Nurestan (also spelled Nuristan or
Nooristan) (Persian/Nuristani: نورستان) is one of the
thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It was formed in
2001 from the northern parts of Laghman Province and
Kunar Province. Nuristanis and Pashtuns make up the
majority of the population of this province.
Located on the southern slopes of the Hindu Kush
mountains in the northeastern part of the country,
Nuristan spans the basins of the Alingār, Pech, Landai
Sin, and Kunar rivers. Its capital is Nuristan. It is
bordered on the north by Badakhshan Province, on the
west by Kapisa Province, on the south by Laghman and
Kunar provinces, and on the east by Pakistan.
Until the 1890s, the region was known as Kafiristan
(Persian: Land of the unbelievers) because of its
inhabitants: the Nuristani, an ethnically distinctive
people (numbering about 60,000) who practiced animism.
The region was conquered by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan in
1895-96 and the Nuristani were forcibly converted to
Islam. The region was renamed Nuristan, meaning Land of
the Enlightened, a reflection of the "enlightening" of
the pagan Nuristani by the "light" of Islam.
Nuristanis is widely believed to be an early offspring from
the Proto-Indo-Europeans (sometimes also referred as Aryans). Nuristan is
thought to have been the area of land where Alexander of Macedon camped with his
men. Therefore there has been a myth circulating among some Westerners
suggesting that "the Nuristani people are direct descendants of Alexander".
Nuristan was the scene of some of the heaviest guerrilla fighting during the
1979-89 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet