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The Hazāra ( ) are a Persian-speaking ethnic group who live mainly in the central region of Afghanistanmarker. They are overwhelmingly Shia Muslims, with a Sunni minority, and comprise the third largest ethnic group of the country with about 10%L. Dupree, "Afghānistān: (iv.) ethnocgraphy", in Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition 2006, ( LINK). of its population. Hazaras are also found in large numbers in neighboring Pakistanmarker, especially in the city of Quettamarker, and also in Iranmarker, mainly as refugees.


The name Hazara, probably, comes from the Persian word hazār, which means "thousand". Originally, the term was used to refer to a Mongol military unit of 1,000 but was later applied to a distinct group of people.

Origin theories

The origins of the Hazaras are not fully reconstructible and thus debatable.

At least partial Mongol descent is difficult to rule out, because the Hazaras' physical attributes and parts of their culture and language resemble those of Mongolians. Thus, it is widely accepted that Hazaras do have Mongolian ancestry, if not direct male-line descent from Genghis Khan, as some Hazaras allege. Some Hazara tribes are named after famous Mongol generals, including the Tulai Khan Hazara named after Tolui, the youngest son of Genghis Khan. Theories of Mongol or partially Mongol descent, are plausible, given that the Il-Khanate Mongol rulers, beginning with Oljeitu, embraced Shia Islam. Today, almost all Hazaras adhere to Shiism, whereas Afghanistan's other ethnic groups are mostly Sunni.

Another theory proposes that Hazaras are descendants of the Kushans, the ancient dwellers of Afghanistan famous for constructing the Buddhas of Bamiyanmarker. Its proponents find the location of the Hazara homeland, and the similarity in facial features of Hazaras with those on frescoes and Buddha's statues in Bamiyan, suggestive. However, this belief is contrary not only to the fact that the Kushans were Indo-European Tocharians, but also to historical records which mention that in a particularly bloody battle around Bamiyanmarker, Genghis Khan's grandson, Mutugen, was killed, and he ordered Bamiyan to be burnt to the ground in retribution, renaming it Ma-Obaliq ("Uninhabitable Abode") while replacing the local population with his armies and settlers .

A third theory, and the one accepted by most scholars, maintains that Hazaras are a very mixed race. This is not entirely inconsistent with descent from Mongol military forces. For example, Nikudari Mongols settled in eastern Persia and mixed with native populations who spoke various Iranian languages. A second wave of mostly Chagatai Mongols came from Central Asia and were followed by other Turko-Mongols, associated with the Ilkhanate (driven out of Persia) and the Timurids, all of whom settled in Hazarajat and mixed with the local Persian population, forming a distinct group.


Genetically, the Hazara are primarily a mixture of eastern Eurasian and western Eurasian peoples. Genetic research suggests that they are related to neighboring peoples, while there also seems to be a distant relation to Turkic and Mongol peoples of Inner Asia, such as the Uyghurs of Chinamarker. A Mongol element in the ancestry is supported by studies in genetic genealogy as well, which have identified a particular lineage of the Y-chromosome characteristic of people of Mongolian descent ("the Y-chromosome of Genghis Khan"). This chromosome is virtually absent outside the limits of the Mongol Empire except among the Hazara, where it reaches its highest frequency anywhere. About two thirds of the Hazara males sampled carry a Y-chromosome of this lineage.


Emergence of the Hazara

In the late 1500s, the first mention of Hazaras are made by the court historians of Shah Abbas of the Safavid dynasty and by Babur (Emperor of the Mughal Empire) in his Baburnama, referring to the people living from west of Kabulmarker to Ghor, and south to Ghaznimarker.

18th century

In their modern history, Hazaras have faced several wars and forced displacements. Since the beginnings of modern Afghanistan in the mid 18th century, Hazaras have faced persecution from the Pashtuns and have been forced to flee from many parts of today's Afghanistan to Hazarajat. In the mid 18th century they were forced out of Helmand and the Arghandabmarker basin of Kandahar. During Dost Mohammad Khan's rule, Hazaras in Bamiyan and the Hazarajat area were heavily taxed. However, for the most part they still managed to keep their regional autonomy in Hazarajat. This would soon change as the new Emir, Abdur Rahman Khan, was brought to power.

Subjugation by Abdur Rahman Khan

As the new Emir, Abdur Rahman set out a goal to bring Hazarajat under his control. After facing resistance from the Hazaras, he launched several campaigns in Hazarajat with many atrocities and ethnic polarization. The southern part of Hazarajat was spared as they accepted Abdur Rahman's rule while the other parts of Hazarajat rejected Abdur Rahman and were supporting his uncle Sher Ali Khan and as a result Abdur Rahman waged war against Hazaras who reject his policies and ruling.

