Hassan is a Hazara [Afghanistan]

Country: Afghanistan
I stumbled upon a list of 7 Best Books on Afghanistan and wanted to finish the shortest book of about 70 pages, Earth by Ashes by Atiq Rahim in a week. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the soft copy online or find the hard copy at my nearest bookstore.

Thankfully, I managed to get the soft copy of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini online.

In the very first few pages itself, my curiosity was piqued about the differences between the Hazaras and Pashtuns. Although I did not venture past page 10 of the book, I certainly traversed through the web to gain more knowledge about other ethnic groups living within Afghanistan like the Tajiks (2nd largest), Uzbeks, Turkmen, etc.

The Hazaras who are the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, are concentrated in Central Afghanistan, including in Bamiyan. Being descendants of the vicious Genghis Khan and Mongol soldiers who invaded Afghanistan in the 13th century, their features make them easily distinguishable from the other ethnic groups.

They are primarily Shia Muslims which is one of the main reasons for their persecution by the Islamic State (IS) and Taliban. IS believes that the Shias are apostates and have to die so that a pure form of Islam can be created.

The Hazaras have been innocent victims of unjust persecutions.

  • BBC reported in July 2016 that IS has said it was behind an attack on a protest march in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on 16 May that killed 80 people and wounded 230. Thousands of people from the Hazara minority were present as they demanded changes to the route of a planned power transmission line.
  • The 1998 Massacre of the Hazaras by the Taliban is another incident that remains fresh in mind.
  • Some Hazaras also live in Pakistan and they are about 600,000 in number there. Just in January 2013 in Pakistan, over 120 people in this minority group were killed within a single day in suicide bombings.

Here is an extract from The Kite Runner interspersed with visual accompaniment:

“They called him “flat-nosed” because of Ali and Hassan’s characteristic Hazara Mongoloid features. For years, that was all I knew about the Hazaras, that they were Mogul descendants, and that they looked a little like Chinese people.

Hazara of Daykundi province (USACE photo by Karla K. Marshal)
Hazara of Daykundi province (USACE photo by Karla K. Marshal)

School text books barely mentioned them and referred to their ancestry only in passing. Then one day, I was in Baba’s study, looking through his stuff, when I found one of my mother’s old history books. It was written by an Iranian named Khorami. I blew the dust off it, sneaked it into bed with me that night, and was stunned to find an entire chapter on Hazara history. An entire chapter dedicated to Hassan’s people!

Hazards in Behsud by Nasim Fekrat
Hazards in Behsud by Nasim Fekrat

In it, I read that my people, the Pashtuns, had persecuted and oppressed the Hazaras. It said the Hazaras had tried to rise against the Pashtuns in the nineteenth century, but the Pashtuns had “quelled them with unspeakable violence.” The book said that my people had killed the Hazaras, driven them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold their women.

Photo by ABC Open Riverland, Flickr
Photo by ABC Open Riverland, Flickr

The book said part of the reason Pashtuns had oppressed the Hazaras was that Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi’a. The book said a lot of things I didn’t know, things my teachers hadn’t mentioned. Things Baba hadn’t mentioned either. It also said some things I did know, like that people called Hazaras – mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys. I had heard some of the kids in the neighborhood yell those names to Hassan.”

Feature Image: USACE photo by Karla K. Marshall

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