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Who are the Hazara?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Hazara are an ethnic minority living primarily in the arid mountainous regions of Central Afghanistan. They can also be found in parts of Pakistan, and a diaspora has scattered other members of this ethnic group to many regions of the world. This ethnic group has historically faced persecution from other ethnic groups in Afghanistan; the Hazara have been forcibly displaced, enslaved, and subjugated by dominant ethnic groups in this region for centuries.

Several things distinguish the Hazara from other ethnic groups in the area. The first is their strongly Asiatic ancestry, which suggests that they are probably descended from the Mongolians, although the group has clearly intermixed with people of Eastern European and Middle Eastern ancestry as well. The Hazara speak Hazaragi, a form of Persian, and they are primarily Shia Muslims.

This ethnic group also has its own distinct cultural and religious traditions. The Hazara are famous for their poetry and storytelling, with legends of their culture and life being passed down in the form of lengthy songs, poems, and stories told to children. A variety of musical instruments are played among these people, and while those in this ethnic group share values with other Muslims across the Middle East, they sometimes express these values in different ways, integrating rich folklore and a history of superstition into their practice of the Muslim faith.

Up to four million Hazara can be found around the world, with firm numbers being difficult to track down due to the diaspora. Despite being a significant ethnic minority in Afghanistan, they have disproportionate access to social services, education, and other benefits. They have historically been quite poor, with many enduring subsistence living, in part thanks to the rocky environment where they live, which makes farming difficult.

Despite hardship, the Hazara have been famed for their hospitality since the 1500s, when people first started referencing them as a distinct cultural group. Like many other Middle Easterners, the Hazara take hospitality very seriously, ensuring that their guests are made as comfortable and happy as possible, and extending protection to their guests.

After the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, many people became more aware of the plight of the Hazara. Coalition forces supported the development of programs to support this group and other ethnic minorities in Afghanistan, and members of the Hazara Diaspora also started to agitate for increased rights and protections for their fellow Hazara in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon289586 — On Sep 05, 2012

Thanks for the above information if that is true. I am proud for being a Hazara man and I do want more information about our origin. If our ancestors came from Mongolia and it is proven by someone thoroughly, I will appreciate it.

By anon288908 — On Sep 01, 2012

I agree that it is quite sad to see the extent to which the Hazara are discriminated against in their own country. I wish more of these people had the opportunities we have in the Western world or at least the ability to live peacefully without persecution in their own country.

It is a pity not more is known about them or their circumstances. I think watching Australian documentary series 'go back to where you came from' really gave me an insight into the circumstances of these people.

It is quite amazing to realize the numbers in which they are trying to flee Pakistan to enter other countries as asylum seekers and immigrants. I truly hope that more compassion and understanding is shown to these beautiful people when they cross over borders in desperation, looking for a better life.

By anon229765 — On Nov 15, 2011

I really like this site. I got a lot of good information for my report.

By anon229393 — On Nov 13, 2011

Another thing is that if the thousand soldiers of Genghis Khan had remained in Afghanistan, then all of them were male, so can someone tell me with which ethnic groups they had sex and with? Therefore, this theory is absolutely wrong.

By anon229391 — On Nov 13, 2011

The Hazara are descendants of the Koshan empire. The Hazara people are not descendants of Genghis Khan.

I am a Hazara, but I am proud to be of the turkic tribe and I am proud to be a descendant of Koshan, who built the Buddha of Bamiyan. Maybe the Hazaras are of mixed turkic and mongol but the origin of the Hazara is Turkic.

By Misscoco — On Sep 15, 2011

I don't know enough about the history of Afghanistan or the history of the Hazara people to say too much about the subject. Yet,it is very interesting.

If the Hazara ethnic group had its beginnings in Asia, I wonder what prompted them to move into the desolate mountains of Afghanistan. Were they forced out or were they persecuted and moved on their own?

Then after they came into Afghanistan, and became a tribal unit, what were the reasons for their moving into Pakistan and all over the world?

I suppose it would be better if ethnic groups could stay together since they have bonds and a shared cultural tradition.

I guess I'll have to do some reading on the Hazara people. This article really woke me up to all that I don't know.

By Esther11 — On Sep 14, 2011

I feel sadness for the Hazara ethnic group. Afghanistan, still having a tight tribal system, with some strong majority tribes and minority tribes,like the Hazara, makes it difficult for them to make progress.

Like what happens to many minorities, the Hazara people have been intimidated, used and not treated fairly socially or economically.

Some generous people from the outside world are trying to help them with education, and medical and nutrition issues.

It's good that they have their own hazara music and traditional stories that they have been passing down orally to their children. It keeps them bonded.

By fify — On Sep 14, 2011

I'm glad that the coalition forces have been helping the Hazara with development programs and such. From what I gather from the news, the Hazara has also been very supportive of the coalition forces, fighting against the Taliban in their areas.

I think it's great that we are able to lend a helping hand for those who are oppressed and hopefully bring some equality to the social and political system there. It's also great that despite all the pressures and dangers of being a minority, that the Hazara are standing up for their rights and are protecting their homeland from the insurgents.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 13, 2011

I feel that there is a terrible situation going on with the Hazara and how they have been oppressed by the Taliban. I believe that the war on terrorism really need to focus on not just eliminating terrorists, but also by really helping those that have been hurt by the groups that terrorize others.

With the Hazara, they are a dwindling people, and I am afraid that their rich culture and history will be lost if there isn't more support from abroad. I really think that there are many victims of the Taliban, not just in America but abroad as well.

By candyquilt — On Sep 12, 2011

There is still a lot of uncertainty and controversy about the ethnicity of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan. I thought that they were of Turkic origin because I read somewhere that the Hazaragi language includes a lot of Turkish words. But apparently, it also includes a lot of Mongolian and Persian words as well.

As far as I know, some Hazara believe that they are the descendants of Genghiz Khan- a Mongolian ruler and invader. They say that the Hazara are the descendants of Khan's army which remained in Afghanistan. Other Hazara say that their ancestors lived in Afghanistan before Genghiz Khan arrived there, so this is not possible.

My view is that Hazara have descended from Central and East Asian Mongols who probably mixed with some other groups like the Turks and Persians or were influenced by them during their journey to Afghanistan.

By wander — On Sep 12, 2011

When I was traveling through Pakistan I came across quite a bit of Hazara music which I found to be quite fascinating. Hazara songs are quite upbeat and feature some impressive vocals. While I can honestly say that I didn't understand the lyrics of what I was listening to, it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the Hazara music.

One of the things I really have to recommend if you are even in Pakistan is checking out a live performance of Hazara music. While it is common to see it on television in the country, nothing beats a live performance if you really want to get a feel for the country.

By turquoise — On Sep 12, 2011

I saw a film about Afghanistan and it did a good job showing the different ethnic groups and the relations between them.

I felt very sad to see the Hazara in the film, who served as servants to the other ethnic groups. I don't know how true or applicable this is to real life, but the film also showed the Hazara being subjugated to physical and sexual abuse.

For example, there was a part of the movie which showed dancing boys which was also televised not too long ago on American television. Apparently, since women are not allowed to entertain men in Afghanistan, some people entertain themselves by making small boys dance. In the movie it showed that these boys all belonged to the Hazara group.

Like I said, I don't know the extent in which this film represents reality. But I hope that all such discrimination among ethnic groups in Afghanistan will end.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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