Peripatetics of Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey - Orientation

Identification. The data concerning Afghanistan and Iran refer to the period prior to the Saur and Islamic revolutions, respectively. It is not known whether such communities still exist in these two countries.

Each of these ethnonyms does not probably correspond to one community; many are locally or regionally used (sometimes as occupational names), others are used only by group members, and still others are used pejoratively only by outsiders. Thus, in Afghanistan, "Jat" is a pejorative term used generically by nonperipatetics to designate peripatetics belonging to at least six different communities. In Iran and Turkey, the terms "Ghorbati" and "Çingene" appear to be used in a similar fashion. Some of these ethnonyms are also encountered in other neighboring areas of the Middle East, the Balkans, or South Asia. Each existing community is primarily endogamous, and subsists traditionally on a variety of commercial and/or service activities. Formerly, all or a majority of their members were itinerant, and this largely holds true today. Migration generally takes place within the political boundaries of each state. These communities have often been termed "Gypsies" or "Gypsylike"; this comparison is relevant only in so far as their traditional subsistence activities, migration patterns, and generally low status are similar to those of some of the Roma/Sinti groups in Europe or North America.

Linguistic Affiliation. Each of the peripatetic communities is multilingual; it speaks one or more of the languages spoken by the local sedentary populations, and, additionally, within each group, a separate dialect or language is spoken. The latter are either of Indic or Iranian origin, and many are structured somewhat like an argot or secret language, with vocabularies drawn from various languages. The languages recorded in Afghanistan do not contain elements of Romani, but some—such as Adurgari (spoken by the Sheikh Mohammadi), Mogatibey (spoken by the Jogi), or Qazulagi, spoken by the Ghorbat—have affinities with languages spoken by similar communities in parts of Iran and also in parts of Central Asia. Their vocabularies also contain Arabic words, but a large percentage of words are of an as yet unknown origin. There are indications that in northern Iran at least one community does speak Romani, and some groups in Turkey certainly do speak Romani.

Demography. In 1975 the Nausar of northern Afghanistan claimed to count roughly 700 households. In 1976-1977 the Ghorbat of Afghanistan consisted of roughly 1,000 nuclear families, each with an average of 5.0 individuals. During the same period in Afghanistan, the Baluch (also known as Chalu, Herati, or Jat-Baluch) estimated their own population at some 2,500 individuals; estimates for the Jalali, the Pikraj, the Shadibaz and the Vangawala are 500, 2,000, 1,500, and 3,000 persons, respectively. In 1939 the Gurbat of the Fārs region of Iran were reported as numbering 1,000 families, and in 1965 the Haddad estimated themselves at roughly 1,500 families. In the 1970s the entire peripatetic population in Iran was estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals, between 2,000 and 3,000 of whom were Luti and Toshmal.

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