The Hazaras (Persian: هزاره, Hazaragi: آزره) are an ethnic group native to the region of Hazarajat in central Afghanistan, speaking the Hazaragi variant of Dari, itself an eastern variety of Persian and one of the two official languages of Afghanistan.
They are overwhelmingly Twelver Shia Muslims and make up the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. They also make up a significant minority group in the neighboring Pakistan, with a population of over 650,000–900,000, largely living in the region of Quetta.
Ethnic Hazara school children in Bamyan, 2012
|c. 7–8 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Afghanistan||~6,000,000 to ~6,500,000
|Pakistan||900,000. Some ~ 40,000 Afghan citizens of Hazara descent in Pakistan (2005)|
|Hazaragi and Dari (eastern varieties of Persian)|
|Shia Islam (Twelver and Ismaili), with a Sunni minority (see Aimaq Hazara)|
|Related ethnic groups|
Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire in the early 16th century, records the name Hazara in his autobiography. He referred to the populace of a region called Hazaristan, located west of the Kabulistan region, north of Ghazna, and southwest of Ghor.
The conventional theory is that the name Hazara derives from the Persian word for "thousand" (هزار hezār). It may be the translation of the Mongol word ming (or minggan), a military unit of 1,000 soldiers at the time of Genghis Khan. With time, the term Hazar could have been substituted for the Mongol word and now stands for the group of people.
The origins of the Hazara have not been fully reconstructed. Significant inner Asian descent—in historical context, Turkic and Mongol—is impossible to rule out because the Hazara's physical attributes, facial bone structures and parts of their culture and language resemble those of Mongolians and Central Asian Turks. Thus, it is widely and popularly believed that Hazara have Mongolian ancestry. Genetic analysis of the Hazara indicate partial Mongolian ancestry. Invading Mongols and Turco-Mongols mixed with the local Iranian population, forming a distinct group. For example, Nikudari Mongols settled in what is now Afghanistan and mixed with native populations who spoke Dari Persian. A second wave of mostly Chagatai Mongols came from Central Asia and were followed by other Mongolic groups, associated with the Ilkhanate and the Timurids, all of whom settled in Hazarajat and mixed with the local, mostly Dari-speaking population, forming a distinct group.
The Hazara identity in Afghanistan is believed by many to have originated in the aftermath of the 1221 Siege of Bamyan. The first mention of Hazara are made by Babur in the early 16th century and later by the court historians of Shah Abbas of the Safavid dynasty. It is reported that they embraced Shia Islam between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, during the Safavid period.
Hazara men along with tribes of other ethnic groups had been recruited and added to the army of Ahmad Shah Durrani in the 18th century. Some claim that in the mid‑18th century Hazara were forced out of Helmand and the Arghandab District of Kandahar Province.
During the second reign of Dost Mohammad Khan in the 19th century, Hazara from Hazarajat began to be taxed for the first time. However, for the most part they still managed to keep their regional autonomy until the subjugation of Abdur Rahman Khan began in the late 19th century.
When the Treaty of Gandomak was signed and the Second Anglo-Afghan War ended in 1880, Abdur Rahman Khan set out a goal to bring Hazarajat and Kafiristan under his control. He launched several campaigns in Hazarajat due to resistance from the Hazara in which his forces committed atrocities. The southern part of Hazarajat was spared as they accepted his rule, while the other parts of Hazarajat rejected Abdur Rahman and instead supported his uncle, Sher Ali Khan. In response to this Abdur Rahman waged a war against tribal leaders who rejected his policies and rule. Abdur Rahman arrested Syed Jafar, chief of the Sheikh Ali Hazara tribe, and jailed him in Mazar-i-Sharif.
The 1888–1893 Uprisings of Hazaras occurred when the Treaty of Gandomak was signed and the Second Anglo-Afghan War ended in 1880, causing Abdur Rahman Khan to set out on a goal to bring Hazarajat and Kafiristan under his control. He launched several campaigns in Hazarajat due to resistance from the Hazara in which his forces committed atrocities. The southern part of Hazarajat was spared as they accepted his rule, while the other parts of Hazarajat rejected Abdur Rahman and instead supported his uncle, Sher Ali Khan. In response to this Abdur Rahman waged a war against tribal leaders who rejected his policies and rule. Abdur Rahman arrested Syed Jafar, chief of the Sheikh Ali Hazara tribe, and jailed him in Mazar-i-Sharif. These campaigns had a catastrophic impact on the demographics of Hazaras causing 60% of them to perish or become displaced.
