Friday, January 17, 2014

Are Hazaras the new Muhammadzais?

In the last twelve years, Hazaras have made unprecedented strides in Afghanistan. The Afghan Renaissance that has taken shape during the last decade would not have been possible without the resiliency of Hazaras to help heal the nation recover from decades of war.

When Hazara refugees returned to West Kabul post 2002, the area was completely decimated into piles of rubble. But today the area is a thriving boomtown and a mecca for carpet weaving. Hazaras have pursued higher education in record numbers, which was previously denied to them. Preparatory schools like the Marefat High School in Kabul, started by Hazaras, run like Philips Exeter in the US. Marefat graduates have the highest passage rate on the concor exams in Afghanistan and all their graduates go to college. In a nutshell, higher education is a prized commodity among Hazara families who nurture their sons and daughters to develop their mental faculties and ensure that no child is ever left behind.

Mass media outlets like TOLO TV, started by Saad Mohseni and his family, are the most watched broadcasting channels in the country. Bourgeois establishments from coffee shops, restaurants, and supermarkets managed by Hazaras have international standards that appeal to expats demanding high quality service. Many of the public spaces managed by Hazaras provide a relaxed atmosphere; venues that inspire your creativity and allow you to cross-pollinate ideas and imagine a brighter future.
On my return to Kabul, Afghanistan in March 2012 after living 32 years in exile, I stayed at the Moon Hotel in Shar-e-Nau. A Muhammadzai Pashtun woman visiting from her exiled residence in France introduced me to the well-groomed owner whose name I recall was Ahmad Shah. She said, “Look, when we ruled Afghanistan, we dispensed the tastes and preferences; everything from architecture, cuisine, fashion, and the laws were determined by us. We were the gatekeepers of culture. But we could only dream of what the Hazaras have achieved in only ten years.” The owner who wore an elegant suit and sported luxurious accessories blushed by the compliment. I was a pushy guest and provided the owner my tips on how to make the buffet dishes more authentically Afghan. The next day, the buffet was upgraded for my craving palette.

My deceased grandmother used to say back in the days of peace when they lived in Afghanistan that they never saw a Hazara beg for money. Want to know why? It’s a violation of Hazarawali. Hard work is the core tenet of Hazarawali. The childhood stories that were told to me about the Hazaras still make me proud to this day. There is a saying in Dari, “Awal arakat boko ke khouda barayt barakat bekouna” meaning first you must get up and take action before God can give bestow you blessings.

A central reason why the Muhammdazai royal clan ruled for nearly a half century until the toppling of President Daoud Khan with the 1978 Saur Revolution was that the ruling elite made social capital the most prize commodity. Today, we see Hazara-owned institutions and communities that cherish those some common shared values of service and solidarity despite the hardships of ongoing conflict.

I’m proud Hazarawali has infused my heritage, as it is an honor code that all Afghans and human beings can learn from. I believe Hazaras are the last hope to salvage Afghanistan from the horrors of the lingering war economy. The leaders of all ethnic groups must serve as a bridge of unity. Today, my heart is singing for Hazarajat and my spirit is always with the people of Afghanistan.

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