The Hazaras are Muslims in Afghanistan that belong to the Shia, Sunni, and Ismaili sects of Islam, but the majority are Shiites, while the Pashtuns, are Sunnis. The Hazaras are viewed as a minority by the Pashtuns. The Hazaras are divided into three groups, those in the North, those in the West, and those in the Hazarajat. About 25% of Afghanistan’s population is made up of Hazara’s, but it is very hard to take an accurate census of them because they live in such remote and secluded areas where they would not be accounted for.
In addition to Afghanistan, millions of Hazaras live in Iran, around 600,00 live in Pakistan, and thousands also live in the west. They mainly speak Farsi and are identified by their Asian features. A lot of information about the Hazaras is inaccessible due to the fact that families safeguard their first-hand and valuable political and historical documents since they we continuously discriminated against, but there are a couple theories as to where they came from. One theory is that they have inhabited Afghanistan since the time of Alexander the Great.
The other theory is that they are descendents of Monghol soldiers who came to Afghanistan with Changiz Khan’s army, and after settling in they gradually adopted the language, religion, and culture of the Tajik inhabitants, therefore, they are a mixed race of the Monghols, Turks and other who evolved into a new ethnic group that is now the Hazaras. During the Hazara-Afghan wars of 1890 to 1893, the Hazaras were forced into slavery and their leaders were killed, allowing the Afghans to impose political leadership on them. Until the 1880s, the Hazaras were in full control of all the areas in the Hazarajat.
The Pashtuns and the central government in Kabul had not yet found their way into these areas yet. But since the 1890s, their land has been attacked and overrun by Pashtuns, who use this land as grazing area for their livestock, resulting in a migration of Hazaras to the cities and a reduction of their farmland. But after the 1978 coup, all of the Hazarajat was liberated and taken out of the central government of Kabul, and they returned to their tribal political structure. In 1980 the Hazaras made an agreement with the government in Kabul, that if the Hazara’s did not attack the government, they would gain more independence in return.
Due to many prejudices, the Hazaras have been forced to live in the dry mountains of central Afghanistan. One culture trait of the Hazaras that is different than the culture of America is the rights of women. They are not treated as equal, but recently their rights have been improving, since the Taliban are no longer in control. One of the rights of women that is improving is that they are beginning to be allowed to attend school, whereas they did not used to be allowed to. Women do not have to seclude themselves from men as they used to, and they are also beginning to be allowed to farm to support themselves.
The women also craft handmade coats, sweaters, jackets, and scarves. Once Hazara girls reach the teenage years, they are required to wear a scarf to cover their hair and spend more time indoors. Marriages are arranged by the families and the girl moves in with the husband’s family once they are wed. Many Hazara families live in a “khanawar” which is like a large joint family made up of several nuclear families. Most Hazara families are very poor and do not have great living conditions, depending on location.
Since Hazaras face a lot of discrimination, Hazara men usually work very low paying jobs either as a farmer, or in cities small jobs such as a janitor. It is rare that Hazara men have jobs as leaders but they are slowly gaining equal rights. Due to the constant oppression of the Hazaras they are known as freedom fighters to seek out justice from the powerful regimes. The Hazaras are also very superstitious believing in the evil eye, ghosts, as well as animal and nighttime superstitions. They celebrate major Muslim holidays, including a three day celebration following the Ramadan (month of fasting).
During their celebrations they enjoy music, dancing, and storytelling. The Hazaras also commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac but sacrificing a goat or sheep to the poor. The men often dress in pajama like clothes made of wool and cotton, while the women dress in bright colors and light weight fabrics. Though the Hazaras live in poverty they are kind, friendly, and hospitable to guests by preparing nice meals including meats and dairy. Through centuries of discrimination the Hazara’s slowly climbing a road to freedom.
Courtney from Study Moose
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