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. Hazara continued to face severe social, economic and political discrimination through most of the 20th century. In 1933 King Mohammed Nadir Khan was assassinated by Abdul Khaliq Hazara. The Afghan government captured and executed him later, along with several of his innocent family members.
Mistrust of the central government by the Hazaras and local uprisings continued. In particular, in the 1940s, during Zahir Shah's rule, a revolt took place against new taxes that were exclusively imposed on the Hazara. The Kuchi 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.
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Hazarajat region did not see as much heavy fighting as other regions of Afghanistan. However, rival Hazara political factions fought. The division was between the Tanzáim-i nasl-i naw-i 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 took entire control of Hazarajat away from the secularists. By 1984, after severe fighting, the secularist groups lost all their power to the Islamists.
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 Hizb-i-Wahdat, an alliance of all the Hazara resistance groups (except the Harakat-i Islami). In 1992 with the fall of Kabul, the Harakat-i Islami took sides with Burhanuddin Rabbani's government while the Hizb-i-Wahdat took sides with the opposition. The Hizb-i-Wahdat was eventually forced out of Kabul in 1995 when the 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 Daykundi.
Though Hazara played a role in the anti-Soviet movement, other Hazara participated in the new communist government, which actively courted Afghan minorities. Sultan Ali Kishtmand, a Hazara, served as prime minister of Afghanistan from 1981–1990 (with one brief interruption in 1988). The Ismaili Hazara of Baghlan Province likewise supported the communists, and their pir (religious leader) Jaffar Naderi led a pro-Communist militia in the region.
During the years that followed, Hazara suffered severe oppression and many ethnic massacres, genocides and pogroms were carried out by the predominantly ethnic Pashtun Taliban and are documented by such groups the Human Rights Watch. These human rights abuses not only occurred in Hazarajat, but across all districts controlled by the Taliban. Particularly after their capture of Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, where after a massive killing of some 8,000 civilians, the Taliban openly declared that the Hazara would be targeted.
Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, British and American forces invaded Afghanistan. Many Hazara have become leaders in today's newly emerging Afghanistan. Hazara have also pursued higher education, enrolled in the army, and many have top government positions. For example, Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Hazara from the Hizb-i-Wahdat party, ran in the 2004 presidential election in Afghanistan, and Karim Khalili became the Vice President of Afghanistan. A number of ministers and governors are Hazara, including Sima Samar, Habiba Sarabi, Sarwar Danish, Sayed Hussein Anwari, Abdul Haq Shafaq, Sayed Anwar Rahmati, Qurban Ali Oruzgani and many others. The mayor of Nili in Daykundi Province is Azra Jafari, who became the first female mayor in Afghanistan. The National Assembly of Afghanistan (Parliament) is 25% made up of ethnic Hazara, which represents 61 members.
Although Afghanistan has been historically one of the poorest countries in the world, the Hazarajat region has been kept even more poor from development by past governments. Since ousting the Taliban in late 2001, billions of dollars have poured into Afghanistan for reconstruction and several large-scale reconstruction projects took place in Afghanistan from August 2012. For example, there have been more than 5000 kilometers of road pavement completed across Afghanistan, of which little was done in central Afghanistan Hazarajat. On the other hand, the Band-e Amir in the Bamyan Province became the first national park of Afghanistan. The road from Kabul to Bamyan was also built, along with new police stations, government institutions, hospitals, and schools in the Bamyan Province, Daykundi Province, and the others. The first ski resort of Afghanistan was also established in Bamyan Province.
An indication of discrimination is that Kuchis (Afghan nomads who have historically been migrating from region to region depending on the season) are allowed to use Hazarajat pastures during the summer season. It is believed that allowing the Kuchis to use some of the grazing land in Hazarajat began during the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. Living in mountainous Hazarajat, where little farm land exists, Hazara people rely on these pasture lands for their livelihood during the long and harsh winters. In 2007 some Kuchi nomads entered into parts of Hazarajat to graze their livestock, and when the local Hazara resisted, a clash took place and several people on both sides died using assault rifles. Such events continue to occur, even after the central government was forced to intervene, including President Hamid Karzai. In late July 2012, a Hazara police commander in Uruzgan province reportedly rounded up and killed 9 Pashtun civilians in revenge for the death of two local Hazara. The matter is being investigated by the Afghan government.
