Afghanistan Table of Contents
Afghanistan's rugged central mountainous core of approximately 50,000 square kilometers is known as the Hazarajat, Land of the Hazara. Others live in Badakhshan, and, following Kabul's campaigns against them in the late nineteenth century, some settled in western Turkestan, in Jauzjan and Badghis provinces. Estimated population in 1995 was one million.
Physically the Hazara are Mongoloid, possibly of mixed Eastern Turkic and Mongol origin, although numerous contradictory speculations exist. Scholars agree that the Hazara were established here since the beginning of the thirteenth century. Hazara speak Hazaragi, a Persianized language with a large mixture of Mongol words. A majority are Imami Shia; fewer are Ismaili Shia; while others, particularly in Bamiyan and the north, are Sunni.
The leaders of Hazara lineages, known as mirs or khans, lost their powerful status in communities after Amir Abdur Rahman subdued them in 1891. The Pushtun state established a local administration, imposed harsh taxation policies and distributed lands to Pushtun, including fertile pasture lands in areas previously inaccessible to Pushtun nomads.
The Hazarajat continued to be a neglected area. Services and physical infrastructure were practically nonexistent. Farming and animal husbandry are the principal occupations; there is no industry. Because of their meager resources, the Hazara seasonally sought work and services in other areas as low grade civil servants, shopkeepers, artisans, urban factory workers, and unskilled labour. In the 1960s an estimated 30-50 percent of Hazara males migrated to the cities where they were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social scale. During the 1960s and 70s their economic and political status improved remarkably.
During the war, contending groups within the Hazarajat achieved greater unity than ever before. Hazara political parties were excluded from the mujahideen alliances, however, largely because of rabidly anti-Shia prejudices held by some leaders, such as Abdur Rab Rasul Sayyaf and Yunus Khalis. It is doubtful if the Hazara will accept their former inferior status in the future.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress