Home Lands v2 is an audience driven media arts series connecting young ethnic Afghanistanis from refugee backgrounds to their home lands and separated communities. The core group from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs are Hazara.
The Hazara speak Farsi, Dari and Hazaragai, are Shi`i Muslims (primarily Twelver, but also some Ismaili) who, according to official records, have only occupied the central highlands (the Hazarajat) of Afghanistan. Unofficially, according to Hazara themselves, they settled throughout the region as early as the 1stcentury and were forced into their current location by Pashtun and Sunni expansionism in the 18th and 19th century. The Bamiyan Buddhas were first attacked during that period by a Pushtan ruler in an attempt to destroy evidence of Hazara having been in Hazarajat earlier than the 13th century. The ancestors of present day Hazara were the builders of the Bamiyan Buddhas which were constructed between the 2nd and 5th centuries pre-dating the belief that Hazara were descendent from 13th century Mongol armies. Due to Hazaras ethnicity and religious beliefs, their present political, economic and cultural status has been described as precarious¹.
They were, and many still remain primarily sedentary farmers who also engage in some herding. Urban populations of Hazara tend to occupy the lowest economic rungs. Economically marginalised, the Hazara began to organize politically in the 1960s and 1970s. During the Soviet occupation, they rebelled for political autonomy and achieved in the 1980s a high degree of independence in return for not attacking the Communist government in Kabul. The Soviet withdrawal in 1989, however, saw a return of the Hazara’s precarious position, especially vis-a-vis Pashtun political groups².
The Hazara consider themselves as part of Afghanistan. Up until the 18th century much of country, including northeastern Iran, the southern parts of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikstan was known as Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan. It is believed Khorasan, referred to in the same idiom as Arabia, extended as far as Indus Valley, now known as Pakistan³. Khorasan was re-named ‘Land of Pashtuns’, or Afghanistan, by the 18th century Pashtun ruler, Ahmad Shah Durrani. ‘Afghan’ literally means Pashtuns.
According to discussions with local Hazara, non-Pashtun ethnic groups prefer to be called Afghanistani instead of Afghan even though they are referred to in the media and known throughout the world as Afghans.
I personally consider myself a ‘Hazara’. I (Hazara) have been persecuted as a ‘Hazara’ – I feel its my responsibility to introduce my self as ‘Hazara’.
Farkhanda Akbari, via email, July 2011