The Hazara Nationalism: in Music and Historical Literature
The Hazara nationalism was a response and reaction to the Afghan Nationalism. Hazaras thought that they were not being represented well, and they were kept away from political decision making process. The Hazara nationalism emerged in 1980s, and kept changing with circumstances. As identity is historical, and changing, I will examine the historical literature and political music to understand what kind of nationalist ideology is being promoted in 1980s and 1990s by Hazara historians and artists. My primary sources are the historical literature and the political music of eighties and nineties. The questions I try to answer are: why such literature was being written, what are the popular discourses in these texts and music, and what is the advice of the writers of these texts and artist who sing?
By 1960s and 70s constitution was introduced in Afghanistan. Free press and political parties began to emerge. Hazara intellectuals took active part in politics in sixties and seventies; some were members of communist parties such as PDPA (Peoples’ Democratic Party of Afghanistan.) New Democratic Movement (A Maoist group). Others were member of religious movements such as Sazman-e Mujahideen-e Mosataz‘fin-e Afghanistan. 1 These groups were demanding more rights, and advocating for change in governance in Afghanistan.
In 1978, there was a communist Coup by PDPA party, and the old political structure ended. Unpopular and inexperienced regime took power. In a year, the government lost support and was dysfunctional; Soviets came to the rescue to stabilize the situation. In 1979, Hazarajat was among the first regions to declare its autonomy and resist against the state. In 1979, a political party was formed to keep security in Hazarajat; Shoray-e Itafaq was formed, after the council of 1200 Hazara khans and Mullahs.2 For the next ten years, Hazarajat was ruled by Hazaras themselves.
Then, there was a long period of competition in Hazarajat between different political groups and different ideologies. There were questions on what it really meant to be a Hazara in modern sense. There was tension up until the end on what really should constitute Hazara identity. Itahadya-e Mujahidin Islami Afghanistan was formed in 1979 based in Quetta that included Hazara nationalists, and Hazara political refugees who had fled the war in Afghanistan.3 Since the time of resistance to the Communists and Soviet Union coincided with the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Many political clerics were influenced by the Islamic revolution there. Several organizations were formed in Iran that upheld Khomeini’s ideology of Guardianship of the Jurist (Wilayat-e Faqih). These parties were Nehzat Islami Afghanistan, Sazman-e Nasr Afghanistan, Jabha-e Azadibakhsh, Pasdaran-e Jihad Islami.These parties that had Iran’s support too, challenged the locally elected Shora and defeated them by 1994.
In 1980s there were not only major changes in political landscape, but culturally, economically, and socially there was a revolution. Hazara revolutionary songs and historical literature were only among many activities that was taking place in the public sphere. Other than the historians, singers, there were poets, intellectuals, writers, and artists that took active part in shaping Hazara identity. In the 1980s more than twenty books and hundreds of articles were published on the different aspect of the history of the Hazara nation, before that, hardly any books were available.4
In 1980s a new kind of music began to develop, and it was called ahangha-e inqilabi (the revolutionary songs). It was political music, and it promoted freedom, awakening and political mobilization. The first person who started revolutionary songs was Sarwar Sarkhosh and his main message was for the young generation to rise and fight oppression and occupation.
A song about resistance and awakening:
Ay lale-e azada ay nasl-e jawan barkhez
Mayhan ba to menazad chun sel-e rawan barkhez,
Har gosha-e az mayhan ba khun-e tou rangin ast
Sheran tou ra zada ba yad haman barkhez,
Ba ‘azm khod qayem bash ay nasl-e fida kar,
Amada wo beydar
Nabud bekun mardana har doshman-e khun khar
Ba neroi sarshar
Ta kay shawim bechara ay hashm zaman barkhez
O the free Tulip, O young generation rise!
The homeland prides in you, rise like moving flood,
Every corner of this land is colored by your blood,
Lions have given birth to you, with that remembrance, rise!
Be determined, O sacrificing generation,
Ready and awake,
Destroy heroically, every blood thirsty enemy,
With overflowing energy
A song about freedom:
Ay jawanan Hazara shad bash
b‘ad azy ya marg ya azad bash
O Hazara youths be happy,
After now, die or live freely,
A song about getting freedom:
Ay Hazara tau kay az bandage azad shawi
Sahib khana-e abad shawi
O Hazara, when will you be free from slavery?