The drive by President Hamid Karzai after the Peace Jirga to strike a deal with Taliban leaders caused deep unease in Afghanistan's minority communities, who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule. The leaders of the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities, which together make up around 65% of the country's population, vowed to resist any return of the Taliban to power, referring to the large-scale massacres of Hazara civilians during the Taliban period.
Genetically, the Hazara are a mixture of western Eurasian and eastern Eurasian components. While it has been found that "at least third to half of their chromosomes are of East Asian origin, PCA places them between East Asia and Caucasus/Middle East/Europe clusters". Genetic research suggests that the Hazaras of Afghanistan cluster closely with the Uzbek population of the country, while both groups are at a notable distance from Afghanistan's Tajik and Pashtun populations. There is evidence of both a patrimonial and maternal relation to Turkic Peoples and Mongols.
Mongol male and female 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. These results indicate that the Hazara are also characterized by very high frequencies of eastern Eurasian mtDNAs at 35%, which are virtually absent from bordering populations, suggesting that the male descendants of Genghis Khan, or other Mongols, were accompanied by women of East Asian ancestry. Women of Non-eastern Eurasian mtDNA in Hazaras are at 65% most which are West Eurasians and some South Asian.
The most frequent paternal Haplogroup type found amongst the Pakistani Hazara was haplogroup C-M217 at 40%(10/25) with Haplogroup O3 (Y-DNA) at 8% (2/25) both which are Eastern Eurasian males ancestry associated with the Mongoloid ethnicity.
In one mtDNA study of Hazara, mtDNA Haplogroup L which is of African origin was detected at a frequency of 7.5% Also in one Y-DNA study of Hazara people, two haplogroups regarded as extreme outliers geographically have also been identified at low levels among the Hazara:
The vast majority of Hazaras live in central Afghanistan, and significant numbers are also found in major cities and towns. Many Hazara men leave Hazarjat to work in cities, including in neighboring countries or abroad. The latest World Factbook estimates show that Hazara make up nine percent of the total Afghan population but some sources claim that they are about 20 percent. However, they fail to cite a reference. In the 1970s, they were estimated by Louis Dupree at approximately 1,000,000.
Alessandro Monsutti argues, in his recent anthropological book, that migration is 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. Due to the decades of war in Afghanistan and the sectarian violence in Pakistan, many Hazaras left their communities and have settled in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and particularly the Northern European countries such as Sweden and Denmark. Some go to these countries as exchange students while others through human smuggling, which sometimes cost them their lives. Since 2001, about 1,000 people have died in the ocean while trying to reach Australia by boats from Indonesia. Many of these were Hazaras, including women and small children who could not swim. The notable case was the Tampa affair in which a shipload of refugees, mostly Hazara, was rescued by the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa and subsequently sent to Nauru. New Zealand agreed to take some of the refugees and all but one of those were granted stay.
During the British expansion in the 19th century, Hazaras worked during the winter months in coal mines, road construction and in other menial labor jobs in some cities of what is now Pakistan. The earliest record of Hazara in the areas of Pakistan is found in Broadfoot's Sappers company from 1835 in Quetta. This company had also participated in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Some Hazara also worked in the agriculture farms in Sindh and construction of Sukkur barrage. Haider Ali Karmal Jaghori was a prominent political thinker of the Hazara people in Pakistan, writing about the political history of Hazara people. His work Hazaraha wa Hazarajat Bastan Dar Aiyna-i-Tarikh was published in Quetta in 1992, and another work by Aziz Tughyan Hazara Tarikh Milli Hazara was published in 1984 in Quetta.
Most Pakistani Hazaras today live in the city of Quetta, in Balochistan, Pakistan. Localities in the city of Quetta with prominent Hazara populations include Hazara Town and Mehr Abad and Hazara tribes such as the Sardar are exclusively Pakistani. Literacy level among the Hazara community in Pakistan is relatively high compare to the Hazaras of Afghanistan, and they have integrated well into the social dynamics of the local society. Saira Batool, a Hazara woman, was one of the first female pilots in Pakistan Air Force. Other notable Hazara include Qazi Mohammad Esa, General Muhammad Musa, who served as Commander in Chief of the Pakistani Army from 1958 to 1968, Air Marshal Sharbat Ali Changezi, Hussain Ali Yousafi, the slain chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, Syed Nasir Ali Shah, MNA from Quetta and his father Haji Syed Hussain Hazara who was a senator and member of majlis shora during the Zia-ul-Haq era.
