Coordinates: 34°49′00″N 67°49′00″E / 34.8167°N 67.8167°E / 34.8167; 67.8167

Hazaristan region shown within Afghanistan
AreaApprox: 80,000 sq mi (207,199 km2)
Populationcirca 12,000,000
Density50/km2 (130/sq mi)
Provinces within HazāristānBamyan, Daykundi, Ghor and large parts of Ghazni, Uruzgan, Parwan, Maidan Wardak provinces and more.[1]
Languages spokenDari and Hazaragi (eastern dialects of Persian)
Flag of Hazaristan.svg

Hazaristan (Persian: هزارستان, romanizedHazāristān),[2] or Hazarajat (Persian: هزاره‌جات, romanizedHazārajāt) is a mostly mountainous region in the central highlands of Afghanistan, among the Koh-i-Baba mountains in the western extremities of the Hindu Kush. It is the homeland of the Hazara people who make up the majority of its population. "Hazarajat denotes an ethnic and religious zone."[3]

Hazarajat is primarily made up of the provinces of Bamyan, Daykundi, Ghor and large parts of Ghazni, Uruzgan, Parwan, Maidan Wardak and more. The most populous towns in Hazarajat are Bamyan, Yakawlang (Bamyan), Nili (Daykundi), Lal wa Sarjangal (Ghor), Sang-e-Masha (Ghazni), Gizab (Uruzgan) and Behsud (Maidan Wardak). The Kabul, Arghandab, Helmand, Farah, Hari, Murghab, Balkh and Kunduz rivers originate from Hazarajat.

Etymology and usage

The name "Hazara" first appears in the 16th-century book Baburnama, written by Mughal Emperor Babur. When the famous geographer Ibn Battuta arrived in Khurasan in 1333, he traveled across the country but did not record any place by the name of Hazaristan.[4]

The Hazara people[5] and surrounding peoples use the names "Hazarajat" or "Hazaristan" to identify the historic Hazara lands. "Hazarajat" is a compound of "Hazara" and the Dari suffix "jat",[6] which is used to make words associated with land in the south, central and west Asia.[7][need quotation to verify]

The Arab geographer Maqdesi (c. 945/946 – 991) named Hazarajat as "Gharjistan" or "Gharj Al-Shar" ("Gharj" meaning "mountain") area ruled by chiefs.[8][9]



An AH-64 Apache helicopter shoots flares over a valley to support members of the 8th Commando Kandak and coalition special operations forces during a firefight in Kajran district, Daykundi Province.
An AH-64 Apache helicopter shoots flares over a valley to support members of the 8th Commando Kandak and coalition special operations forces during a firefight in Kajran district, Daykundi Province.
Bamyan Province

The Hazarajat lies in the central Afghan highlands, among the Koh-i Baba mountains and the western extremities of the Hindu Kush. Its boundaries have historically been inexact and shifting. Its physical limitations, however, are roughly marked by the Bā-miān Basin to the north, the headwaters of the Helmand River to the south, Firuzkuh to the west, and the Unai Pass to the east. The regional terrain is mountainous and extends to the Safid Kuh and the Siāh Kuh mountains, where the highest peaks reach between 15,000 feet (4,600 m) and 17,000 feet (5,200 m). Both sides of the Kuh-e Bābā range contain a succession of valleys. The north face of the range descends steeply, merging into low foothills and small semi-arid plains, while the south face stretches towards the Helmand Valley and the mountainous district of Behsud.[3][10]

Northwestern Hazarajat encompasses the district of Ghor, long known for its mountain fortresses. The 10th-century geographer Estakhri wrote that mountainous Ghor was "the only region surrounded by Islamic territories and yet inhabited by infidels".[11] The long resistance of the inhabitants of Ghor to the adoption of Islam indicates the region's inaccessibility; according to some travelers, the entire region is comparable to a fortress raised in the upper Central Asian highlands: from every approach, tall and steep mountains have to be traversed to reach the area. The language of the inhabitants of Ghor differed so much from that of the people of the plains that communication between the two required interpreters.[12]

