The Hazara People

Kayla D., Kyle Y., Riley L., Alexa D., and Nathan R.

Who are the Hazaras?

  • The Hazaras are Persian-speaking (Hazaragi) people who mainly live in an isolated region in Afghanistan’s central highlands known as Hazarajat--their heartland; their inhabitance of that region was not entirely by choice.
  • The Hazara people are thought to have several affinities with the Mongols, including physical appearance, language, and kinship system; they believe themselves to be descendants of the Turko-Mongol tribes of Asia. Their Asian features also have separated them in a de facto lower caste.
  • They account for 10-15 percent or possibly up to one-fifth of the Afghanistan population and make up the third largest ethnic group in that country; the Hazaras were the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan before the 19th century.
  • They have long been branded outsiders and they are largely Shiite Muslims in an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country. Despite having a reputation for industriousness, the Hazaras have been denied the right to work all but the most menial jobs.
  • The Hazaras have been the most repressed ethnic minority group in the state.
  • The plight of the Hazaras has gone on for countless years and these people are often displaced from their origins due to the relentless persecution they must undergo.
  • In short, the Hazaras can be considered the outsiders of the Afghan population.
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What do they believe?

  • Hazaras believe in common rural superstitions, such as the evil eye, ghosts, and superstitions involving animals and nighttime.
  • They also enjoy storytelling, sharing tales of their history, ancestors, and heroes; they have many proverbs: “The sons of wolves will be wolves.” (Children will be like their parents.)
  • The Hazaras are Shiite Muslims, which is one of the two major Islamic sects.
  • They typically celebrate their religious holidays by going to the mosque for group prayers and will subsequently return home to large meals with their family and relatives.
  • As Shiite Muslims, Hazaras celebrate two major Islamic holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha.
  • Eid al-Fitr is a three-day celebration that comes after a month of fasting known as Ramadan and Eid al-Adha commemorates the willingness of Abraham to obey God’s command and sacrifice his son, Isaac.
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How are they treated by the majority Pashtun culture of Afghanistan?

  • They are ostracized by the majority Pashtun culture of Afghanistan. The ruling Taliban--mostly fundamentalist Sunni, ethnic Pashtuns--saw Hazaras as infidels, animals, and inferiors.
  • Although they have done a bit better since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001 by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan (retaliation for 9/11), the Hazaras had largely suffered from severe political, social, and economic repression from the 1880s onwards.
  • For example, some methods of persecution include the issuing of unwarranted taxes, assaults on Hazara women, massacres, looting and pillaging of homes, and enslavement of Hazara people. In fact, 60% of the Hazara population were massacred in 1893.
  • Even today, the Hazaras still struggle with injustices (discrimination, ethnic cleansing and genocide) that have plagued them for much of the last century and they remain impoverished; they compose the lowest rung in Afghan society.

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Why are they treated this way?

  • The Hazaras do not conform to the conventional/standard beliefs and/or practices of the majority of the Afghan population.
  • They do not look the way Afghans should look and do not worship the way Muslims should worship according to the Taliban and Pashtun who were Sunni Muslims; Hazaras are Shiite Muslims, and Sunni and Shiite are the two major branches of Islam.
  • Hazaras are mistreated and persecuted because the Pashtun and the Taliban consider it their duty to degrade the “infidels.”
  • Being Shia Muslims means their religion has also made them targets, as Sunni Islamist insurgencies have raged in southern Asia. Radical Sunnis consider them heretics; others warned that the violence that begins with the Hazaras will affect the whole Afghanistan.
  • It is often claimed that Hazaras are the descendants of Genghis Khan and the Mongol soldiers that invaded Afghanistan in the 13th century”- bad past/bloodline/reputation for violence.
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