Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pashtuns and Hazaras

In the Kite Runner we get a glimpse of the the way of life and traditions of both the Pashtuns and Hazaras as well as the relationship between the two groups. Here is some further info...
(...) The largest and most politically powerful ethnic group, the Pashtuns (or Pakhtuns, in northern Pakhtu dialects), is very diverse. It is composed of at least seven tribal groups: the Durrani, Ghilzai, Jaji, Mangal, Safi, Mamund, and Mohmand. The Pashtuns have been the subject of several scholars' research. Anderson reports that because Pashtuns have historically dominated government, other ethnic groups have had to learn to deal with them on the Pashtuns' own terms. He refers to the "Pashtunization" of the country's public behavior. Being a Pashtun, at least a male Pashtun, centers around Pashtunwali, or "doing Pashtu." "Doing Pashtu" connotes adherence to a code of behavior stressing honor (namus) and its defense, autonomy, bravery, self-respect, and respect for others. It is probable that Pashtunwali is shared by all male Pashtuns. A man's namus is expressed through his ability to dominate and defend his property, including his household and his wife and female relatives. A Pashtun who has suffered a blow to his honor is expected to seek revenge in the form of physical retaliation or compensation in property or money. Such a code of behavior is often in opposition to strict interpretation of sharia. When a conflict occurs, Pashtuns tend to "do Pashtu" instead of following Sunna, believing as they do that Muslim and Pashtun are equivalent.
In matters other than Pashtunwali, there may be regional differences. Richard Tapper reports that to be classified as Pashtun in the Saripul district, a man must speak Pashtu, be a Sunni, trace his ancestry to Qays, and marry his sisters and daughters to other Pashtuns. Most Pashtuns in the country tend to follow this marriage pattern. It is a form of hypergamy and is also practiced by other ethnic groups, i.e., a woman may marry within her ethnic status group or above it, but she may not marry below it. Males may marry within or below their group. Because ethnic groups in Afghanistan are ranked in terms of their status and all Pashtuns consider themselves the top ranked ethnic group, Pashtun women marry only other Pashtuns.
Hazaras are the largest, predominantly Shia group in the country, although some Hazaras are Sunni. Twelver Shia Hazaras occupy Hazarajat, the central mountain massif in the midsection of the country; Ismaili Hazaras are associated with the Hindu Kush. Hazaras are reportedly ranked very low in relative ethnic status. Many Hazaras immigrated to Kabul from rural areas in the second half of the twentieth century. These migrants have been very successful in keeping their ethnic identity intact, perhaps because their low status prevented other groups from marrying them. Hazaras in Kabul tend to follow the same unskilled labor occupations, so that some jobs have come to be known as Hazara occupations.
Canfield reports that among the Hazaras he studied in the Shebar region of Bamian, generosity giving to agnatic and affinal kin?is highly valued. Men usually build their reputations on their generosity, although other factors are also important. These factors include possessing a good government job or being gifted at Quranic or poetry recitation. To establish a reputation or "big name," a man must be able to dispose of considerable wealth. He also notes that in the past Hazaras "seemed constantly embroiled in feuds and internecine raiding." Canfield observed the interesting phenomenon of sect changing by Hazara families, from Ismaili Shia to Twelver Shia or vice versa. These sect changes resulted from feuding within the sectarian community. They occurred in Hazara areas that depended on rainfed land instead of irrigated fields (so that no major community cooperation was required) and where members of the other Shia sect lived in close proximity. Such "conversions" are based on political alliance. Canfield even observed one instance of a family from one of the Shia sects that converted to Sunnism. Wealthy families may ally themselves with Sunnis to win a court case. The courts, as the rest of government, are dominated by Sunnis. That religious fluidity between Shia and Sunni is rare is easily understood, given Hazara history. Under Abdur Rahman, jihad was declared against Shia Hazaras and other Shia of the area. The war between the Kabuli Sunni regime and the Hazaras of central Afghanistan was extremely violent, but it served to unite Hazaras for the first time.

Source :http://www.gl.iit.edu/govdocs/afghanistan/EthnicityAndTribe.html

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