Afghanistan's rugged central mountainous core of approximately 50,000 squarekilometers is known as the Hazarajat, Land of the Hazara. Others live inBadakhshan, and, following Kabul's campaigns against them in the late nineteenthcentury, some settled in western Turkestan, in Jauzjan and Badghis provinces.Estimated population in 1995 was one million.

Physically the Hazara are Mongoloid, possibly of mixed Eastern Turkic andMongol origin, although numerous contradictory speculations exist. Scholarsagree that the Hazara were established here since the beginning of thethirteenth century. Hazara speak Hazaragi, a Persianized language with a largemixture of Mongol words. A majority are Imami Shia; fewer are Ismaili Shia;while others, particularly in Bamiyan and the north, are Sunni.

The leaders of Hazara lineages, known as mirs or khans,lost their powerful status in communities after Amir Abdur Rahman subdued themin 1891. The Pushtun state established a local administration, imposed harshtaxation policies and distributed lands to Pushtun, including fertile pasturelands in areas previously inaccessible to Pushtun nomads.

The Hazarajat continued to be a neglected area. Services and physicalinfrastructure were practically nonexistent. Farming and animal husbandry arethe principal occupations; there is no industry. Because of their meagerresources, the Hazara seasonally sought work and services in other areas as lowgrade civil servants, shopkeepers, artisans, urban factory workers, andunskilled labour. In the 1960s an estimated 30-50 percent of Hazara malesmigrated to the cities where they were considered to be on the lowest rung ofthe social scale. During the 1960s and 70s their economic and political statusimproved remarkably.

During the war, contending groups within the Hazarajat achieved greater unitythan ever before. Hazara political parties were excluded from the mujahideenalliances, however, largely because of rabidly anti-Shia prejudices held by someleaders, such as Abdur Rab Rasul Sayyaf and Yunus Khalis. It is doubtful if theHazara will accept their former inferior status in the future.


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