In 1456 Abdur Rahman arrested Syed Jafar who was chief of Sheikh Ali Hazara and jailed him in Mazar-e-Sharifmarker. The first Hazara uprising was during 1888 - 1890. When Abdur Rahman cousin, Mohammad Eshaq, revolted against him and the Sheikh Ali Hazaras joined the revolt. The revolt was short lived and crushed as the Emir extended his control over large parts of Hazarajat. Sheikh Ali Hazaras were in two different group Shia and Sunni. Abdur Rahman take the advantage of the situation and revolt Sunni Hazaras against Shia Hazaras and made parts among Hazaras.After all the Sheikh Ali Hazara chief were sent to Kabulmarker, Oppositions within the leadership of Sawar Khan and Syed Jafar khan could succeed over government troops but at last was defeated. Heavy taxes were imposed and Pashtun administrators were sent to occupied places, where they subjugated the people with many abuses. The people were disarmed, villages were looted, local tribal chiefs were imprisoned or executed, and the best lands were confiscated and given to Pashtun nomads (Kuchis).

The Second uprising occurred in 1890s - 1893. The cause of the uprising was the rape of the wife of a Hazara chief by 33 Afghanmarker soldiers. The soldiers had entered their house under the pretext of searching for weapons and raped the chief's wife in front of him. The families of the Hazara chief and his wife retaliated against the humiliation and killed the soldiers and attacked the local garrison, where they took back their weapons. Several other tribal chiefs who supported Abdur Rahman now turned against him and joined the rebellion which rapidly spread through the entire Hazarajat. In response to the rebellion, the Emir declared a "Jihad" against the Shiites and raised an army of 40,000 soldiers, 10,000 mounted troops, and 100,000 armed civilians (most of which were Pashtun nomads). He also brought in British military advisers to assist his army.The large army defeated the rebellion at its center, in Oruzgan, by 1892 and the local population was severely massacred. According to S. A. Mousavi,

The third upraising of Hazaras was in response to the harsh repression, the Hazaras revolted again by early 1893s. This revolt had taken the government forces by surprise and the Hazaras managed to take most of Hazarajat back. However even after months of fighting, they were eventually defeated due to a shortage of food. Small pockets of resistance continued to the end of the year as government troops committed atrocities against civilians and deported entire villages.

Abdur Rahman's subjugation of the Hazaras due to fierce rebellion against the Afghan king gave birth to strong hatred between the Pashtuns and Hazaras for years to come. Massive forced displacements, especially in Oruzgan and Daychopan, continued as lands were confiscated and populations were expelled or fled. Some 35,000 families fled to northern Afghanistan, Mashhadmarker (Iran), Quettamarker (Pakistan), and even as far as Central Asia. It is estimated that more than 60% of the Hazara population were massacred or displaced during Abdur Rahman's campaign against them. Hazara farmers were often forced to give up their property to Pashtuns and as a result many Hazara families had to leave seasonally to the major cities in Afghanistan, Iran, or Pakistan in order to find jobs and a source of income. Pakistan is now home to one of the largest settlements of Hazara particularly in and around the city of Quettamarker.

Hazaras in the 20th century

In 1901, Habibullah Khan, Abdur Rahman's successor, granted amnesty to all people who were exiled by his predecessor. However, the division between the Afghan government and the Hazara people was already made too deep under Abdur Rahman and as a result Hazaras continued to face severe social, economic and political discrimination through most of the 20th century.

Mistrust of the central government continued by the Hazaras and local uprisings also continued. In particular, in the 1940s, during Zahir Shah's rule, a revolt took place against new taxes that were exclusively imposed on the Hazaras. The Pashtun nomads meanwhile not only were exempted from taxes, but also received allowances from the Afghan government. The angry rebels began capturing and killing government officials. In response, the central government sent a force to subdue the region and later removed the taxes.

Soviet invasion to the Taliban era

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Hazarajat region did not see as much heavy fighting like other regions of Afghanistan. However, rival Hazara political factions had internal conflicts during this period. The division was across the Tanzáim-e nasl-e naw-e Hazara, a party based in Quetta of Hazara nationalists and secular intellectuals, and the pro-Khomeini Islamist parties backed by the new Islamic Republic of Iran. By 1979, the Iran backed Islamist groups liberated Hazarajat from the central Soviet-backed Afghan government and later these Islamist groups took entire control of Hazarajat away from the secularist groups. By 1984, after severe fighting, the secularist groups lost all their power to the Islamist groups. Later as the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the Islamist groups felt the need to broaden their political appeal and turned their focus to Hazara ethnic nationalism. This led to establishment of the Hezb-e Wahdat, an alliance of all the Hazara resistance groups (except the Harakat-e Islami). In 1992, with the fall of Kabulmarker, the Harakat-e Islami took sides with Burhanuddin Rabbani's government while the Hezb-e Wahdat took sides with the opposition. The Hezb-e Wahdat was eventually forced out of Kabul in 1995 when the Pashtun Taliban movement captured and killed their leader Abdul Ali Mazari.

