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Afghanistan - Hazara

Afghanistan's rugged central mountainous core of approximately 50,000 square kilometers is known as the Hazarajat, Land of the Hazara. Others live in Badakhshan, and, following Kabul's campaigns against them in the late nineteenth century, 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 and Mongol origin, although numerous contradictory speculations exist. Scholars agree that the Hazara were established here since the beginning of the thirteenth century. Hazara speak Hazaragi, a Persianized language with a large mixture 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 them in 1891. The Pushtun state established a local administration, imposed harsh taxation policies and distributed lands to Pushtun, including fertile pasture lands in areas previously inaccessible to Pushtun nomads.

The Hazarajat continued to be a neglected area. Services and physical infrastructure were practically nonexistent. Farming and animal husbandry are the principal occupations; there is no industry. Because of their meager resources, the Hazara seasonally sought work and services in other areas as low grade civil servants, shopkeepers, artisans, urban factory workers, and unskilled labour. In the 1960s an estimated 30-50 percent of Hazara males migrated to the cities where they were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social scale. During the 1960s and 70s their economic and political status improved remarkably.

During the war in the 1980s, contending groups within the Hazarajat achieved greater unity than ever before. Hazara political parties were excluded from the mujahideen alliances, however, largely because of rabidly anti-Shia prejudices held by some leaders, such as Abdur Rab Rasul Sayyaf and Yunus Khalis. It is doubtful if the Hazara will accept their former inferior status in the future.

Bamyan Province is a bellwether for political attitudes of members of the Hazara ethnic group, and it offers insights to how various parties are seeking to engage the Hazara population. Hezb-e-Wahdat Islami and the Hezb-e-Wahdat Islami-e-Mardum remain the most active and influential parties in the Hazarajat; Haji Mohammad Mohaqqeq and the Mardum party have gained momentum in recent months. The Insejomi Milli party under Sadiq Mudabir is new to the field but appears to be a serious contender for influence. Meanwhile, the majority of Tajiks in the province are loyal to Jamiat-e Islami or Hezb-e Islami.

Though more Hazaras live outside Bamyan province than inside, it remains the political touchstone and heartland for the Hazara community. Hazaras view development in Bamyan as symbolic of central government attention to the Hazara minority. Should anti-government elements target Hazaras, many would return to Bamyan and rely on it as a strong hold. Thus, Bamyan remains a battleground for the hearts, minds, and votes of Hazara throughout Afghanistan.

Population data is difficult to obtain because Afghanistan lacks updated census data, large numbers of Hazaras have returned from Pakistan and Iran, and many have migrated within Afghanistan. Rough estimates portray the following distribution: 1.2 million in Kabul, 750,000 in Samangan and Balkh, 400,000 in Bamyan, 350,000 in Ghor and Dai Kundai, 270,000 in Ghazni, 230,000 in Wardak, 190,000 in Herat, and 100,000 in Sari Pul.

Hezb-e Wahdat

The National Islamic United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (aka, Northern Alliance or United Front), was established in 1991-1992 in opposition to the Soviet-installed communist government of Afghanistan led by President Najibullah. Due to infighting, the Northern Alliance disintegrated after the fall of the communist regime, but it was reorganized in 1996 when the Taliban overthrew the Islamic State of Afghanistan (ISA), led by then-President Burhanuddin Rabbani (HRW Oct 2001a). The aim of the reconstituted coalition was to support the ISA government and to oppose the Taliban, but membership of particular groups in the Northern Alliance has been fluid over time. The Northern Alliance was formally led by former President Rabbani, but its military might centered in Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in Afghanistan in September 2001 (HRW Oct 2001a). Hezb-e [Hezeb, Hizb-i, Hizib] Wahdat-i Islami-yi Afghanistan (aka, Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, or Hezb-e Wahdat) was one of the main groups included in the Northern Alliance, and had joined the coalition by 1992. When Afghanistans communist government fell in 1992, Hezb-e Wahdat was formed with Iranian encouragement to unite the country's eight Shi'a parties. It was the main Shi'a party in Afghanistan and drew its support from the ethnic Hazara minority (HRW Oct 2001a).

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Page last modified: 21-08-2012 12:37:44 ZULU