The Hazara people - a long-persecuted and long-suffering population - are an Iranian ethnic group living in central Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. First mention of the Hazara is believed to have occurred in the late 16th century when the term was used to describe the people of the geographic location bordered by Kabul, Ghor, and Gazhni, in the central and mountainous regions of Afghanistan. (See dark green area on map below.)
As noted in In the Sea There Are Crocodiles (and, coincidentally, in Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner), the Hazara are a marginalized population. They are predominantly viewed as a lesser people and the lowest of the caste system. Comprised mostly of practicing Shi'a Muslims, the Hazara beliefs are considered to be in direct conflict with the ruling Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of the population of Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, simply being Hazara is reason enough to fear execution. A Taliban saying (mentioned about Afghanistan's non-Pashtun ethnic groups) states, "Tajiks to Tajikistan, Uzbeks to Uzbekistan, and Hazaras to goristan" - the graveyard.
The Hazara people have made news headlines, as targeted killings that originated in Afghanistan have become an ever-present danger in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Amnesty International became involved on October 4, 2011, calling for Pakistan to stand up for the rights of the Hazara Shi'a Muslims. Says Amnesty, "Increased attacks on Shi'a and in particular Hazara Shi'a, who are mostly Afghan refugees, demonstrate the increasing marginalization both groups face in Pakistan."
There is one bright spot in the continuing story of the Hazara: advancements in access to education. A New York Times report from January 2010, notes that:
"Two Hazara-dominated provinces, Bamian and Daykondi, have the highest passing rates on admissions exams for the country's top rung of universities, according to officials from the Ministry of Higher Education... While the Taliban insurgency rages in Pashtun regions, and many schools are attacked or forced to close, the enrollment of girls in Bamian schools rose by nearly one-third the past two years, to 46,500, as total school enrollment there grew 22 percent."
Watch the two-part video below to find out more about the Hazara people and the inequities they face living in Afghanistan today.
This article was originally published in October 2011, and has been updated for the
June 2012 paperback release.
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