Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located within South Asia and Central Asia. It has a population of approximately 32 million people, making it the 42nd most populous country in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and China in the far northeast. Its territory covers 652,000 km2 (252,000 sq mi), making it the 41st largest country in the world. Languages Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan; bilingualism is very common. Both are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family. Dari (Afghan Persian) has long been the prestige language and a lingua franca for inter-ethnic communication. It is the native tongue of the Tajiks, Hazaras, Aimaks, and Kizilbash. Pashto is the native tongue of the Pashtuns, although many Pashtuns often use Dari and some non-Pashtuns are fluent in Pashto. Other languages, including Uzbek, Arabic, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi, and Nuristani languages (Ashkunu, Kamkata-viri, Vasi-vari, Tregami, and Kalasha-ala), are the native tongues of minority groups across the country and have official status in the regions where they are widely spoken. Minor languages also include Pamiri (Shughni, Munji, Ishkashimi, and Wakhi), Brahui, Hindko, and Kyrgyz. A small percentage of Afghans are also fluent in Urdu, English, and other languages. Religions Over 99% of the Afghan population is Muslim; up to 90% are from the Sunni branch, 7-19% are Shia. Until the 1890s, the region around Nuristan was known as Kafiristan (land of the kafirs (unbelievers)) because of its non-Muslim inhabitants, the Nuristanis, an ethnically distinct people whose religious practices included animism, polytheism, and shamanism. Thousands of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are also found in the major cities. There was a small Jewish community in Afghanistan who had emigrated to Israel and the United States by the end of the twentieth century; only one Jew, Zablon Simintov, remained by 2005.
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