On December 5th 2009, the Australian Hazara University Students Union (SHUUA) organised a conference where various issues were discussed in regards to:
- unity of the Hazara students across Australia, and
- integration of Hazara youth into mainstream Australia
It was a good opportunity for everyone, to express our experiences and thoughts on such issues. There were six speakers who presented their speeches on different topics. The following is what was presented by me at this conference.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Before I commence my presentation, I would like to use this opportunity to thank all SHUUA members for taking the initiative to organise this conference where we are able to unite and exchange our experiences and thoughts on different issues.
This presentation will revolve around two topics. Firstly, I will run through a brief Hazara history, and secondly, I will discuss the current situation and the problems faced by the Hazara populations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I would like to start the topic of Hazara history by agreeing with a statement by Herbert Hoover that “the supreme purpose of history is a better world”. For those who have not had the chance to know about Mr. Hoover, he was a professional Engineer, a writer, as well as the 31st US president in 1929. Creating “a better world” should be the purpose of everything that exists in human societies. And of course history is among the most valuable assets that every nation and every people possess. President Hoover’s statement will be further discussed later in this presentation.
As we learn about a people’s past, in this case Hazara history, one of the first questions we usually come up with is what origin, or in other words, what race do Hazara people belong to? Unfortunately, the answer to this question remains widely misunderstood and misinterpreted. Before going through the answer for this question, I would also like to point out the fact that Hazara is not a tribe; it is a confederation of many tribes. We can find some of the most ancient Mongol and Turkic tribes in Hazara confederation. A collective term which is used to refer to all Mongol and Turkic ethnicities is “Mongoloid” or “Turk-o-Mongol” as Mongols and Turks have the same origin and ancestors. So Hazaras are a “Turk o Mongol” group of people. A more scientific term for this is “Ural-Altaic”, which includes all Turkic and Mongolic tribes of Central Asia, Middle East and Europe.
To simplify Hazara history, in this presentation I have divided it into two stages: first, before the 12th century, and second, during and after the 12th century.
1. Before the 12th Century
Hazara history in the land that is now part of Afghanistan commenced well before the birth of Christ. The complexity and richness of their architecture and civilisation is well explained by the historical monuments and the remnants of their civilisations in the Bamiyan city and also the cities surrounding it. The two giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan were built by the Hazara ancestors around 1700 years ago. Unfortunately, in 2001 both of the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban.
One of the most important points in this part of the presentation is to understand the fact that all the empires whose remnants form the present structure of the Hazara confederation were called by different names in the past. They form the different phases in Hazara history. The name “Hazara” is a new name which I will explain later in this presentation. To keep all the ideas organised I would like to run through the main phases in Hazara history before the 12th century in a brief chronological order:
Kushan Empire is believed to be one of the first recorded empires in the history of Afghanistan. It was a religious and multi-ethnic empire that had its capital located at Bamiyan city. Hazara ancestors had settled in Bamiyan and other area around it before the first century. The Kushan Empire was run by the people of Bamiyan who were Buddhist at that time. They were also joined by the people of Takharistan. Kushan Empire started in the 1st century AD and ended 300 years later.
The arrival of the Hunnic tribes from Central Asia, who were racially the same as the people of Bamiyan, increased their population which led to the Hunnic Empires such as the Red Huns and the White Huns. Just like the Kushans, they set their capitals at Bamiyan city. Their Empires commenced around 320 AD and ended with the fall of the White Hun Empire in 600 AD.
The Kabul Turk Shahi Dynasty was established by the remnants of the previous empires such as the Huns. Their empire was basically a continuation of the other Turk-o-Mongol Empires in Afghanistan. Kabul Turk Shahi Dynasty started in 565 AD and ended in 670 AD.
Following the collapse of the Kabul Turk Shahies, Ghaznavid Dynasty was established by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 963 AD. Their remnants are still among the Hazara tribes in Uruzgan, Ghor, Ghazni, Jaghury and Malistan. Ghaznavid Empire was one of the greatest cultural eras in Hazara history.
The next phase just before the 12th century was created by Mohammad Turk of Ghor. In my opinion, he was like a successor to Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in the sense that he gained his power through the Ghaznavid Empire. He formed the Ghurid Turkic Empire in 1148 AD, which lasted until 1215 AD.
And they conclude the phases of Hazara history before the 12th century.
