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The Hazaras (Persian: هزاره, romanizedHazāra; Hazaragi: آزره, romanized: Āzra) are a Persian-speaking ethnic group native to, and primarily residing in the Hazarajat region in central Afghanistan and generally scattered throughout Afghanistan. They speak the Hazaragi dialect of Persian which is mutually intelligible with Dari, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan.

They are one of the largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan, and are also significant minority groups in neighboring Pakistan, mostly in Quetta, and as well as in Iran. Hazaras are considered by some to be one of the most vulnerable groups in Afghanistan, and their persecution has occurred various times across previous decades.


The etymology of the word Hazāra remains disputed, but some have differing views on the term.

Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire in the early 16th century, records the name Hazāra in his autobiography. He referred to the populace of a region called Hazāristān.

Historian Abdul Hai Habibi considers the word "Hazara" to be very old, and it is derived from "Hazala" (hazāla هزاله), which has changed to "Hazara" over time and has meant "good hearted".

Another view is that the name Hazāra derives from the Persian word for "thousand" (hazār هزار). It may be the translation of the Mongol word ming (or mingghan), a military unit of 1,000 soldiers at the time of Genghis Khan. With time, the term Hazār could have been substituted for the Mongol word and now stands for the group of people, while the Hazara people in their native language call themselves Azra (āzra آزره or azra ازره).


A 1430 Persian miniature depicting Ghazan and his brother Öljaitü
An 1879 portrait of a Dai Zangi Hazara

Although the origins of the Hazara people have not been fully reconstructed, Turkic and Mongol origin is probable for the majority. This is a result of common physical attributes, physical appearance, parts of their culture and language resembling those of Central Asian Turkic tribes and the Mongols, although phenotype can vary, with some noting that certain Hazaras may resemble Europeans or peoples native to the Iranian plateau. Genetic analysis of some of the Hazara indicates partial Mongol ancestry.

Invading Mongols and Turco-Mongols mixed with the local indigenous Turkic and Iranic populations. For example, Qara'unas settled in what is now Afghanistan and mixed with the local populations. The second wave of mostly Chagatai Turco-Mongols came from Central Asia, associated with the Ilkhanate and the Timurids, all of whom settled in Hazarajat and mixed with the local population.[citation needed] These result in academics believing that Hazaras are ultimately a result of several Turco-Mongol tribes mixing with the local population. mtDNA sequencing studies demonstrated relatively high frequencies of West Eurasian mtDNA.


The first mention of Hazara is made by Babur in the early 16th century and later by the court historians of Shah Abbas of the Safavid dynasty. It is reported that they embraced Shia Islam between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, during the Safavid period. Hazara men, along with those of other ethnic groups, were recruited to the army of Ahmad Shah Durrani in the 18th century.

19th century

During the second reign of Dost Mohammad Khan in the 19th century, Hazara from Hazarajat began to be taxed for the first time. However, for the most part, they still managed to keep their regional autonomy until the subjugation of Abdur Rahman Khan began in the late 19th century.[citation needed]

When the Treaty of Gandomak was signed and the Second Anglo-Afghan War ended in 1880, Abdur Rahman Khan set out a goal to bring Hazarajat and Kafiristan under his control. He launched several campaigns in Hazarajat due to resistance from the Hazara in which his forces committed atrocities. The southern part of Hazarajat was spared as they accepted his rule, while the other parts of Hazarajat rejected Abdur Rahman and instead supported his uncle, Sher Ali Khan. In response to this Abdur Rahman waged a war against tribal leaders who rejected his policies and rule. This is known as the Hazara Uprisings. Abdur Rahman arrested Syed Jafar, chief of the Sheikh Ali Hazaras, and jailed him in Mazar-e Sharif.[citation needed]

These campaigns had a catastrophic impact on the demographics of Hazaras causing over 60% of them to perish with some becoming displaced.

20th and 21st century

In 1901, Habibullah Khan, Abdur Rahman's eldest son and successor granted amnesty to all people who were exiled by his predecessor. However, the division between the Afghan government and the Hazara people was already made too deep under Abdur Rahman. Hazara continued to face severe social, economic, and political discrimination through most of the 20th century. In 1933 King Mohammed Nadir Khan was assassinated by Abdul Khaliq Hazara. The Afghan government captured and executed him later, along with several of his innocent family members.

