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Who are the Hazara?
Photogallery: Hazara LifeThe Hazara are a minority, Shia Muslim, Turko-Mongol people, speaking a Persian language, from the high mountains of Central Afghanistan.

Now let's break that description down into more manageable parts:

The Hazara are a minority. The Hazara make up about 20% of the population of Afghanistan. Their Asian (Mongolian) features immediately distinguish them from other peoples of Afghanistan. The Hazara are visually, linguistically and religiously different from all the other peoples around them. Because of these differences, they have long been despised and persecuted by majority groups. Persecution of the Hazara continues today.

The Hazara are Shia Muslim. The Hazara's identity as a people is largely defined by their Islamic faith. Most Hazara believe that to be Hazara is to be Muslim—they cannot imagine any other alternative. Moreover, they are surrounded by Muslim peoples in every direction. Geographically, they are almost in the very center of the Muslim world. While 85% of all Muslims, and virtually all the other major people groups of Afghanistan, are Sunni, the Hazaras are predominantly Shia. As Shia Muslims, they are inspired by their historical leader Hussein, who was martyred. Many Hazara identify with Hussein in their suffering and persecution. The rift between Sunni and Shia dates back to the 8th Century. Today there is still serious tension between Sunni and Shia Muslims, occasionally erupting in violence.

The Hazara are Turko-Mongol. The Hazara are of predominantly Mongolian ethnic stock. They look like Mongolians and East Asians, but they share a cultural heritage with many of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. Some scholars speculate that the Hazara are descendants of the warriors that flooded into Central Asia under the command of the infamous and brilliant leader, Ghengis Khan.

The Hazara speak a Persian language. Most Hazara speak Hazaragi, a variant of the more widely used trade langauge, Dari.

The Hazara are from the mountains of central Afghanistan. These mountains are among the most rugged, least traveled mountains in the world. Consequently, the Hazara have been geographically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world. As a result of this isolation, they remain a predominantly tribal people, relating to one another through family and clan groups.

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