Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 33.3 million (July 2016 estimate). There are no reliable statistics available concerning the percentages of Shia and Sunni Muslims in the country; the government’s Central Statistics Office does not collect data disaggregated in this way. Shia leaders claim Shia make up approximately 20-25 percent of the population, while Sunni leaders claim the Shia comprise only 10 percent.

The Shia population includes Ismailis and a majority of ethnic Hazaras. Other religious groups, mainly Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, and Christians, comprise less than 0.3 percent of the population. The number of Sikhs and Hindus is declining due to emigration. Sikh and Hindu leaders estimate there are 180 Sikh and Hindu families totaling 900 individuals, which is a decline from 343 families totaling 2,000 individuals in 2015. Reliable estimates of the Bahai and Christian communities are not available. There are small numbers of practitioners of other religions, including one Jew.

The Hazaras live predominantly in the central and western provinces, while the Ismailis live mainly in Kabul and in the central and northern provinces. Followers of the Bahai Faith are based predominantly in Kabul, with a small community in Kandahar.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future