With the Taliban's capture of Kabul in 1996, all the Hazara groups united with the new Northern Alliance against the common new enemy. However, it was too late and despite the fierce resistance Hazarajat fell to the Taliban by 1998. The Taliban had Hazarajat totally isolated from the rest of the world going as far as not allowing the United Nations to deliver food to the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghor, Wardak, and Ghazni..

During the years that followed, Hazaras suffered severe oppression and many large ethnic massacres were carried out by the predominately ethnic Pashtun Taliban and are documented by such groups as the Human Rights Watch. These human rights abuses not only occurred in Hazarajat, but across all areas controlled by the Taliban. Particularly after their capture of Mazar-e Sharifmarker in 1998, where after a massive killing of some 8000 civilians, the Taliban openly declared that the Hazaras would be targeted. Mullah Niazi, the commander of the attack and governor of Mazar after the attack, similar to Abdur Rahman Khan over 100 years ago, declared the Shia Hazara as infidels:



The Hazara people is the leading tribe in the education sector. They have tried hard to enhance the quality of education and increase the number of literate Afghans. Because of past discrimination, there were insufficient numbers of schools and colleges in their area.

Hazaras in post-Taliban Afghanistan

Following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United Statesmarker, British and American forces chose to invade Afghanistan, and removed the Taliban from power and effectively saved the Hazaras from ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Taliban. Since then, the situation for Hazaras in Afghanistan has changed drastically and has much improved in a very short time. Today, due to the NATOmarker involvement, Hazaras enjoy much more freedom and equality than ever before. Hazaras can now pursue higher education, enroll in the army, and have top government positions. For example, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Hazara from the Hezb-e Wahdat party, was able to run in the 2004 presidential election in Afghanistan. However, discrimination still lingers. A clear indication of such discrimination is the current trend of allocating international help by the Afghan government. Hazarajat historically has been kept from any improvement by past governments. Since ousting the Taliban, there have been several billions of dollars poured into Afghanistan for reconstruction and numerous mega scale reconstruction projects took place in Afghanistan. But effectively a very small portion of international aid was allocated in central regions of Afghanistan Hazarajat.

For example, there have been more than 5000 kilometers of road pavement and construction in Afghanistan, of which almost none happened in central Afghanistan Hazarajat. Another indication of such discrimination is that Kochis (Afghan nomads from western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan) are allowed now to use Hazarajat pastures in summer time. This practice started during the rule of Amir Abdurahman Khan for punishing Hazaras.

Living in mountainous Hazarajat where little farm land exists, Hazara people rely on these pasture lands for their livelihood and survival during long and harsh winters. In 2007 heavily armed Kochis moved into Hazarajat for grazing their livestock, and when the local people resisted, it is reported that they killed several Hazara people, mostly women and children, looted and burned several villages. Such a practice happened in 2008, and the government appears to approve this practice by disarming local Hazaras and allowing Kochis to remain heavily armed. It is also reported that Kochis acted for the Taliban army when they defeated Hazara resistance against Taliban in Hazarajat and massacred the local Hazaras. Hazaras suspect that Kochis have ties with the Taliban. Kochis like Taliban belong to the Pashtun ethnicity. Traveling with heavy armor and automatic weapons, and using military tactics like Taliban, support this theory.

One of The young Hazara research Scholar of Pakistanmarker Rahmatullah Hazara has written a book in Urdu in 2003 named " Osama aur rai-aama" (Osama and Public Opinion), The Book which is published by one of leading publisher of Pakistan "Book Home" Lahoremarker is highly appreciated by Urdu Readership in Pakistan and abroad.

Geographic distribution


Alessandro Monsutti argues, in his recent anthropological book, that migration is in fact the traditional way of life of the Hazara people, referring to the seasonal and historical migrations which have never ceased and do not seem to be dictated only by emergency situations such as war.

Besides the major populations of Hazaras in Quetta (Pakistanmarker) where many have achieved considerably high positions within the government and police force and Iranmarker, there are significant communities in Australia, New Zealandmarker, Canadamarker, the United Statesmarker, the United Kingdommarker and particularly the Northern European countries such as Swedenmarker and Denmarkmarker. Many young Hazara are studying in developed countries such as Australia, legally through education or work visas. There are many Afghanmarker Hazara who have migrated to developed countries especially in Australia as refugees. The notable case was the Tampa affair in which a shipload of refugees, mostly Hazaras, was rescued by the Norwegianmarker freighter MV Tampa and subsequently sent to Nauru. Many refugee claims were rejected by Australia and forwarded to New Zealandmarker, where all claims but one were approved.