2. During and After the 12th Century
The emergence of the Mongols during the Great Mongol Empire in the 12th century has created quite a controversy among the historians who write about Hazara history. It is a good opportunity today to bring up some of the false assumptions and theories that I have come across in some books and articles. There is no doubt that we are a Turk-o-Mongol group of people as there are historical and scientific proofs for this. However, this does not prove that we appeared in the history of Afghanistan in the 12th century. As we saw previously, with the various phases of the Hazara history before the 12th century, Hazara ancestors had settled in central and northern regions of Afghanistan over 2000 years ago. They were the first inhabitants in central and some northern regions of the land which is today known as Afghanistan.
The reason why I divided the Hazara history into two stages is because some of the most important changes took place in Hazara history during and after the Great Mongol Empire. There was a rapid increase in the population of the Turk-o-Mongol tribes who later became known as the “Hazaras”.
When the Great Mongol Empire was divided into smaller states towards the end of the 12th century, the Ilkhanid and Chaghatai States were formed in the Middle East and Central Asia. The Ilkhans were ruling over most of the Middle East and part of Afghanistan. Chaghatai rulers were controlling northern Afghanistan, Turkistan and a number of Central Asian countries. Both empires were descendants of the Great Mongol Empire. They had established very close ties with the Hazara ancestors that were in Afghanistan before their arrival.
The name “Hazara” became common among these newly arrived tribes and the old trices during these two empires, especially in the Ilkhan territories. After the collapse of the Ilkhanid Empire in 1353, Ilkhans fled the Middle Eastern countries and returned to central regions of Afghanistan which was then called “Hazaristan”. Some of the Hazara tribes in Northern Afghanistan, as well as the Uzbeks, are remnants of the Chaghatai Empire who ruled over Central Asia and Northern Afghanistan until the late 13th century.
Following the collapse of the Chaghatai and the Ilkhan, another Empire rose in power which was led by Temur Khan, a descendant of the famous Genghis Khan. The Temurid Empire started in 1370 and ended in 1526.
A rather different phase in Hazara history started in the late 17th century. In 1772 Ahmad Shah Durrani united the Pashtun tribes and rose in power. It was the start of what led to an intolerant and fundamentalist religious regime that showed no mercy towards a people with a different belief and race to their own. Hazaras, who were mostly Shia and were racially different to the Pashtuns, became a target for them.
Abdur Rahman Khan was another Pashtun ruler who was one of Ahmad Shah’s successors. He ruled from 1880 until 1901. His era did not last for too long, but the crimes he committed and the pain and suffering that he brought upon the Hazara people were far more than what my words can explain. Hitler is seen as a blood thirsty warlord, because he is responsible for the killings of 6 million Jews and many other non-Jews in Europe. But Abdur Rahman is responsible for massacring over 62% of the Hazara population in just one small country. Other Hazaras were forcibly removed from their homes and fertile lands, which were then given to his Pashtun followers. As a result of this genocide, a huge portion of the Hazara population left the country and migrated to the neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan and Iran. Those who could not, they took refuge along the dry and cold mountain ranges of Hindu Kush to survive. Many Hazara tribes in Uruzgan province, such Polada, Dai Khitai, Qalandar and many more, completely vanished from existence.
During and after Abdur Rahman’s rule, Hazaras were kept deprived of their very basic rights. Their families were taxed very heavily and their children were not allowed to attend schools. Hazaras were not even allowed to enrol in the army. They basically did not have rights at all.
Hazaras were seen as infidels because they were Shia, unlike the majority of the population which was Sunni. They were seen as different because of their Turk-o-Mongol origin and appearance. During the Taliban, we witnessed history repeat itself as if Abdur Rahman were still alive and leading the new regime. With the same mentality and approach as him, they massacred Hazara people all over Afghanistan.
Since 2002, when the Taliban were defeated by the Northern Alliance and the coalition troops, we have noticed a lot of changes taking place in Afghanistan. But, what about the Central regions of Afghanistan, which are populated mostly by the Hazaras? Has there been a change in the lives of the ordinary Hazaras in there? Let us discuss this issue a bit further in the next part of this presentation.
I would like to conclude the topic of Hazara history and begin discussing the next topic which is the current situation of the Hazara people, and as a link between the two topics, I would like to further explain President Hoover’s opinion about history, which is best described in his statement “the supreme purpose of history is a better world”.
What we gain from this statement is that humanity as a whole must put their actions together and bring about positive changes in our societies by learning from the past experiences and avoiding those ideas and actions that brought pain and suffering upon part of our human society.