The northeastern part of the Hazarajat is the site of ancient Bamyan, a center of Buddhism and a key caravanserai on the Silk Road. The town stands at a height of 7,500 feet (2,300 m), surrounded by the Hindu Kush to the north and Koh-i Baba to the south.[3] The Hazarajat was considered[when?] part of the larger geographic region of Khurasan (Kushan), the porous boundaries of which encompassed the vast region between the Caspian Sea and the Oxus River, thus including much of present-day Northern Iran and Afghanistan.[3]


Hazarajat is mountainous,[13] and a series of mountain passes extend along its eastern edge. One of them, the Salang Pass, is blocked by snow six months out of the year. Another, the Shibar Pass, at a lower elevation, is blocked by snow only two months out of the year.[14] Bamyan is the colder part of the region, with severe winters.[15]

Winters in central Afghanistan can be brutally cold with temperatures as low as −20 °C (−4.0 °F).
Winters in central Afghanistan can be brutally cold with temperatures as low as −20 °C (−4.0 °F).

Hazarajat is the source of the rivers that run through Kabul, Arghandab, Helmand, Hari, Murghab, Balkh, and Kunduz; during the spring and summer months it has some of the greenest pastures in Afghanistan.[16] Natural lakes, green valleys and caves are found in Bamyan.[17]


Statue of a bearded man with cap, probably Scythian, 3–4th century AD.
Statue of a bearded man with cap, probably Scythian, 3–4th century AD.

The area was ruled successively by the Achaemenids, Seleucids, Mauryas, Kushans, and Hephthalites before the Saffarids Islamized it and made it part of their empire. It was taken over by the Samanids, followed by the Ghaznavids and Ghurids before falling to the Delhi Sultanate. In the 13th century, it was invaded by Genghis Khan and his Mongol army. In the following decades, the Qarlughids emerged to create a local dynasty that offered a few decades of self-rule. Later, the area became part of the Timurid dynasty, the Mughal Empire and the Durrani Empire. The subjugation of the Hazarajat, particularly the mountain fortresses of Bamyan, proved difficult for the invaders at their conquest of the region. "adopted the language of the vanquished".[18][19][20]

19th century

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a sense of "Afghan-ness" developed among the Pashtuns and the Hazaras began to coalesce.[21] It has been suggested that in the 19th century there was an emerging awareness of ethnic and religious differences among the population of Kabul. This brought about divisions along "confessional lines" that became reflected in new "spatial boundaries".[22] During the reign of Dost Mohammad Khan, Mir Yazdanbakhsh, a diligent chief of the Behsud Hazaras, consolidated many of the districts they controlled. Mir Yazdanbakhsh collected revenues and safeguarded caravans traveling on the Hajigak route through Bamyan to Kabul through Sheik Ali and Behsud areas. The consolidation of the Hazarajat thus increasingly made the region and its inhabitants a threat to the Durrani state.[23]

Behsudi Hazara chieftains in 1879
Behsudi Hazara chieftains in 1879

Until the late 19th century, the Hazarajat remained somewhat independent and only the authority of local chieftains was obeyed.[24] Joseph Pierre Ferrier, a French author who supposedly traveled through the region in the mid-19th century, described the inhabitants settled in the mountains near the rivers Balkh and Kholm "The Hazara population is very less but ungovernable, and has no occupation but pillage; they will pillage and pillage only, and plunder from camp to camp".[25] Subsequent British travelers doubted whether Ferrier had ever actually left Herat to venture into Afghanistan's central mountains and have suggested that his accounts of the region were based on hearsay, especially since very few people dared then to enter the Hazarajat; even Pashtun nomads would not take their flocks to graze there, and few caravans would pass through.[26]

Afghanistan's Kuchi people, who are unsettled nomads who migrate between the Amu Darya and the Indus River, temporarily stayed in Hazarajat during some seasons, where they overran Hazara farmlands and pastures.[27] Increasingly during summers, these nomads would camp in large numbers in the Hazarajat highlands.