Mistrust of the central government by the Hazaras and local uprisings continued. In particular, from 1945 to 1946, during Zahir Shah's rule, a revolt took place against new taxes that were exclusively imposed on the Hazara. The Kuchi nomads meanwhile not only were exempted from taxes but also received allowances from the Afghan government. The angry rebels began capturing and killing government officials. In response, the central government sent a force to subdue the region and later removed the taxes.[citation needed]

Abdul Ali Mazari, leader of the Hizbe-Wahdat party during and following the Soviet–Afghan War

The repressive policies of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) after the Saur Revolution in 1978 caused uprisings throughout the country. Fearing Iranian influence, the Hazaras were particularly persecuted. President Hafizullah Amin published in October 1979 a list of 12,000 victims of the Taraki government. Among them were 7,000 Hazaras who were shot in the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison.

During the Soviet-Afghan War, the Hazarajat region did not see as much heavy fighting as other regions of Afghanistan. Most of the Hazara mujahideen fought the Soviets in the regions which were in the periphery of the Hazarajat region. However, within Hazarajat, rival Hazara political factions did engage in a non-violent however extreme tussle. The division was between the Tanzeem Nasle Nau Hazara, a party based in Quetta, of Hazara nationalists and secular intellectuals, and the Islamist parties in Hazarajat. By 1979, the Hazara-Islamist groups had already liberated Hazarajat from the central Soviet-backed Afghan government and later took entire control of Hazarajat away from the secularists. By 1984, the Islamist dominance of Hazarajat was complete.

The Bamyan Valley, the site of the Buddhas of Bamyan

As the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the Islamist groups felt the need to broaden their political appeal and turned their focus to Hazara ethnic nationalism. This led to the establishment of the Hizb-i-Wahdat, an alliance of all the Hazara resistance groups (except the Harakat-i Islami). In 1992 with the fall of Kabul, the Harakat-i Islami took sides with Burhanuddin Rabbani's government while the Hizb-i-Wahdat took sides with the opposition. The Hizb-i-Wahdat was eventually forced out of Kabul in 1995 when the Taliban movement captured and killed their leader Abdul Ali Mazari. With the Taliban's capture of Kabul in 1996, all the Hazara groups united with the new Northern Alliance against the common new enemy. However, it was too late and despite the fierce resistance Hazarajat fell to the Taliban by 1998. The Taliban had Hazarajat isolated from the rest of the world going as far as not allowing the United Nations to deliver food to the provinces of Bamyan, Ghor, Maidan Wardak, and Daykundi.

Qazi Muhammad Essa, Jinnah's close associate and a key figure of the All-India Muslim League in Balochistan

Hazaras have also played a significant role in the creation of Pakistan. One such Hazara was Qazi Muhammad Essa of the Sheikh Ali tribe, who had been close friends with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, having had met each other for the first time while they were studying in London. He had been the first from his native province of Balochistan to obtain a Bar-at-Law degree and had helped set up the All-India Muslim League in Balochistan.

Though Hazara played a role in the anti-Soviet movement, other Hazara participated in the new communist government, which actively courted Afghan minorities. Sultan Ali Kishtmand, a Hazara, served as prime minister of Afghanistan from 1981 to 1990 (with one brief interruption in 1988). The Ismaili Hazara of Baghlan Province likewise supported the communists, and their pir (religious leader) Jaffar Naderi led a pro-Communist militia in the region.

During the years that followed, Hazara suffered severe oppression, and many ethnic massacres, genocides, and pogroms were carried out by the predominantly ethnic Pashtun Taliban and are documented by such groups as the Human Rights Watch.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, American and Coalition forces invaded Afghanistan. Many Hazara have become leaders in today's[when?] newly emerging Afghanistan. Hazara have also pursued higher education, enrolled in the army, and many have top government positions. For example, Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Hazara from the Hizb-i-Wahdat party, ran in the 2004 presidential election in Afghanistan, and Karim Khalili became the Vice President of Afghanistan. A number of ministers and governors are Hazara, including Sima Samar, Habiba Sarabi, Sarwar Danish, Sayed Hussein Anwari, Abdul Haq Shafaq, Sayed Anwar Rahmati, Qurban Ali Oruzgani. The mayor of Nili in Daykundi Province is Azra Jafari, who became the first female mayor in Afghanistan. Some other notable Hazara include Sultan Ali Keshtmand, Abdul Wahed Sarābi, Ghulam Ali Wahdat, Akram Yari, Sayed Mustafa Kazemi, Muhammad Arif Shah Jahan, Ghulam Husain Naseri, Abbas Noyan, Abbas Ibrahim Zada, Ramazan Bashardost, Ahmad Shah Ramazan, Ahmad Behzad, Nasrullah Sadiqi Zada Nili, Fahim Hashimy, Maryam Monsef and more.