Our willingness to work as one global community according to this idea is a matter of the correlation and cooperation of our collective visions to serve humanity, which is the whole purpose of politics and other systems and groups that operate and exist in our International Community. However, quite sadly, this is far from what we have been noticing in Afghanistan, where the outcomes have been quite the opposite, even now that the Taliban have gone.
Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2002, President Karzai’s US supported interim government was put in charge of the country. Since the whole International Community and the UN showed their support and trust for the new government, Hazara people handed over all their weaponry as they were asked because they saw no need for possessing weapons when a National Army is there to take care of their security. As journalist, Phil Zabriski pointed out in his article which was published in the National Geographic Magazine in February last year, Hazaras are the only ethnic group in Afghanistan who have shown through their actions that peace and education are among their top priorities.
Ever since the new government came into power, Hazaras have shown their continuous support and cooperation with the government and the International Community to promote peace in their regions. Statistics have shown that those regions of the country that are populated by the Hazaras are not only among the most peaceful regions in the country, but they are also free from opium fields unlike the other regions in the country.
So, has the cooperation of the Hazara people with the government paid off at all? Or have we been ignored so far? The answer is rather disappointing. Looking at our people’s current situation and the problems that they are dealing with on a daily basis for their survival prove that we have been ignored for far too long.
At the Bonn Conference in December 2001, the International Community set up a clear framework for a political process of state-building in Afghanistan. They agreed to establish a democratic government to work towards building a fully representative government formed by all the ethnic groups that exist in Afghanistan. However, the Hazara people have been large excluded and marginalised from this process. None of the main ministries have been allocated to the Hazaras. Those few ministries that have been given to the Hazaras, they have very small role in the over-all decision making process in the country.
While, we are grateful for the aids from the International Community that is being sent to Afghanistan for its reconstruction, there has been an unbalanced distribution of these aids among the provinces of the country. Central regions of Afghanistan where the residents are mostly Hazara people remain untouched and ignored. They lack very basic facilities and infrastructure such as clinics and hospitals whereas almost all national resources and reconstruction projects are being disproportionately allocated else where in the country. They are mostly being spent in the Pashtun dominated regions, where most of the terrorist insurgencies are taking place.
As well as the unequal distribution of national resources and International aid, Hazara people of Central Afghanistan still remain under direct threat of the Taliban and their followers. Sadly, Pashtun communities have always been easy recruitment spots for the Taliban and other terrorist groups. This time, the Taliban have started recruiting from the Pakistani Pashtun Nomads who are also known as the “Kochies”. They are being directly supported by the Taliban. All the Pashtun communities including President Karzai have been supporting them either directly or indirectly. They cross the Afghan-Pakistan border and enter Afghanistan heavily-armed with the aim of a “holly war” against the Hazaras. The Hazaras, who have been suffering from their continuous attacks, are all poor, defenceless and harmless farmers in Besud and other regions in Central Afghanistan whose only sources of income are their farms, which are destroyed every year by the Kochies and their cattle. Every year, they enter Hazara cities and towns in central Afghanistan without any interference or reaction shown by the government and the National Army. There have been several protests both inside Afghanistan and also other countries to urge the International Community to put pressure on the Afghan government to put an end to this problem and to stop Pakistani Pashtun Nomads from entering Hazara cities and towns to cause devastation and bloodshed. Yet years have passed and nothing has been done.
Hazaras in the Quetta city in Pakistan have also been direct targets of the terrorist groups that are operating in Pakistan. They started their terrorist activities against the Hazaras in 2000, when Sardar Nisar Ali Hazara was attacked, and since then, their attacks have rapidly increased against the Hazaras. Hussain Ali Yousofi was one of the most active and influential Hazara figures, who had done a lot to promote Hazaragi culture and language. His murder by the terrorist groups in Pakistan was a great loss to the Hazara people. The top Hazara community leaders, officers and businessmen are among the first targets of these terrorist groups.
To conclude my presentation, I would like to emphasize the value of history as a precious asset that every people possess. The power of history is unfortunately underestimated and its importance is ignored. A rich culture comes from a rich history and a strong awareness of history can provide us clear and convincing definitions to almost every aspect of our culture and identity. We are lucky to be part of such an ethnically diverse society here in Australia. We must show our appreciation and thankfulness to such a vibrant and colourful society by being true to our Hazaragi culture and identity and also remembering our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan and Quetta, whose hopes will never die, at least not as long as we keep our Hazaragi identity and values alive.