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.