Hazaras in Pakistan

Hazara refugees from Afghanistan in Quetta and Peshawar Pakistan, along with their Pakistani Hazara (native, 3rd and 4th generation) brethren, have set up a remittance economy which has led to the opening of foreign money exchange places to handle the currency coming in. In Pakistan most of the Hazaras live in and around the city of Quettamarker, Hazara townmarker and Mehr Abad where they hold high positions in the government of Balochistanmarker, the federal government, and the Police force. A Hazara girl named Saira Batool became the first women pilot in the Pakistan Airforce. In Pakistan, Hazaras are mostly in business and have high education levels. They are integrated into the local social dynamics of the respective areas they have settled into and operated several successful trades and business. Hazaras are also politically active in Quetta and have a political party known as the Hazara Democratic Party. Other notable Hazara settlements can be found in Karachimarker, Lahoremarker and more recently in Multanmarker. The current Minister of Quality Education & Clean Drinking Water in Balochistan is a Hazara and having a Member in the National Assembly. The most notable Hazara in Pakistan was General Musa Khan, who served as Commander in Chief of the Pakistani Army between 1958 to 1966. On January 26, 2009, Hussain Ali Yousafi, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, was shot dead by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the southwestern city of Quetta.


Hazara students in Afghanistan
The Hazara, outside of Hazarajat, have adopted the cultures of the cities where they dwell, and in many cases are quite Persianized. Traditionally the Hazara are highland farmers and although sedentary like the Tajiks, in the Hazarajat, they have retained many of their own customs and traditions, some of which are more closely related to those of Central Asia than to Iran. For instance, many Hazara musicians are widely hailed as being skilled in playing the dambura, a lute instrument similarly found in other Central Asian nations such as Uzbekistanmarker and Mongoliamarker. Interestingly, a skilled Hazara dambura musician, Dawood Sarkhosh sang a traditional Hazara folk song entitled, "Moghul Dokhtar," Persian for "Mongol Girl."


Hazaras living in rural areas speak Hazaragi, an eastern dialect of the Persian language and containing a significant number of Turkic and some Mongolian loan words. In particular, Hazaragi in the Daykundi regions has a significant admixture of Altaic influence in the language.

Many of the urban Hazaras in the larger cities such as Kabulmarker and Mazari Sharifmarker no longer speak Hazaragi but speak standard literary Persian (usually the Kābolī dialect) or regional varieties of Persian (for example the Khorāsānī dialect in the western region of Heratmarker).

Until recently, a small number of Hazaras near Heratmarker still spoke the Moghol language, a dialect of the Mongol language and once spoken by the army of Genghis Khan. It is probably extinct by now.


Hazaras are predominantly Shi'a Muslims, mostly of the Twelver sect. Most Afghans are not of the Twelver Shi'a denomination and this fact has probably contributed to the discrimination against the Hazaras. Some Hazaras are also Shi'as of the Ismaili denomination. Hazaras probably converted from Sunnism to Shi'aism during the reign (1304 to 1316) of the Il-Khanate ruler Oljeitu. Nonetheless, a small number of Hazaras are Sunni, primarily among the Taimani Hazara and the Hazara Aymaq. Sunni Hazaras have been attached to non-Hazara tribes while the Ismaili Hazaras have always been kept separate from the rest of the Hazaras on account of religious beliefs and political purposes. Ghor and Badghismarker are largely populated by Sunni Hazaras.

Hazara tribes

The Hazara people have been organized by various tribes. However more recently and since the inclusion of the Hazaras into the "Afghan state", the tribal affiliations have been disappearing and former tribal names (e.g. Behsoodi, Daykundi, or Jaghori) today more commonly refer to territorial designations.


21-year-old Rohullah Nikpai, an ethnic Hazara, won a bronze medal in taekwondo in the Beijing Olympics 2008, beating world champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain 4-1 in a play-off final. It was Afghanistan's first-ever Olympics medal. Afghanistan's first female Olympic athlete Friba Razayee competed in Judo at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but was eliminated in the first round of competition. Other famous Hazara athletes are Syed Abdul Jalil Waiz (Badminton) and Ali Hazara (Football). Syed Abdul Jalil Waiz is the first Hazara Badminton-player who represented the country in Asian Junior Championships in 2005 where he produced the first win for the country against Iraq, winning 15/13 15/1. He participated in several international championships since 2005 and achieved victories against Australia, Philippinesmarker and Mongoliamarker.

Notes and references

Further reading

See also

External links

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