Hazara Ethnic Group:
Taliban militants in Afghanistan have vandalised and blown up a statue of Shiite militia leader Abdul Ali Mazari in the province of Bamiyan, the unofficial capital of the Hazara ethnic group. Mazari, widely known as a champion of the Hazaras, was executed by the Taliban in 1995.
- The Hazaras are an ethnic and religious minority group largely found in the rugged and mountainous central Afghan region of Hazarajat.
- The Hazaras are one of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minorities, accounting for about 10-12 per cent of the country’s 38-million strong population.
- They are targetted by the Taliban because they are primarily Shia Muslims, as opposed to most Afghans who follow the Sunni branch of Islam. Their distinct Asiatic features and use of a Persian dialect called Hazaragi also sets them apart from the rest of the country.
- They are believed to be descendants of the founder of the Mongol empire, Genghis Khan, and his army that overran the entire region during the 13th century.
- Around 1773, the mountainous region of Hazarajat in modern-day central Afghanistan was annexed and made a part of the territories of the Afghan Empire under Pashtun ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani.
- The Sunni Muslim majority under the Pashtun ruler resulted in marginilisation of the Shiite Hazara community, to the extent that in the 18th and 19th century, they were forced to leave fertile lowlands in central Afghanistan and make the arid mountainous landscape their new home.