Although Afghanistan has been historically one of the poorest countries in the world, the Hazarajat region has been kept less developed by past governments. Since ousting the Taliban in late 2001, billions of dollars have poured into Afghanistan for reconstruction and several large-scale reconstruction projects took place in Afghanistan from August 2012. For example, there have been more than 5000 kilometers of road pavement completed across Afghanistan, of which little was done in central Afghanistan (Hazarajat). On the other hand, the Band-e Amir in Bamyan Province became the first national park of Afghanistan. A road from Kabul to Bamyan was also built, along with new police stations, government institutions, hospitals, and schools in Bamyan Province, Daykundi Province, and others. The first ski resort of Afghanistan was also established in Bamyan Province.

An indication of discrimination is that Kuchis (Pashtun nomads who have historically been migrating from region to region depending on the season) are allowed to use Hazarajat pastures during the summer season. It is believed that allowing the Kuchis to use some of the grazing lands in Hazarajat began during the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. Living in mountainous Hazarajat, where little farmland exists, Hazara people rely on these pasture lands for their livelihood during the long and harsh winters. In 2007 some Kuchi nomads entered into parts of Hazarajat to graze their livestock, and when the local Hazara resisted, a clash took place and several people on both sides died using assault rifles. Such events continue to occur, even after the central government was forced to intervene, including President Hamid Karzai. In late July 2012, a Hazara police commander in Uruzgan province reportedly rounded up and killed 9 Pashtun civilians in revenge for the death of two local Hazara. The matter is being investigated by the Afghan government.

The drive-by President Hamid Karzai after the Peace Jirga to strike a deal with Taliban leaders caused deep unease in Afghanistan's minority communities, who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule. The leaders of the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities, vowed to resist any return of the Taliban to power, referring to the large-scale massacres of Hazara civilians during the Taliban period.

Following the Fall of Kabul to the Taliban in 2021, which ended the war in Afghanistan, concerns were raised as to whether the Taliban would reimpose the persecution of Hazaras as in the 1990s. An academic at Melbourne's La Trobe University said that "The Hazaras are very fearful that the Taliban will likely be reinstating the policies of the 1990s" in spite of Taliban reassurances that they will not revert to the bad old ways of the 1990s.


Genetically, the Hazara are a mixture of western Eurasian and eastern Eurasian components, i.e. racially Eurasian. Genetic research suggests that the Hazaras of Afghanistan cluster closely with the Uzbek population of the country, while both groups are at a notable distance from Afghanistan's Tajik and Pashtun populations. There is evidence of both paternal and maternal relations to Turkic peoples and Mongols amongst some Hazaras.

Photograph of ethnic Hazara men of Behsud

East Eurasian male and female ancestry is supported by studies in genetic genealogy as well. East Asian maternal haplogroups (mtDNA) make up about 35%, suggesting that the male descendants of Turkic and Mongolic peoples were accompanied by women of East Asian ancestry, though the Hazaras as a whole have mostly west Eurasian mtDNA. Women of Non-East Asian mtDNA in Hazaras are at about 65%, most which are West Eurasians and some South Asian.

The most frequent paternal haplogroups found amongst the Pakistani Hazara were haplogroup C-M217 at 40%(10/25) and Haplogroup R1b at 32% (8/25).

One study about paternal DNA haplogroups of Afghanistan shows that the Y-DNA haplogroups R1a and C-M217 are the most common haplogroups, followed by J2-M172 and L-M20. Some Hazaras also have the haplogroup R1a1a-M17, E1b1b1-M35, L-M20 and H-M69, which are common in Tajiks, Pashtuns as well as Indian populations. In one study, a small minority had the haplogroup B-M60, normally found in East Africa, and in one mtDNA study of Hazara, mtDNA Haplogroup L (which is of African origin) was detected at a frequency of 7.5%.

A recent study shows that the Uyghurs are closely related to the Hazaras. The study also suggests a small but notable East Asian ancestry in other populations of Pakistan and India.


Some sources claim that Hazaras are about 20 to 30 percent of the total population of Afghanistan. They were by far the largest ethnic group in the past, in 1888–1893 Uprisings of Hazaras over 60% of them massacred with some being displaced.

Geographic distribution

The vast majority of Hazaras live in Hazarajat, and many others live in the cities, including in neighboring countries or abroad.


