Wakhi People
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Wakhi People

Wakhi people
A Wakhi girl from the village of Zood Khun, Chapursan Valley, Pakistan
Total population
~ 100,000-120,000[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, China
Russian, Chinese, Tajik, Pashto, Urdu, Kashmiri
Islam (Ismaili Shia)
Yakovlev Mirza.jpg

The Wakhi people (Wakhi: ; Chinese? or , both pronounced "Wahan", Russian: ?) or the Khik (),[3] are an Iranian ethnic group living in adjacent, remote regions of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and China. They are predominantly centered in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor, the northernmost part of Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan, the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan and the southwestern region of China's Xinjiang.[4] They are native speakers of Wakhi, an Indo-European language of the Iranian branch.


The Wakhi people refer to themselves as Khik and to their language as Khik zik.[3] The exonym Wakh?, which is given to them by their neighbors, is based on Wux?, the local name of the region of Wakhan, deriving from *Wax?u, the old name of the Oxus River (Amu Darya), which is a major river formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.[1]


The Wakhan Corridor under light snow, with a Wakhi man collecting firewood.
Wakhi musicians in Gulmit, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

Ethnic Wakhi-speakers have a total population of about 50,000-58,000.[1][2] The population is divided between four countries: Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and China's Xinjiang. The Wakhi people have been settlers of their lands for hundreds if not thousands of years. The machinations of The Great Game during the eighteenth and nineteenth century created boundaries which separated the large body of the Wakhis into living in four countries.

In Tajikistan, Wakhi are inhabitants of Roshtqal'a District and Ishkoshim District of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region

In Afghanistan, Wakhi primarily live in the Wakhan region of Badakhshan Province

In Gilgit-Baltistan in the north of Pakistan, Wakhi predominantly live in the upper region of Hunza popularly known as Gojal. Wakhi speakers also live in Ishkoman Valley of District Ghizer, and some villages of Yasin Valley.

In Pakistan, Wakhi also live in Broghal in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In China, Wakhi are inhabitants of Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County an administrative area within Kashgar Prefecture of Xinjiang, mainly in the township of Dafdar.

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 "Pamiri". In Tajikistan, they are recognized by the state as "Tajiks", but self-identify as "Pamiri". In Pakistan, they refer to themselves as "Wakhi" or "Pamiri" or "Gujali".[]

The Wakhi predominantly adhere to Nizari Ismaili Shia Islam, which is regarded as their ethnic religion and are followers of the Aga Khan.[3][5][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.[3]

Cultural preservation

Activists and researchers have been working to preserve and record the language of the Wakhi people, and have developed Wakhi orthographies using the Arabic, Cyrillic, and Latin scripts.[4]

In 1990, the Gojali Wakhis of Pakistan established the "Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association", which aimed to preserve, document, and publish their "local culture". The association introduced a script that was applied into linguistic and literary textbooks, and organized cultural festivals. Radio Pakistan's Radio Gilgit also aired a daily Wakhi-language program named Bam-e Dunya ("Roof of the World").[8][9]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c "Iranian languages". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Wakhi". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Kreutzmann, Hermann (3 September 2003). "Ethnic minorities and marginality in the Pamirian Knot: survival of Wakhi and Kirghiz in a harsh environment and global contexts". The Geographical Journal. Blackwell Publishing. 169 (3): 215-235. doi:10.1111/1475-4959.00086.
  4. ^ a b "Wakhi". Endangered Language Alliance. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ West, Barbara (2008). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Facts on File. ISBN 978-0816071098.
  6. ^ Shahrani, M. Nazif Mohib (2002). The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 216. ISBN 0-295-98262-4.
  7. ^ "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: People and Tribes". Government of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Archived from the original on 16 March 2015.
  8. ^ Brower, Barbara; Johnston, Barbara Rose (2016). Disappearing Peoples?: Indigenous Groups and Ethnic Minorities in South and Central Asia. Routledge. p. 184. ISBN 9781315430393.
  9. ^ Windfuhr, Gernot (2013). The Iranian Languages. Routledge. p. 826. ISBN 9781135797034.


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

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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