Despite all of this, Hazaras are often targeted by militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and others. "Activists say at least 800-1,000 Hazaras have been killed since 1999 and the pace is quickening. More than one hundred have been murdered in and around Quetta since January, according to Human Rights Watch." The political representation of the community is served by Hazara Democratic Party, a secular liberal democratic party, headed by Abdul Khaliq Hazara.
Over the many years as a result of political unrest in Afghanistan some Hazaras have migrated to Iran. The local Hazara population has been estimated at 500,000 people of which at least one third have spent more than half their life in Iran.
They have complained of discrimination in Iran. In March 2011, Eurasia Daily Monitor reported that representatives of Hazara community in Iran have asked Mongolia to intervene in supporting their case with Iranian government and prevent Iranian forced repatriation to Afghanistan.
The Hazara, outside of Hazarajat, have adopted the cultures of the cities where they dwell, and in many cases they have become Pashtunized and Persianized, resembling customs and traditions of the Afghan Tajiks and Pashtuns. Traditionally the Hazara are highland farmers and although sedentary, 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 those of the Afghan Tajiks. For instance, many Hazara musicians are widely hailed as being skilled in playing the dambura, a regional and native instrument, a lute instrument similarly found in other Central Asian nations such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Hazara live in houses rather than tents; Aimaq people in tents rather than houses.
Hazara people living in Hazarajat (Hazaristan) areas speak the Hazaragi language of Afghanistan, which is infused with a significant number of Mongolic loan words. The primary differences between Dari and Hazaragi are the accent and Hazaragi's greater array of Mongolic loanwords. Despite these differences, Hazaragi is mutually intelligible with Dari, one of the official languages of Afghanistan.
Many of the urban Hazara in the larger cities such as Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif no longer speak Hazaragi but speak standard literary Dari (usually the Kābolī dialect) or other regional varieties of Dari (for example the Khorāsānī dialect in the western region of Herat).
Hazara are predominantly Shi'a Muslims, mostly of the Twelver sect and some Ismaili. Since the majority of Afghans practice Sunni Islam, this may have contributed to the discrimination against the Hazara. Hazara probably converted to Shi'ism during the first part of the 16th century, in the early days of the Safavid Dynasty. Nonetheless, a small number of Hazara are Sunni, such as the Aimaq Hazaras. Sunni Hazara have been attached to non-Hazara tribes (such as Taimuris), while the Ismaili Hazara have always been kept separate from the rest of the Hazara on account of religious beliefs and political purposes.
The Hazara people have been organized by various tribes. The Daizangi are the largest tribe, representing 57.2% of the Hazara population. However, more recently and since the inclusion of the Hazara into the "Afghan state", tribal affiliations have been disappearing and former tribal names Sheikh Ali, Jaghori, Ghaznichi, Behsud, Uruzgani, and Daizangi are also disappearing. There are smaller tribes such as Sarcheshmae, Kolokheshgi, Turkmani, Daemirdadi, Wazirgi that have remained a minority among the Hazara tribes. The different tribes come from regions such as Parwan, Bamiyan, Ghazni and Maydan-Shahr and have spread outwards from Hazarajat (Main City) into Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
Many Hazara are engaged in different sports. Rohullah Nikpai 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 Olympic medal. He then won a second Olympic medal for Afghanistan in the London 2012 games. 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 was the first ever badminton player representing Afghanistan in Asian Junior Championships in 2005 where he produced the first win for his country against Iraq, with 15–13, 15–1. He participated in several international championships since 2005 and achieved victories against Australia, Philippines and Mongolia. Hamid Rahimi is a new boxer from Afghanistan and lives in Germany. Zohib Islam Amiri the former captain of Afghanistan's national football team is also of Hazara descent.
A Pakistani Hazara named Syed Abrar Hussain Shah, a former Olympic boxer served as deputy director general of the Pakistan Sports Board. Shah represented Pakistan three times at the Olympics and won a gold medal at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. Some Hazara from Pakistan have also excelled in sports and have received numerous awards particularly in boxing, football and in field hockey. Qayum Changezi, a legendary Pakistani football player, was a Hazara. New Hazara youngsters are seen to appear in many sports in Pakistan including boys and girls from Hazara Town and Mehr Abad. Rajab Ali Hazara who is leading under 16 Pakistan Football team as captain and many other youngsters representing Hazaras in sports in Pakistan.
Due to a lack of census statistics, estimates of the total Hazara population range from five million to more than eight million.