both trade and invasion. The region has been trampled by armies of infamous conquerors; Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane as well as recent ones vying for British, Russian and Iranian interests. At the center of that cross - long before borders defined the convergence of Iran, Russia and Afghanistan - was Iran's Khorasan Province that included part of modern Afghanistan. The traditional home of the ethnically mixed Aimaq tribes stretched from northeastern Iran into western and central Afghanistan, where they still reside. A small group also lives in Tajikistan and others are refugees in Iran.

Not an ethnically distinct people group, the larger tribal society is the Char Aimaq, first known as the chahar (four) Eimaks (Mongolian for tribes), a designation recognizing its make-up of four major tribes: Taimani, Firozkohi, Timuri and Jamshidi. These four are further comprised of some 250 sub-tribes. Never politically united, tribal alliances joined them for protection against invaders. Aimaq are known as formidable warriors. For such a large population, little has been recorded about them, leaving them relatively obscure.

Once nomadic peoples, they were forced by cycles of severe drought and war into semi-nomadic lives, traveling seasonally to graze decimated herds and/or subsisting as sedentary farmers and carpet weavers in mud-brick villages.

Aimaq live principally in Badghis, Ghor and Herat Provinces where agriculture and animal husbandry provide an economic base. Nearby, the Aimaq "capital", Chaghcharan, and the ancient city of Herat lend economic, political and spiritual influence.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Well-watered land produces rice, cotton, grapes, wheat, and melons. Most Aimaq no longer possess sizable herds (by which wealth is counted), but they might graze sheep year-round in this climate. Surplus produce brings income in Herat markets as do high-quality Herat Baloch rugs.

Certain characteristics apply to most Aimaq subgroups. Few speak their traditional languages. The dialects they speak today resemble Dari (Afghan eastern Farsi) mixed with words of Mongolian and Turkic origin. Researchers are attempting to determine if the Aimaq may be speaking Dari that is influenced by individual manners of speaking within their villages. They speak Dari in schools.

The staple food, eaten at every meal, is thick, whole wheat bread baked in mud ovens. Rice, chickpeas, potatoes, and summer garden vegetables accompany chicken, eggs or lamb (for guests or celebrations). They drink dugh, a beverage made with yogurt, salt, pepper and water.

Some Aimaq tribes endure severe winters and sparse rainfall regularly interrupted by drought. Semi-nomadic and poor Aimaq tribes grow dry crops like wheat, melons and fodder to feed animals that must be stabled in winter.

Women enhance drab lives by wearing brightly colored clothes sewn with glittering sequins over white or colored tumbons (pants). Outside their homes, women modestly wear the chadder namoz, a dark head-to-toe covering, and many still don a burka when in Herat. Men are seen in turbans or round caps with rough-textured cloaks draped around their shoulders.

Based on clan and extended family, the Aimaq are led by men and trace ancestors through male lines. Even so, Aimaq women exercise unusual privileges compared to other rural Afghan people groups in that they meet with the men and freely voice opinions, even with strangers present. Marriage is the most important life event celebrated among the Aimaq. They celebrate weddings with much dancing to rhythms beaten on flat drums. By tradition, parents arrange marriages in early childhood. Marriage takes place when a girl is 13 or 14, usually to a blood relative slightly older, 16-20, or as a second wife to a much older man in his 40s. Uniquely among the Taimani and Firozhoki, girls marry at age 18 and may reject a father's choice of husband. Traditionally, a bride moves immediately into the home of her husband's family following the wedding rites. There are unusual instances, however, of a groom moving into his future in-law's compound for two or more years of service before they perform the marriage ceremony.

Aimaq tribal customs remain stronger than Afghan nationalism, due in part to long-enjoyed independence and geographical distance from the central government in Kabul. Tribal law vested in village leaders usually prevails over government authority and even some Islamic rules.

What Are Their Beliefs?

As with the great majority of Afghans, Hanafi Sunni Islam is the belief system among the Aimaq tribes. They are not averse to resorting to pre-Islamic practices if they face drought or a poor crop. In such times, virgins might perform pre-Islamic dances begging for rainfall.

Sunni Islam is an important part of the Aimaq identity, but there are other things they identify with, perhaps even more. Their subtribes, clans and extended families are very important to them. For this reason, those who take them the gospel will need to make inroads into each of these splintered communities.

What Are Their Needs?

All Aimaq tribes need enough rain for their crops and herds to flourish. For them to flourish spiritually, they need a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is nearly unknown among them.

Prayer Points

Pray for an abundant crop for each Aimaq tribe this year as a testimony of God's power and love.

Pray for the gospel to penetrate each Aimaq tribe, blessing them in every way.

Pray for Holy Spirit anointed workers to go to them, taking Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Pray for dreams and visions of Jesus to come to Aimaq elders, opening their communities to the only Savior.

Scripture Prayers for the Aimaq in Afghanistan.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Aimaq
People Name in Country Aimaq
Pronunciation EYE-mahk
Alternate Names Char Aimaq
Population this Country 1,777,000
Population all Countries 2,310,000
Total Countries 5
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 36
People ID 21454
ROP3 Code 118270
ROP25 Code 300142
ROP25 Name Aimaq
Affinity Bloc Persian-Median
People Cluster Persian
People Group Aimaq
Ethnic Code CNT24z
Total Subgroups 6
  Aimaq, Taimani 494,000
  Aimaq, Char 249,000
  Aimaq, Firozkohi 247,000
  Aimaq, Hazara 192,000
  Aimaq, Timuri 123,000
  Aimaq, Jamshidi 109,000
Country Afghanistan
Region Asia, Central
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 10  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Badghis, Ghowr, and Herat provinces; Farah and Faryab provinces: smaller border areas; west of Hazara.   Source:  Ethnologue 2018
Country Afghanistan
Region Asia, Central
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 10  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Badghis, Ghowr, and Herat provinces; Farah and Faryab provinces: smaller border areas; west of Hazara..   Source:  Ethnologue 2018
Map of Aimaq in Afghanistan Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
100.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Aimaq (1,777,000 speakers)
Language Code aiq   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Aimaq (1,777,000 speakers)
Language Code aiq   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Aimaq

Primary Language:  Aimaq

Bible Translation Status:  Unspecified

Resource Type Resource Name Source
Film / Video Video / Animation Create International
Photo Source Tomas Balkus - Flickr  Creative Commons 
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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