History of the Afghanistan Flag

History of the Afghanistan Flag

The Afghanistan flag has changed more than 30 times in almost 300 years. In this blog, I will walk you through all the flag variants from the Hotak Dynasty to the current. (1709 AD to 2022).

History of the Afghanistan flag

Hotak Dynasty (1709 - 1738)

Mirwais Khan Hotak was from the Ghilji tribe of Kandahar and was the founder of the Hotak dynasty. The dynasty was established on April 1709 by defeating the Safavid Persian Empire and freeing the Loy Kandahar region, now known as southern Kandahar. He died in 1715, and his family members took over the dynasty until 1738. The Hotak rule ended in 1738 when they got defeated by the Iranian conqueror Nader Shah. During their regime, they used the black flag.

Hotak Empire Map
Mirwais Khan Hotak
Mirwais Khan Hotak

Durrani Dynasty (1747 - 1842)

The Durrani dynasty, founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747, was considered the second most powerful Muslim empire after Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. Ahmad Shah Durrani is also known as the Father of the Nation as his empire has set a foundation for modern Afghanistan. Durrani Empire ruled over the modern-day countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of northeastern and southeastern Iran, eastern Turkmenistan, and northwestern India. They used the tricolor flag of green, white, and green.

Ahmad Shah Durrani Empire Map
Ahmad Shah Durrani Portrait
Ahmad Shah Durrani

Barakzai Dynasty (1842 - 1880)

After the fall of the Durrani Empire, Dost Mohammad Khan Barakzai founded the Barakzai dynasty. He became the Emir of Afghanistan and ruled for almost 37 years. He played a vital role in the creation of modern Afghanistan. Barakzai ruled Afghanistan from 1823 – 1973 when the dynasty ended under King Mohammad Zahir Shah. Soon after the decline of the Durrani Empire, a dispute arose between the various sons of Timur Shah for power. Durrani Empire was no more a single nation and disintegrated into different units. Dost Mohammad Khan’s goal was to reunite Afghanistan, and he fulfilled it before his death at 70 years old in 1863. During the Barakzai dynasty, they have not used the flag associated with Durrani Empire or any official alternatives.

Dost Mohammad Khan Portrait
Dost Mohammad Khan

Amir Abdul Rahman Khan (1880 - 1901)

Abdul Rahman Khan was the grandson of Dost Mohammad Khan and the descendent of the Barakzai Dynasty. He is well known for uniting Afghanistan after years of internal conflict and negotiating on the Durand Line Agreement with British India. He introduced some modern manufacturing, agriculture, and health care facilities. He died in 1901 and was buried in Zarnegar Park in Kabul. The same single-color black flag of the Hotak dynasty was used under his rule.

Amir Abdul Rahman Khan
Amir Abdul Rahman Khan

Habibullah Khan (1901 - 1919)

Amir Habibullah Khan was the eldest son and succeeded his father Amir Abdul Rahman Khan in 1901. During his rule, he had several achievements and always wanted to modernize Afghanistan. He imported modern technology and medicine to the country, established Habibia High School and military academy in Kabul. He revoked many harsh criminal penalties that was put in place by his father and also built many legal reforms. He maintained the country neutral in World War 1 and also reduced tensions with British India by signing a treaty of friendship in 1905. During his rule, he used his father’s black flag while adding a seal containing a mosque in white color.

Habibullah Khan
Habibullah Khan

King Amanullah Khan (1919 - 1929)

Ghazi Amanullah Khan was the third son of Amir Habibullah Khan. He took control of the government after his father’s death in 1919 and declared himself from Amir to King of Afghanistan in 1926. Amanullah Khan gained complete freedom from the influence of the United Kingdom in 1919. During his rule, primary education was made obligatory, and many international schools for boys and girls with Indian and French teachers were established. In 1929, Amanullah Khan abdicated the country to Habibullah Kalakani and fled to Europe. After 30 years in exile, he died in Italy, and his body was brought to Afghanistan and buried in Jalalabad province near his father’s tomb. During his rule, different flags were flown. In the first flag, he added rays emanating from the seal in the form of an octagram in his father’s flag. The octagram was replaced with a wreath in the second flag, and the national seal was slightly modified. In this, the mosque had a mihrab facing Mecca. The tricolor was introduced in the third flag in which black represents the previous flags, red represents the blood shed for independence, and green represents hope for the future. In the fourth flag, the orientation of the tricolor changed to vertical, and the previous seal was replaced with a sun rising over two snow-capped mountains that represent a new beginning for the kingdom. It also had heaps of wheat. The sun rays got thicker in the fifth flag, and a yellow star was added. However, in the sixth flag, the sunrise seal was replaced with the octagram seal that was previously used with a black background.

Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan

Habibullah Kalakani (1929)

Habibullah Kalakani ruled Afghanistan from January 17 to October 13 in 1929 after he defeated Amanullah Khan. He was also known as “Bachai Saqaw” which means son of the water carrier, and was the leader of the Saqqawists. During his brief rule, he used the vertical tricolor of red, black, and white. This flag was similar to the one used by the Mongols during their occupation of Afghanistan in the 13th century.

Habibullah Kalakani
Habibullah Kalakani

Mohammad Nadir Shah (1929 - 1933)

Mohammad Nadir Khan was the commander in chief of the Afghan Army under King Amanullah Khan and led the Afghan National Army in the Third Anglo-Afghan War. He also served as the Afghan Ambassador to France from 1924 to 1926. Due to disagreements on some issues between them, Nadir Khan got exiled by King Amanullah Khan. When Habibullah Kalakani overthrew Amanullah Khan’s monarchy, Nadir Khan returned to Afghanistan with his Army, and on October 13, 1929, he captured Habibullah Kalakani and executed him. Nadir Khan became the second King of Afghanistan after Amanullah Khan. During his rule, the flag changed twice. The first flag was a vertical tricolor with a combination of black, red, and green with the octagram seal in the center of the flag. In the second flag, octagram rays got removed, and the seal increased in size. The year of his rule as the King of Afghanistan is written between the mosque and the seal. (1348 of the Islamic Calendar equivalent to 1929 AD of the Gregorian Calendar).

