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Who are the Hazara People? - Definition & Culture

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Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
The Hazara are a people in central Afghanistan who may be the descendants of Ghengis Khan. Persecuted for their religious beliefs and ethnic features, the Hazara are featured in the book and movie, ''The Kite Runner.'' Updated: 01/07/2020

Who Are the Hazara?

The Hazara are a people who mostly live in the central, mountainous region of Afghanistan in an area known as Hazarajat, with smaller communities living in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. There are about 2.7 million Hazara in Afghanistan, and up to 150,000 in Pakistan. The Hazara speak a dialect known as Hazaragi, a form of Dari, one of two official languages in Afghanistan that is also understandable in Iran, which speaks Farsi.

Ethnically, the Hazara have Asian features and might be the descendants of the Mongols under Genghis Khan, who lived from 1162 to 1227. Some Hazara believe they are the descendants of one of the sons of Noah. Most likely, they are related to Turkic, Uzbek, or Iranian ancestors. Either way, the Hazara's Asian features set them apart from most Afghans.

The Hazara are mostly Shia, one of the branches of Islam. This has caused difficulties, as most of Afghanistan is Sunni, the other main branch of Islam. The Hazara have had a long history of rebellion against and persecution under larger Pashtun and Tajik groups, the main ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

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  • 0:05 Who Are the Hazara?
  • 1:12 Hazara Persecution
  • 2:00 Hazara People & Culture
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Hazara Persecution

Under the dominant Sunni population of Afghanistan, the Hazara for generations have suffered discrimination in education, access to public services, and fewer economic opportunities. This occurred as well under the Taliban, the previous and short-lived government in Afghanistan. Recently, the Hazara have been victims of deadly attacks by either what remains of the Taliban or new elements of ISIS (or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the same group that is fighting in Iraq and Syria.

This religious and ethnic persecution and the general unstable situation in Afghanistan has encouraged the Hazara to flee the country. While there are large Hazara communities in Canada, the United States, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, and Australia, many Hazara have died trying to reach places like Australia through dangerous human smuggling routes.

Hazara People & Culture

Despite generally being poor and having few economic opportunities, Hazara are also generally proud, hardworking people who are warm and friendly to guests. Hazara culture includes folklore about past events, belief in ghosts, and many proverbs ('the son of a wolf is a wolf,' or children act like their parents). The Hazara are well-known for dubaitis, or traditional folk songs. Hazara social gatherings include singing and dancing, and the telling of epic stories of history and love. The Hazara use a musical instrument called a dambora, a lute-like instrument with a bowl-shaped bottom and a long neck. Hazara, like other Afghans, celebrate Muslim holidays such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and also the Persian New Year.

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