Be owner of constructed home
Sarwar’s main message is azadi freedom. Sarwar’s songs were symbol of the pain and deep feelings of the people. From his music it is clear, that it is not just about resistance against the Soviets and Communist but a national revival and awakening that was to break from past oppression. In one of his poem he says his role as, “Sarkhosh tau bayad nala hay mo da sh‘er khu chal kani” Sarwar you should color your songs with touch of our suffering.” Sarwar Sarkhosh was killed in 1983 by some local political group in Orazgan Afghanistan. 5
By early 1980s, new works of history are emerging. The historians claimed that Hazara history has been ignored and marginalized; therefore, there is need to rewrite the history of Afghanistan. Sitam Milli or (Oppression based on ethnicity) is the dominant ideology in the works of various Hazara historians of 1980s and 1990s. They believed that in Afghanistan, injustice is not based on gender or class, but it is based on ethnicity. They claimed that through out modern history of Afghanistan the dominant ethnicity the Pashtuns have ruled, and they have suppressed the other minorities. The Hazaras claimed that their oppression in Afghanistan dates back to 1892, The Massacre of Hazaras by Amir Abdur Rahman.6
One of the early works of history about Hazaras was written in 1981 which was later published in Quetta, Pakistan in 1984 Mohamad Eisa Gharjistani, a historian, wrote Kala minarha dar Afghanistan, (The Skull-Minarets in Afghanistan). This book is about the Massacre of Hazaras in 1892, the skull minarets were erected from the heads of killed Hazaras. It says, “This book is about different ways of arm struggle (mubarizat-e musalihana) of the tribes and ethnicities of Afghanistan against the puppet (dast neshanda) Amir of the colonialists the Britain and Russia….” His advice was for the Mujahideens or resistance fighters to unite and fight against the Soviets and Communists, and learn from the previous wars against the colonialists. 7
In conclusion, he writes that the resistance forces that were fighting Amir Abdur Rahman in 1890s were fiercely crushed. According to him, it was a result of the discord and betrayal between the different tribes and ethnicities. The tyrant Amir could gather army from amongst the people and use against people and massacred people of Afghanistan. The houses of people of Panjsher, and Laghman were burned down. Thousands of people from Badakhshanis, Qataghan, and Turkistan were forced to migrate after massacre. Two third of the Hazara people were completely eradicated. He also lists the many acts of injustice done on their fellow Pashtuns too by the tyrant Amir.
He says that Amir stabilized a colonial government (amarat-e ist’amari) in Afghanistan. He ruled an Afghanistan that is in bloodshed and in deep sleep and unaware of the progress and civilization of the world. Gharjistani says that the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet Union has brought new Amir Abdur Rahmans such as Tarakai, Hafizullah Amin, and Babrak. Gharjistani praises the unity of the people against the unjust ruler. He thinks that the people of Afghanistan should leave aside other minor prejudices, and unite against the main enemy the Soviet Union and its servants. Gharjistani argued that people should rise against the new Communist state that is unjust like people resisted hundred years ago against Abdur Rahman.
In 1980s there was a journal which was published in Kabul called Gharjistan1 on the history and culture of Hazaras. Hazaras made significant population of Kabul, and for the first time in Afghanistan’s history Hazaras were taking high position in the government such as Sultan Ali Kishtmand who was the prime-minister for a decade.
1 Gharjistan is one of the historical names for today’s Hazarajat.
Nayil wrote his Saya Roshanha-ye az wa’z Jame’a Hazara (The dark and bright sides, On the conditions of Hazara Society) in 1985 in Kabul. It was printed by the government publishing house. It is a book of introduction on the Hazara history and Hazarajat’s geography. The book is pro-government and very much in line with the ideology of national reconciliation (ashti milli). By 1985, the Communist government had introduced this ideology to get the support of the different ethnicities in Afghanistan.
The book starts with saying that our homeland is constituted by many nationalities and tribes that live together side by side in unity (hambastagi). Nayil critiques the lack of historical literature on the cooperation (yari wa hamkariha) of the people of Afghanistan, and critiques the previous systems of governance in Afghanistan that has been oppressive and discriminating (tab’iz gar wa sitam gostar).The states have tried to keep the different nationalities apart and discriminated one over the other. Nayil is optimist that now; it is time to reconcile the damage done.
Then Nayil explains the oppression of Hazaras by Amir Abdur Rahman. They were kept oppressed (mahroom), and politics of keeping Hazaras in isolation continued in subsequent regimes. For long time, the word “Hazara” was derogatory (istikhfaf wa kahtari) remark and identifying oneself as Hazara would cause some disadvantage, and many would disguise themselves under other names. A person of lower self confidence would change their names. Now conditions have changed and calling some person a Hazara is an appropriate remark, acceptable like any other form of addressing some person. 8
Nayil critiques the previous regimes on the basis of the politics oppression, Hazarajat was divided in 1963, and each part was given to surrounding provinces. Hazarajat lost centrality (markaziat), and did not profit from the government economic plans. Hazarajat has been discriminated against by being divided into many parts with out taking into consideration the problems of the people, ways of transportation, and economic connection. Nayel argues that the Communist government is to the benefit of all nationalities. The social condition of Hazaras has been bad for a hundred years from the times of Amir Abdur Rahman up until Dawood. It is only with the Communist that things are changing for Hazaras.
In Hazarajat, the political Islamists won, because they were modern in terms of organization, structure and they had support from Iran. On the other hand, the local party Shora that had been formed by Arbabs, and Mullas were not very effective. They did not have any foreign support. They held on to their old tribal or feudal forms of identity and relation. Harpviken uses Resource Competition theory and Group Solidarity theory that holds that conflicts erupts because political and economic shifts bring population to compete over resources. Identity is dynamic, and the environment affects which one is most relevant. Most often modernization promotes mobilization around larger scale identity. Political Islamist could form larger political solidarity therefore they were successful.9 Or in the words of Mausavi, “These groups [political Islamists]were not formed on the basis of clan, tribal or regional identification, but on the basis of differing Islamic political ideologies.”10
By 1989, the Shia and Hazara parties joined in to make Hizb-e Wahdat, a political party that could represent them in the regional and international level. It is considered as the maturity of Hazara identity or nationhood. By this time, Soviets left the country, and the different political groups were competing for power in Afghanistan. 11
The late 1980s was a high time of Hazara political songs; it was more diverse and more popular. Almost all the revolutionary songs were sung in concert and hundreds of people used to listen to it. Quetta city in Pakistan had become one of the cultural centers for the Hazara society. After the 1978 Coup, Hazara refugees had gathered in Quetta to fled the Communist regime, or to escape the insecurity in Afghanistan. Political and cultural groups were being formed or reorganized for political activities in Afghanistan. Among the singers who sang revolutionary songs in the late 1980s were Dawood Sarkhosh, Rajab Ali Haidari, Safdar Tawakoli, and Ghazanafer Ali. Dawood Sarkhosh was Sarwar Sarkhosh’s younger brother and his first concert was in 1989.12 Dawood sang in a historically different context than his brother Sarwar. His first concert was in 1989, and among the political singers, he became very popular.
One of the messages of the revolutionary songs was Hazara unity. On the stage it was written “Hazaras of the world Unite!”
One of the songs of 1989 on unity:
Ta ki ma Behsud wa Jaghori wa Daizangi moshi,
Kar ha-ye rang ba rang da zid Azragi mosha.
So long as, we divided into Behsud, Jaghori and Daizangi, (that are few of the major tribes)
Acts of different kinds will be done against Hazara nationhood
A song on Hazara unity:
Alaigo nobat dawro amada
Waqt yakjai shode qawmo amada
Folks! time has arrived,
The time for uniting of the tribes,
Hazaras were known for doing the menial labor, in the cities, for example, Jowali or Hazara-e barkash (the carrier of big sacks or load) was very often their jobs in cities. Jowali was also one of the symbols of oppression of Hazaras. In the revolutionary songs, Jowali is the motif that is repeated. One theme is that we no longer accept to be a Jowali for others. In other words, we break free of the oppression and want to determine our own future.
A song on Hazara identity:
Awoor agar bobara
Az asmo sharara
Bale bache Hazara
Da begana dobara
If the clouds rain
Fire from the sky,
On a Hazara boy,
Even then, he dose not become
A porter for others.
Ali bogoy ke Azara lashkar mosha ke namusha,
Bache jowali mardagi rahbar mosha ke namusha,
Now say, whether Hazara can make an army or not
Whether a son of a porter become a leader.
This song is in response to general prejudice that Hazara is best suited for becoming a jowali and they cannot be an official or a leader.
A song of political mobilization:
Zahmat kash wo deghoni
Ba bail wa kolang khod
dar dasht wo beyaboni
qad kas ke disti dosti
dadi wafa mokoni
adam-e dorogh goi ra
roy shi siya mokoni
mo paybani quroni,
da yak gap wo ziboni,
khar chim-e doshmoni,
da zor barbariya
tab’a kas nemoshi
agar piro wo jawoni,
khar chim-e doshmoni
Translation of the song:
We are the sons of the mountains,
We are hard workers and peasants,
With our spades and axe,
We are in the plains and desserts,
If we give a hand of friendship,
We will stand by it,
We apply black color on the faces of liars,
We go by the words of Quran,
We stand by what we say,
We are Thorns of enemies’ eyes,
In fight, we are fierce,
We do not submit to anyone,
We are destroyers of prison,
Whether we are young or old
We are the thorns of enemies’ eyes
Political songs like the historical literature defined Hazara identity, and it was also answering the question of “who are we?” In this song, what define Hazaras are qualities of hard work, virtues of honesty and courage and an aptitude for political activism. The singer has the peasants and workers in mind, since this song is very simple to understand. It is very much like political slogans. This song also uses the symbol of the “mountain”, (Farzandi kohistoni) like many other political songs, since Hazarajat is very mountainous.
A song on Hazara pride:
Man sarwar wa sardaram, Hazara bowad namam,
Shahin kohistanam Hazara bowad namam
Dar gulshan-e bagh-e ghair man khana namesazam,
Morgham ke bakoy-e khesh mebalam wa menazam,
Kashana ze khod daram, Hazara bowad namam,
Man lala-e azadam Hazara bowad namam,
I am sovereign, Hazara is my name,
I am falcon of the mountain, Hazara is my name
I am the bird that prides in her own nest,
I have home of my own, Hazara is my name,
I am the free tulip, Hazara is my name,
This poem was written by Reza Wasiq in 1989, and later sung by Ghazanafar in Quetta. In this poem Hazara is portrayed as having power, and sovereignty, and he is not Jowali and weak. Hazara is linked to the bird of prey, shahin or falcon of the mountain, and the lion of dessert, and free spirit wild flower Lala or Tulip that grows in the spring.
By late 1980s and early 1990s there were more and diverse works in historical literature. By this time Hazara identity was better defined. The ideology of Hazara as a nation was fully formed with Hazara having a unique history, language, culture and territory. For example, Tarikh-e Hazara wa Hazaristan, by Eisa Gharjistani, The Hazaras by Hasan Poladi. Pojohish der tarikh-e Hazara ha by Hussain Ali Yazdani and Hazaras of Afghanistan by Syed Askar Mausavi are representations of hazara identity forming and discussed in the intellectual circles. The purposes of these works were to answer, “Who Are We?” These historical works tried to answer where Hazaras are originated from? Whether they are native to Afghanistan or they have come recently? These works dealt with origin of the name “Hazara”, why and how it came to identify these people? There were research on the tribal structure and tribal relation of Hazara society? There were researches on the language of Hazaras, trying to answer when and how Hazaras learned to speak Persian, and comparison of Hazaragi dialect with other Persian dialects? There were research on the religion and culture of Hazaras, trying to answer why and how did most of Hazaras accepted Shia as religion? There were research on the geography of Hazarajat, and historical geography and why did Hazaras chose to settle in these mountainous region?
There are two narratives of the modern history of Afghanistan with respect to the Hazaras: the official narrative and the unofficial Hazaras historians’ narrative. The official narrative is that Hazaras were integrated in to Afghanistan. The centralization process required the Afghan Amir to bring the Hazaras under control so that they could implement the laws of Afghanistan on all. Hasan Kakar considers the pacification of Hazara one of the great successes of the Afghan Amir Abdur Rahman.He says that Hazaras were integrated into Afghan nation by Abdur Rahman. Before that they lived in independent principalities (moluk al-Tawayef) divided by tribes. The tribal leader or Mir used to rule their own tribes. This is argued by Robert Canfield in an article, Hazara integration into the Afghan nation, and by Hasan Kakar, in article, The Pacification of the Hazaras in Afghanistan. Both mentioned articles were written in 1970s. 14
After Abdur Rahman, Hazaras are ruled by central government by law. Before there were the tribal traditions ruling the place, and they were hindrance to central power. The unruly Hazaras attacked on the Caravans. After the integration they are being ruled by provincial centre, or Afghan officials. At the same time, there is a change in the social relation or power relation between the Hazaras. Before the integration, 1893, Mir was the tribal leader, and had power over the peasants, and Sayyeds were the religious class who had power in the religious sphere. After integration Afghan state regulated and ruled through their representatives the Arbab over the peasants.15
The other narrative that emerged by Hazara historians in 1980s and 1990s provided another view of history. The War of 1892 between the Hazara tribes and Afghan Amir is a critical point in Afghanistan and Hazara history. Mausavi calls it “the uprising of the Hazaras against the state.” Hassan Poladi, the writer of The Hazaras calls it “The War of Independence”. Many Hazara historians believe that it is the start of dark ages, or oppression of Hazaras, from which awakening or struggle for freedom is necessary. The Hazara historians, such as Eisa Gharjistani, Hassan Poladi, Haj Kazim Yazdani, and Sayed Askar Mausavi claim that Amir was tyrant and oppressive. His purpose was to eradicate Hazaras as a group. More than half of the Hazara population was destroyed or forced out or escaped. The agricultural lands of Hazaras were given to Pashtun nomadic tribes. An effective system of agriculture was displaced with nomadic economy. Thousands of Hazaras were enslaved. So they argue that the whole process was unjust. 13
Yazdani classifies the Hazara history into three periods: The Age of Greatness, and Power; The Medieval Age; The age of Oppression and Depravity (mazlumiat wa mahromiat). The age of Greatness and Power starts from the beginning extends to the Eighteenth century. The Medieval Age is the time when Hazaras were equal in status with other groups in Afghanistan. The Age of Oppression and Depravity starts with the coming of Abdur Rahman to power and his attack on Hazaras. In general Hazara historians have this conception of time in mind, when writing history.
Eisa Gharjistani’s Tarikh-e Hazara wa Hazaristan can be seen as an ideological shift in terms of conceptualization of Hazara identity. It is significant that he titles his book “Hazaristan”, not Hazarajat, before these all the works written on Hazaras, called it Hazarajat, referring to a region in Afghanistan that is mostly populated by Hazaras. Gharjistani had a nation (milat) or a (collective unit) in mind in the modern sense when writing about Hazaras that had unique language, history, rights of self-determination and territory. National consciousness (Khud agahi milli ), Hazara nation (millat-i Hazara), and Nationalism (milligarai) are frequently used words in the book. In his book, Gharjistani, promotes Hazara nationalism, in which all Hazaras unite despite their tribal background and religious differences and sects. He criticizes the religious political groups in Hazarajat that have outlawed (takfir) Hazara Nationalism as un-Islamic.
In Hazarajat, it was the religious clerics who had the political power. These clerics identified themselves with religion and ethnicity as determining factor in identity. For them, ethnicity was important since Hizb-i Wahdat the political party formed in 1989, advocating Hazara rights, but it was religion that was informing their ideology. They promoted Shia Islam, since majority of Hazaras were Shia. Mohamad Amin in an article on Hazara identity, in Siraj that was written in 1997, wrote that Hazaras nationalism was a result and reaction to the negative historical experiences. The two trends of nationalism or the factors of nationalism among Hazaras are religion and ethnicity (qaumiat) i.e. the Shia religion and Hazara ethnicity based on physical features. Nationalism based on religion is more effective and Hazaras as religious group have been oppressed; therefore, in the future Hazaras should get full religious rights, without it political rights is unthinkable. 16
He downplayed ethnicity as important factor in Hazara identity. According to him, identity based on race or ethnicity as ideology can lead to NAZI style fascist government. Nationalism based on race is not good, it is irrational and narrow minded and it can lead to more problems. The nationalism based on race has not worked in Afghanistan, and non Shia Hazaras do not unite with Hazaras of Shia group. Hazaras as a nation should strive to empower itself on political stage and its lifts its social position. Hazaras should strive for religious and political rights, and cooperation with other nationalities in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is multicultural society so; every culture should be respectful of other groups.
One question that is difficult to answer is the origin of Hazara, and there are various interpretations on this. One of the major theories is that Hazaras are a combination of both Turkomen and Mongolian groups that have settled in Afghanistan some time after the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Other theory is that they are descendants from the Mongolian army that have integrated into the culture by learning the language and inter-marrying with other tribes. Other theory is that Hazaras are one of the natives of Afghanistan and they have been here for very long time. There is very little written on the early history of Hazaras and many Hazara historians draw on the works of American and British anthologists, foreign tourists, and traditional myths and legends.
Yazdani has a theory that Hazaras are the natives of Afghanistan. He says that Hazaras were settled in Afghanistan for thousands of years, and they were here before the invasion (tahajum) of the Aryans in the country [that is some time in second millennium B.C.E.], because they could not resist the battles with the Aryans, so they may have migrated to the Central Afghanistan to guard themselves with the plateau and high mountains. He believes that Hazaras were always against centralization, they fought empires and states to remain free. Hazaras fought the Achaeminid Empire for six years but failed and gave in. Historians relates that Alexander observed new people that more aggressive and fierce (sarkashtar) on his way from Qandahar to Balkh. Yazdani mentions that the fierce people who the Greeks named Barbarians were Hazaras, because Hazaras are some times known as Barbari, and according to him this word has Greek origin. 17
One of myths or legends that are related to origin of Hazaras is a Turko-Mongolian one. According to this myth, there was a family from Mongolia and they went long way, and settled in a place called Argana Qun. In Mongolian the word, “Argana” is high mountains, and “qun” is the word for valley. According to some Hazara historians Argana Qun refers to Orazgan province that is also says as Orazgun. So Hazaras have originated from Mongolia, but they have come long time ago. 18
In short, by examining the political music and historical works in historical context, one clearly sees a Hazara nationalism emerging and forming during the period of great change and transformation in Afghanistan. Hazara nationalism is recent phenomenon, even though, Hazara as an ethnic group has existed for long time. Before 1970s, there was not Hazara national consciousness, definite Hazara identity, knowledge of history and pride in Hazara culture. Emergence of Hazara nationalism was a cultural movement as much as it was part of a political mobilization. In Hazarajat by 1989, Hazaras united under one political party. In cultural sphere, there were print media such as journals and books, and electronic media such as radio and tape recorders that were effective tools in informing and shaping Hazara identity. The political songs on radios were heard instantaneously every where in Hazarajat, and copies of it on tapes were recorded and disseminated. By 1980s and 1990s, there are discussions and debates among intellectuals, and artists on defining and interpreting a Hazara identity. Hazaras renounced their tribal and feudal fetters and trying to shape collective solidarity that is beyond the notions of tribes and family relations but based on differing political and religious ideologies.
1. Mousavi, 1998: 179
2. Gharjistani, Tarikh-i Hazara wa Hazaristan, 1989: 209-242
3. Gharjistani, Tarikh-i Hazara wa Hazaristan, 1989: 213
4. Mousavi, 1998: 186
5. Rostam, http://www.afghanmaug.net/content/view/495/32/
6. Gharjistani, Kala minarha dar Afghanistan ; Pouladi, Hasan, 1989: 281-359; Yazdani, 1993: ; Mausavi, 1998: 111-131
7. Gharjistani, Kala minarha dar Afghanistan:
8. Nayil, Saya Roshanha-ye az wa’z Jame’a Hazara
9. Harpviken, 1995: 95-108
10. Mousavi, 1998: 179
11. Mousavi, 1998: 175-186; Harpviken, 1995: 95-108
12. Rostam, http://www.afghanmaug.net/content/view/495/32/
13. see # 6
14. Kakar, The Pacification of the Hazaras in Afghanistan. ;Canfield, Hazara integration into the Afghan nation
15. Canfield, Hazara integration into the Afghan nation
16. Mohamadi, Mohamad Amin, “Dar Justajo-e Howiat” 1997
17. Yazdani, Husayn ‘Ali, Pizhuhishi dar tarikh-i Hazarahaha.
18. Yazdani ; Gharjistani,
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