Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner attempts to paint a true picture of life in Afghanistan during the final decades of the 20th century, and his descriptions of Hazara life and the discrimination against them appear to be accurate. In the novel, Ali and Hassan are both considered inferior by many of the people they encounter; Baba, of course, loves them both and considers them part of his family. The Hazaras became a particular target of the Taliban, and both Hassan and his wife are later executed by them.
The Hazaras, primarily Shia Muslims, make up less than 10% of the population of Afghanistan--far less than the ruling Pashtun and Tajik tribes. The Hazaras are believed to have Mongol roots, and an ethnic cleansing of the group was undertaken in the 19th century by Emir Abdur Rahman. Today, the Hazaras still mistrust Afghan rule, and they faced social, economic and political restraints throughout most of the 20th century. In the 1990s, the Taliban publicly targeted the Hazaras for ethnic cleansing, and Hassan was just one of the examples of this action.
Today, with the new American-backed Kabul government, Hazaras enjoy a better life, with increased educational and socioeconomic opportunities. Their original homeland, Hazarajat, however, is still woefully underfunded by the government, and the Hazara there primarily raise livestock.