How are Hazaras treated in Kabul in Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner?
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.
In Kabul, Hazaras are marginalized and treated as second-class citizens by the Pashtuns, who are the ruling majority ethnic group in Afghanistan. Hazaras are a predominately Shiite people who have Asian features because of their Mongolian ancestry. The majority of the people in Afghanistan are ethnic Pashtuns, who are Sunni Muslims who generally view Hazaras with contempt. Traditionally, the Pashtuns have discriminated against the Hazara people in Afghanistan, which is depicted in the novel by the treatment of Hassan and his father, Ali. The Pashtun citizens of Kabul continually ridicule and make fun of Hassan and Ali. They direct derogatory comments toward them and ridicule Hassan's Asian features. Both Ali and Hassan live in poverty and serve Baba and Amir, who are Pashtuns. Despite being longtime friends with Ali and Hassan, Baba and Amir refuse to openly acknowledge their friendship because of social restrictions and taboos. Baba even hides the fact that he is Hassan's biological father, because he is a Pashtun and Hassan is a Hazara.