Mohammad Nadir Shah
Mohammad Nadir Shah

Mohammad Zahir Shah (1933 - 1973)

Mohammad Zahir Shah succeeded his father Mohammad Nadir Shah in 1933 and ruled for 40 years. During his kingdom as the last king of Afghanistan, he began to modernize the country, created a new constitution and a constitutional monarchy system, and expanded Afghanistan’s diplomatic relationships with many countries. During his medical treatment in Italy in 1973, his cousin and former Prime Minister, Mohammad Daoud Khan, overthrew him in a coup d’état. He remained in exile until 2002 when he returned to Afghanistan. He was given the title Father of the Nation and died in 2007. During his kingdom, he used the same tricolor flag used by his father.

Mohammad Zahir Shah
Mohammad Zahir Shah

Republic of Afghanistan (1973 - 1978)

General Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan was the cousin, brother-in-law, and Prime Minister of Mohammad Zahir Shah. After overthrowing the Kingdom of Zahir Shah in a coup, he established the Republic of Afghanistan. It was a single-party republic, and he became the first President of Afghanistan. During his rule, Daoud Khan focused on modernizing the country and emphasized education and women’s right. He opened many schools across the country, and almost 1 million students enrolled, many of whom were girls. In his first year as the President of Afghanistan, Dawood Khan used the same flag used by Mohammad Zahir Shah but removed the date from it. While in the years afterward, he changed the orientation of the tricolor and replaced the emblem with a golden eagle with spread wings in the left top corner of the flag, a pulpit (minbar) on the eagle’s chest (for a mosque), wheat surrounding the eagle, and the sun’s rays above the eagle for the new republic.

Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan
Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan

Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (1978 - 1987)

Nur Mohammad Taraki succeeded Mohammad Dawood Khan and became the second President of Afghanistan after the Saur Revolution and established a communist state. He was the head of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) which ruled the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. During his government, he used the Dawood Khan regime flag without a seal for a short period. But later on, it changed to a completely red color with a yellow seal in the canton. It represented the PDPA’s (Khalq party) emblem with wheat, a star at the top, the term Khalq in Dari in the center, a subtitle reading Saur Revolution 1357, and the full name of the state.

In 1980, the Parcham party succeeded the Khalq party, and for a brief period, the seal changed to a cogwheel representing industry and an ear of wheat representing agriculture. Parcham party, under the rule of Babrak Karmal, re-established the tricolor color of black, green, and white. The new emblem showed the rising sun, a pulpit and a book, ribbons with national colors, a cogwheel for industry, and a red star for communism.

Nur Mohammad Taraki
Nur Mohammad Taraki
Hafizullah Amin
Hafizullah Amin
Babrak Karmal
Babrak Karmal

Republic of Afghanistan (1987 - 1992)

PDPA was renamed the Republic of Afghanistan in 1987 by Mohammad Najibullah as the President of Afghanistan. Mohammad Najibullah was a member of the Parcham faction led by Babrak Karmal and the head of the security and intelligence agency of Afghanistan (KHAD) during Karmal’s regime. He succeeded Babarak Karmal as the President of Afghanistan in 1987. During his presidency, Najibullah brought alternation to the flag. He moved the cogwheel from top to bottom, removed the red star and the book, and curved the green field to resemble the horizon.

Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah

Islamic State of Afghanistan (1992 - 1996)

After the fall of Mohammad Najibullah’s government by the Mujahedeen, the flag underwent many variants. The tricolors changed to black, white, and green. When Burhanuddin Rabbani became the President of Afghanistan, the monarchy-era emblem was re-established with the addition of the Shahadah and swords representing the mujahideen’s victory. Burhanuddin Rabbani was the founder of the Jamiat-e-Islami faction and was a professor of Islamic theology at Kabul University.

Burhanuddin Rabbani
Burhanuddin Rabbani

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (1996 - 2001)

Taliban defeated the Mujahideen under Mohammad Omar Mujahid’s supervision and changed the Islamic State’s name to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Initially, the government used a white flag, and in the second variant, Shahadah added. Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid was an Afghan cleric, Islamist partisan fighter, political leader, and the founder of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Mullah Mohammad Omar
Mullah Mohammad Omar

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2001 - 2021)

After the fall of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by the invasion of the United States in 2001, the country’s name changed to the Islamic State of Afghanistan, and Burhanuddin Rabbani remained the President of Afghanistan until the transitional period. During this short time, he used the same flag that he used earlier with the addition of Shahadah.

After the short period of the presidency of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Hamid Karzai became the new President of Afghanistan. During his presidency from 2002 to 2014, the flag went various changes. The government restored the tricolor and used the 1992 emblem in white with the sword removed. Later, the white emblem changed to golden following a decision made in Loya Jirga. After the approval of the new national constitution the flag was fixed to 2:3 ratio. On 19 August 2013, the white emblem increased in size, overlapping the black and the green colors. When Mohammad Afshar Ghani elected as the President of Afghanistan after Hamid Karzai, the same flag remained in use until 15 August 2021 when his government was overthrown by the Taliban.

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
Mohammad Ashraf Ghani

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (2021 - Current)

The Taliban took over Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, and the Islamic Emirate has re-introduced its flag.

Hibatullah Akhundzada
Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada