The Hazaras are a race of obvious Mongolian origin who live in Bamyan in Central Afghanistan. They are among the worst victims of the Taliban, primarily because they are not Sunni Muslims. They are Shia Muslims, instead. Not only have many Hazaras been killed, but their two gigantic statutes of Buddha were destroyed by the Taliban. To give Americans an idea of what that means, the Buddhas in Bamyan were bigger than the faces of five presidents carved into Mount Rushmore, which are considered to be a natural treasure by Americans. The Buddhas at Bamyan were the carved into a mountainside. They were the largest Buddhas in the world and were an estimated 1800 years old.
When the armies of Genghis Khan were rampaging across Central Asia, they were brought to a temporary halt by a woman in Bamyan in 1221 AD. She was the ruler of a tribe in Central Afghanistan. Her army had built a fort on a cliff on the side of a mountain. The Army of Genghis Khan attacked her fort, but without success.
Finally, they climbed the mountains above her and found her water supply. They cut off her water. She was forced out. As a lesson to all others who might oppose Genghis Khan, she was killed along with all of her people. Not only were every man, woman and child killed, but even all the domesticated animals and the wild animals were killed too. The villages were plowed under and the trees and the grass were all killed.
That is the version of the story as told by the Afghans. I heard this version when I was in Bamyan in 1977. However, the "Secret History of the Mongols" tells a different story:
"A legend has it that the town of Bamiyan fell into the hands of the Mongols by virtue of Princess Lala Qatun's treachery. The Princess was of a very independent nature, cruel and immensely haughty, and was determined to take revenge on her father who wanted to marry her off against her will. She had been pondering how to avenge herself for some time when she heard that the Mongols were on their way. She sent out a message attached to an arrow, in which she told them how to cut off the water supplies to the citadel that stood guard over the valley. Genghis Khan had the young woman stoned to death soon after." From Genghis Khan, by Michel Hoang, published by Saqi Books, London, 2000, pages 244-5.
Although the Chinese version is different from the Afghan version and I find the Afghan version to be more believable, both versions agree on the key point, which was that after Genghis Khan was finished in Bamyan, everything in that valley was dead.
Having accomplished this task, Genghis Khan moved on. However, he appointed one thousand of his men to stay behind to guard the valley. The word in the Farsi language for "one thousand" is "hazar". For that reason, the one thousand men that Genghis Khan left behind in Bamyan, and their descendants, are now known as the "Hazara".
Genghis Khan did not care about religion or about language. His sons and their armies invariably adopted the religion of whatever people they were conquering. His sons who conquered Russia became Russian. His grandson who conquered China became Chinese. The Hazara, who were left behind to guard Bamyan, adopted the local religion, which was Islam, and the local language, which was Farsi. That is the reason why visitors to Bamyan have been surprised to find Chinese looking people speaking Farsi there and following Islam.
This got me very discouraged, because I was wondering that I too might be locked up there in that prison for 17 years. Like he, I was a political prisoner and had not been charged with any crime.
Naturally, I asked him about the familiar legend of the one thousand Mongolian soldiers that Genghis Khan had left behind in Afghanistan. He said that there was an alternative theory, which was that the Hazara were a very old race and were the original people of Afghanistan. At one time, the Hazara owned all of Afghanistan. When the Afghans came, the Hazara were gradually driven back to their isolated mountain home. That is the reason why the Hazara are now surrounded on all sides by the Afghans, he said.
He did admit that the name "Hazara" comes from the Farsi word meaning one thousand, but said that this story was just imaginary and had been created by people who could not think of any other reason why there were Chinese looking people living in Central Afghanistan.
I never saw Janus Moghul again and have no idea what happened to him. About half of the political prisoners in with me were executed.
My plan to divide Afghanistan into two parts with the crest of the Hindu Kush Mountains being the border will not help the Hazara, because they are high in the Hindu Kush but are on the south side of the crest. Also, they do not fit into any of the other known groups. They would not mix well with the Turkomins or with the Uzbeks. They are too far away from the Tajiks. They are too small and defenseless to have their own country. Finally, they are almost entirely illiterate. The only one I ever met who could read and write was Janus Moghul, and he was a prisoner in jail.
In 1981, I visited the headquarters of the Hazara Mujahidin group in Peshawar, Pakistan. I came there because somebody had asked me to take him to the Mojadidi Mujahidin Group, and I had previously seen a sign on their door which said that they were the Mojadidi Group. I was surprised when I entered the building and found them to be Hazaras. I can speak some Farsi and Pashtu and I asked them about the sign. They were surprised when I told them what the sign said. As they were illiterate, they had not been able to read the sign on their door. They explained that they had rented the place and the Mojadidi Mujahidin Group had occupied the place before them. Then and there, one Hazara climbed on top of the shoulders of another Hazara and reached high up and took down the sign. They were accustomed to extreme physical hardship and were so poor that they could not afford a ladder.
The Hazaras are clearly in need of protection. They are too small in numbers to defend themselves. Perhaps the US Marines can land there. Since they speak Farsi and are Shia and since Iran has shown some sympathy for their plight, perhaps our new-found friends the Iranians can put them under some sort of special administration. Also, if Iran is able to take over Herat, there is a corridor between Herat and Bamyan which can be used to supply the Hazara.
In this story: Religious edict Buddhist center
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's ruling Taleban militia have rejected international appeals to spare two immense 2,000 year-old images of the Buddha.
The fundamentalist Islamic group, which regards all human likenesses of divinity as un-Islamic, says the statues carved into the rock face near the central town of Bamiyan are "insulting to Islam" and should be destroyed.
The announcement comes despite a last-minute appeal from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a rethink.
Governments, religious associations, and heritage groups around the world have also called on the Taleban to preserve the unique Buddhist figures carved into the rock face near the central town of Bamiyan.
Religious edict: On Monday the Taleban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, issued a religious edit, or fatwah, calling for all statues to be smashed including the two Buddha images that soar 38 meters (125 feet) and 53 meters (174 feet) above Bamiyan.
"Only Allah, the Almighty, deserves to be worshipped, not anyone or anything else," the decree said.
"All statues would be destroyed," said Taleban cultural minister Mullah Qudratullah Jamal, adding that "whatever means of destruction are needed to demolish the statues will be used."