The travels of Captains P. J. Maitland and M. G. Talbot from Herat, through Obeh and Bamyan, to Balkh, during the autumn and winter of 1885, explored the Hazarajat proper. Maitland and Talbot found the entire length of the road between Herat and Bamyan difficult to traverse.[28] As a result of the expedition, parts of the Hazarajat were surveyed on one-eighth inch scale and thus made to fit into the mapped order of modern nation-states.[29] More thought and attention was put into demarcating the definite borders of modern nations than ever before, which entailed great difficulties in frontier regions such as the Hazarajat.

During the Second Anglo-Afghan War, Colonel T. H. Holdich of the Indian Survey Department referred to the Hazarajat as "great unknown highlands".[30] And for the next few years, neither the Survey nor the Indian Intelligence Department succeeded in obtaining any trustworthy information on the routes between Herat and Kabul through the Hazarajat.[31]

Various members of the Afghan Boundary Commission were able to gather the information that brought the geography of remote regions such as the Hazarajat further under state surveillance. In November 1884, the Commission crossed over the Koh-i Baba mountains by the Chashma Sabz Pass. General Peter Lumsden and Major C. E. Yate, who surveyed the tracts between Herat and the Oxus, visited the Qala-e Naw Hazaras in the Paropamisus mountain range, to the east of the Jamshidis of Kushk. Noting surviving evidence of terraced cultivation in times past, both described the northern Hazaras as semi-nomadic with large flocks of sheep and black cattle. They possessed an "inexhaustible supply of grass, the hills around being covered knee-deep with a luxuriant crop of pure rye".[32] Yate noted clusters of kebetkas, or the summer dwellings of the Qala-e Naw Hazaras on the hillsides, and described "flocks and herds grazing in all directions".[33][34]

The geographical reach of the authority of the Afghan state was extended into the Hazarajat during the reign of Abdur Rahman Khan. Caught between the strategic interests of foreign powers and disappointed by the demarcation of the Durand Line in southern Afghanistan, which cut into Pashtun territory, he set out to bring the northern peripheries of the country more firmly under his control. This policy had disastrous consequences for the Hazarajat, whose inhabitants were singled out by Abdur Rahman Khan's regime as particularly troublesome: "The Hazara people had been for centuries past the terror of the rulers of Kabul".[35]

20th and 21st century

Colored dice with white background
Taller, 55 metres (180 ft) Buddha in 1963 and in 2008 after destruction.
Colored dice with checkered background
Smaller, 38 metres (125 ft) Buddha, before and after destruction.

In the 1920s the ancient Shibar Pass road which leads through Bamyan and east to the Panjshir Valley was paved for lorries, and it remained the busiest road across the Hindu Kush until the building of the Salang tunnel in 1964 and the opening of a winter route. The Hazarajat became increasingly depopulated as Hazaras migrated to cities and to surrounding countries, where they became laborers and undertook the hardest and lowest-paid work.[3]

In 1979, there were reportedly one and a half million Hazaras in the Hazarajat and Kabul, although a reliable census has never been taken in Afghanistan.[36] As the Afghan state weakened, uprisings broke out in the Hazarajat, freeing the region from state rule by the summer of 1979 for the first time since the death of Abdur Rahman Khan some Hazara resistance groups were formed in Iran, including Nasr and Sipah-i Pasdaran, with some being "committed to the idea of a separate Hazara national identity".[37] During the war with the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, most of the Hazarajat was unoccupied and free of Soviet or state presence. The region became ruled once again by local leaders, or mirs, and a new stratum of young radical Shiʿi commanders. Economic conditions are reported to have improved in the Hazarajat during the war, when Pashtun Kuchis stopped grazing their flocks in Hazara pastures and fields.[38] The group ruling Hazarajat was the Revolutionary Council of Islamic Unity of Afghanistan or Shura-i Ettefaq, led by Sayyid Ali Beheshti. The region's geographic nature and un-strategic location meant that the government and Soviets ignored it as they fought rebels elsewhere. This effectively allowed the Shura-i Ettefaq administration to rule over the region and give autonomy to the Hazaras. Their politically opposing groups were mostly educated, secular and left-wing.[39][40] Between 1982 and 1984, an internal civil war caused the Shura to be overthrown by the Sazman-i Nasr and Sepah-i Pasdaran groups. However inter-factional rivalry continued thereafter. Most of the Hazara groups united in 1987 and 1989 and formed the Hizb-i-Wahdat.[40]

During the rule of the Taliban, once again, ethnic and sectarian violence struck Hazarajat. In 1997, a revolt broke out among Hazara people in Mazar-i-Sharif when they refused to be disarmed by the Taliban; 600 Taliban were killed in subsequent fighting.[41] In retaliation, the genocidal policies of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan's era was adopted by Taliban. In 1998, six thousand Hazaras were killed in the north; the intention was ethnic cleansing of Hazara.[42] At that stage, Hazarajat does not exist as an official region; the area comprises the administrative provinces of Bamyan, Ghor, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Oruzgan, Juzjan, and Samangan.[38] In March 2001, two giant Buddhist statues, Buddhas of Bamiyan, were also destroyed even though there was a lot of condemnation.[43]


Ethnic groups

Further information: Ethnic groups in Afghanistan and Hazaras

The Hazaras constitute the majority of the Hazarajat population.


Further information: Hazaragi dialect and Languages of Afghanistan

Dari (Persian) is the official language of Hazarajat. People in different parts of the region with their special dialects where Ghazni, Daykundi, Behsud, Bamyan, Darah Sof, Sheik Ali are from most popular.


Further information: Health in Afghanistan

Clinic in Bamyan
Clinic in Bamyan

Leprosy has been reported in the Hazarajat region of Afghanistan. The vast majority (80%) of the leprosy victims are Hazara.[44] In 1999, Leprosy Control stated that they were the only NGO providing anti-leprosy aid in Hazarajat, and had been doing so since 1984.

A 1989 report noted that common diseases in the Hazarajat included gastrointestinal infections, typhoid, whooping cough, measles, leprosy, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis and malaria.[45]

See also


  1. ^ "Bamyan Province". Naval Postgraduate School. 2011-11-15. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  2. ^ DISAPPEARING PEOPLES?: INDIGENOUS GROUPS AND ETHNIC MINORITIES IN SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA, p.156 ("Some people prefer to call the area Hazaristan, using the more modern "istan" ending.")
  3. ^ a b c d e Khazeni, Arash. "HAZĀRA i. Historical geography of Hazārajāt". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  4. ^ Battuta, Ibn (2004). Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325–1354 (reprint, illustrated ed.). Routledge. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-415-34473-9. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  5. ^ Bellew, H.W. (1880). The Races of Afghanistan: Being a Brief Account of the Principal Nations Inhabiting that Country. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co. p. 114.
  6. ^ Mousavi, S. A. (1998). "1: Who are the Hazaras?". The Hazaras of Afghanistan: an historical, sultural, economic and political study. Abingdon: Routledge (published 2018). ISBN 9781136800160. Retrieved 26 January 2020. Hazarajat is a composite name made up of Hazara and the Farsi-Arabic plural suffix, jat [...].
  7. ^ Mousavi, S.A. (1998). The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Study. Richmond, Surrey UK: Curzon Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-7007-0630-5.
  8. ^ Ḥamd-Allah Mostawfi, Nozhat al-qolub, tr. Guy Le Strange, London 1919. pp 415–16
  9. ^ S. A. Mousavi, The Hazaras of Afghanistan, London, 1998, p. 39.
  10. ^ Wilfred Thesiger "The Hazaras of Central Afghanistan," The Geographical Journal 71/3, 1955, pp. 313.
  11. ^ W. Barthold, An Historical Geography of Iran, Princeton, 1984, p. 51.
  12. ^ W. Barthold, An Historical Geography of Iran, Princeton, 1984, p. 52.
  13. ^ Anonymous, Ḥodud al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, London, 1937; reprinted, 1982, p. 105.
  14. ^ Johannes Humlum, La geographie de l'Afghanistan, Copenhagen, 1959, p. 64.
  15. ^ Ebn Ḥawqal, Ke-tāb ṣurat al-arż, trs. J. H. Kramers and G. Wiet as Configuration de la terre, II, Paris, 1964, p. 227.
  16. ^ Ḥamd-Allah Mostawfi, Nozhat al-qolub, tr. Guy Le Strange, London 1919, p. 212
  17. ^ S. A. Mousavi, The Hazaras of Afghanistan, London, 1998, p. 71.
  18. ^ W. Barthold, An Historical Geography of Iran, Princeton, 1984, p. 82
  19. ^ J. P. Ferrier, Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkestan, and Beloochistan, London, 1856, p. 221
  20. ^ Johannes Humlum, La geographie de l’Afghanistan, Copenhagen, 1959, p. 87
  21. ^ Robert L. Canfield, Hazara Integration into the Afghan Nation, New York, 1973, p. 3
  22. ^ Christine Noelle, State and Tribe in Nineteenth-Century Afghanistan, Richmond, 1997, p. 22
  23. ^ C. Masson, Narrative of Various Journeys in Baloochistan, Afghanistan, and the Punjab. London, 1842, II, p. 296
  24. ^ W. Barthold, An Historical Geography of Iran, Princeton, 1984, pp. 82–83
  25. ^ J. P. Ferrier, Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkestan, and Beloochistan, London, 1856, pp. 219–20
  26. ^ Klaus Ferdinand, Preliminary Notes on Hazāra Culture, Copenhagen, 1959,p. 18
  27. ^ S. A. Mousavi, The Hazaras of Afghanistan, London, 1998, p. 95
  28. ^ Anonymous, "Captain Maitland’s and Captain Talbot’s Journeys in Afghanistan," Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 9, 1887 p. 103
  29. ^ Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, London, 1991 [1983], pp. 170–78
  30. ^ T. H. Holdich, The Indian Borderland, 1880–1900, London, 1901, p. 41
  31. ^ A. C. Yate, Travels with the Afghan Boundary Commission, Edinburgh, 1887 pp. 147–48
  32. ^ C. E. Yate, Northern Afghanistan, Edinburgh, 1888, p. 9
  33. ^ C. E. Yate, Northern Afghanistan, Edinburgh, 1888, pp. 7–8
  34. ^ Peter Lumsden, "Countries and Tribes bordering on the Koh-e Baba Range," Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 7, 1885, pp. 562–63
  35. ^ Mir Munshi, ed., The Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan, II, London, 1900, p. 276
  36. ^ Barnett Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, New Haven, 2002, p. 26
  37. ^ Barnett Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, New Haven, 2002. pp. 186, 191, 223
  38. ^ a b Barnett Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, New Haven, 2002, p. 246
  39. ^ Ibrahimi, Niamatullah (September 2006). "THE FAILURE OF A CLERICAL PROTO-STATE: HAZARAJAT, 1979 - 1984". Crisis States Research Centre. CiteSeerX ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  40. ^ a b Nation, Ethnicity and the Conflict in Afghanistan: Political Islam and the rise of ethno-politics 1992–1996 by Raghav Sharma, 2016.
  41. ^ Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, London and New Haven, 2000, p. 58
  42. ^ Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, London and New Haven, 2000, pp. 67–74
  43. ^ "Taliban blow apart 2,000 years of Buddhist history". The Guardian. 3 March 2001.
  44. ^ Dr. Mohammad Salim Rasooli. Leprosy Situation in Afghanistan in 2001–2006 Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine. Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) National Leprosy Control Program. 7–9 July 2008.
  45. ^ Poladi, Hassan (February 1989). The Hazāras. Mughal Pub. Co. ISBN 978-0-929824-00-0. Retrieved 7 March 2011.

External link

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