Alessandro Monsutti argues, in his recent anthropological book, that migration is the traditional way of life of the Hazara people, referring to the seasonal and historical migrations which have never ceased and do not seem to be dictated only by emergency situations such as war. Due to the decades of war in Afghanistan and the sectarian violence in Pakistan, many Hazaras left their communities and have settled in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and particularly the Northern European countries such as Sweden and Denmark. Some go to these countries as exchange students while others through human smuggling, which sometimes costs them their lives. Since 2001, about 1,000 people have died in the ocean while trying to reach Australia by boats from Indonesia. Many of these were Hazaras, including women and small children who could not swim. The notable case was the Tampa affair in which a shipload of refugees, mostly Hazara, was rescued by the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa and subsequently sent to Nauru. New Zealand agreed to take some of the refugees and all but one of those were granted a stay.[citation needed]

Hazara in Pakistan

Muhammad Musa Khan from Quetta, Pakistan. He served the army chief of Pakistan Army in 1958–66

During the period of British colonial rule on the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century, Hazaras worked during the winter months in coal mines, road construction, and in other working-class jobs in some cities of what is now Pakistan. The earliest record of Hazara in the areas of Pakistan is found in Broadfoot's Sappers company from 1835 in Quetta. This company had also participated in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Some Hazara also worked in the agriculture farms in Sindh and the construction of the Sukkur barrage. Haider Ali Karmal Jaghori was a prominent political thinker of the Hazara people in Pakistan, writing about the political history of the Hazara people. His work Hazaraha wa Hazarajat Bastan Dar Aiyna-i-Tarikh was published in Quetta in 1992, and another work by Aziz Tughyan Hazara Tarikh Milli Hazara was published in 1984 in Quetta.[citation needed]

Most Pakistani Hazaras today live in the city of Quetta, in Balochistan, Pakistan. Localities in the city of Quetta with prominent Hazara populations include Hazara Town and Mehr Abad and Hazara tribes such as the Sardar are exclusively Pakistani. The literacy level among the Hazara community in Pakistan is relatively high compared to the Hazaras of Afghanistan, and they have integrated well into the social dynamics of the local society. Saira Batool, a Hazara woman, was one of the first female pilots in Pakistan Air Force. Other notable Hazara include Qazi Mohammad Esa, Muhammad Musa Khan, who served as Commander in Chief of the Pakistani Army from 1958 to 1968, Air Marshal Sharbat Ali Changezi, Hussain Ali Yousafi, the slain chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, Syed Nasir Ali Shah, MNA from Quetta and his father Haji Sayed Hussain Hazara who was a senator and member of Majlis-e-Shura during the Zia-ul-Haq era.[citation needed]

Despite all of this, Hazaras are often targeted by militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and others. "Activists say at least 800-1,000 Hazaras have been killed since 1999 and the pace is quickening. More than one hundred have been murdered in and around Quetta since January, according to Human Rights Watch." The political representation of the community is served by Hazara Democratic Party, a secular liberal democratic party, headed by Abdul Khaliq Hazara.

Hazara in Iran

Hazaras in Iran are also referred to as Khawaris or Barbaris. Over the many years as a result of political unrest in Afghanistan, some Hazaras have migrated to Iran. The local Hazara population has been estimated at 500,000 people of which at least one-third have spent more than half their life in Iran.


Hazara girls wearing red traditional hijabs
Dawood Sarkhosh is a Hazara cultural musician

The Hazara, outside of Hazarajat, have adopted the cultures of the cities where they dwell, resembling customs and traditions of the Afghan Tajiks and Pashtuns. Traditionally the Hazara are highland farmers and although sedentary, in the Hazarajat, they have retained many of their own customs and traditions, some of which are more closely related to those of Central Asia than to those of the Afghan Tajiks. The Hazara live in houses rather than tents; Aimaq Hazaras and Aimaqs in tents rather than houses.


Many Hazara musicians are widely hailed as being skilled in playing the dambura, a native, regional lute instrument similarly found in other Central Asian nations such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Some of the popular Hazara dambura players are, such as Sarwar Sarkhosh, Dawood Sarkhosh, Safdar Tawakoli, Sayed Anwar Azad and others.


The Hazara cuisine is strongly influenced by Central Asian, South Asian and Persian cuisines. However, there are special foods, cooking methods and different cooking styles that are specific to them. They have a hospitable dining etiquette. In their culture, it is customary to prepare special food for guests.[citation needed]


Hazara people living in Hazarajat (Hazaristan) areas speak the Hazaragi dialect of Persian, which is infused with many Turkic and a few Mongolic loanwords. The primary differences between Persian and Hazaragi are the accent. Despite these differences, Hazaragi is mutually intelligible with Dari, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan.


A gathering of Hazaras on the final day of Ramadan in Daykundi, Afghanistan
Abul Fazl Mosque in Murad Khane, Kabul during construction in 2008

Hazaras predominantly practice Islam, mostly the Shi'a of the Twelver sect, with significant Sunni, some Isma'ili and Non-denominational Muslim minorities. The majority of Afghanistan's population practice Sunni Islam; this may have contributed to the discrimination against them. There is no single theory about the acceptance of the Shi'a Islam by the Hazaras. Probably most of them converted to Shi'a Islam during the first part of the 16th century, in the early days of the Safavid Dynasty. Some Sunni Hazaras, who have been attached to non-Hazara tribes are the Timuris and Aimaq Hazaras, while the Ismaili Hazaras have always been kept separate from the rest of the Hazaras on account of religious beliefs and political purposes.

Hazara tribes

The Hazara people have been organized by various tribes. They include Sheikh Ali, Jaghori, Muhammad Khwaja, Jaghatu, Qara Baghi, Ghaznichi, Behsudi, Dai Mirdadi, Turkmani, Uruzgani, Dai Kundi, Dai Zangi, Dai Chopan, Dai Zinyat, Qarlugh and others. The different tribes come from Hazarajat, regions such as Parwan, Bamyan, Ghazni, Ghor, Urozgan, Daykundi, Maidan Wardak and have spread outwards from Hazarajat (main region) into other parts of Afghanistan.


Rohullah Nikpai, two-time Olympic bronze medalist in the sport of Taekwondo
Zohib Islam Amiri, is a professional Hazara footballer who is currently playing for the Afghanistan national football team
Moshtagh Yaghoubi, is a Hazara-born Finnish footballer who plays for HIFK

Many Hazaras engaged in varieties of sports, including football, volleyball, wrestling, martial arts, boxing, karate, taekwondo, judo, wushu, Jujitsu, Cricket, Tennis and more. Pahlawan Ebrahim Khedri, 62 kg wrestler, was the national champion for two decades in Afghanistan. Another famous Hazara wrestler Wakil Hussain Allahdad who was killed in the 22 April 2018 Kabul suicide bombing in the Dashte Barchi area of Kabul.

Rohullah Nikpai, won a bronze medal in Taekwondo in the Beijing Olympics 2008, beating world champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain 4–1 in a play-off final. It was Afghanistan's first-ever Olympic medal. He then won a second Olympic medal for Afghanistan in the London 2012 games.[citation needed]

Another famous Hazara athlete Syed Abdul Jalil Waiz, was the first ever badminton player representing Afghanistan in Asian Junior Championships in 2005 where he produced the first win for his country against Iraq, with 15–13, 15–1. He participated in several international championships since 2005 and achieved victories against Australia, Philippines and Mongolia. Hamid Rahimi is a new boxer from Afghanistan and lives in Germany. Hazara famous football players are Zohib Islam Amiri, who is currently playing for the Afghanistan national football team, Moshtagh Yaghoubi an Afghan-Finnish footballer who plays for HIFK, Mustafa Amini an Afghan-Australian footballer who plays as a midfielder for Danish Superliga club AGF and the Australian national team, Rahmat Akbari an Afghan-Australian footballer who plays as a midfielder for Brisbane Roar, and others like Ali Hazara and Zahra Mahmoodi.

A Pakistani Hazara named Abrar Hussain, a former Olympic boxer, served as deputy director-general of the Pakistan Sports Board. He represented Pakistan three times at the Olympics and won a gold medal at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. Another Hazara boxer from Pakistan is Haider Ali a Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Olympian who is currently retired. Some Hazara from Pakistan have also excelled in sports and have received numerous awards particularly in boxing, football and field hockey. Qayum Changezi, a legendary Pakistani football player, was a Hazara. New Hazara youngsters are seen to appear in many sports in Pakistan mostly from Quetta. Rajab Ali Hazara, who is leading the under 16 Pakistan Football team as captain.


Buzkashi is a Central Asian sport in which horse-mounted players attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in a goal. It is the national sport in Afghanistan and is one of the main sports of the Hazara people and still they practice this sport in Afghanistan.

Notable people