Introduction / History The Hazara Khawari (Berberi) are a people of Mongolian descent who immigrated from Afghanistan to Iran in the nineteenth century. The name "Hazara" originally referred to a fighting unit of 1,000 men. Today, it simply means "mountain tribe," and is used in reference to the mountain settlements of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
Of the estimated three plus million Hazara in the world, the vast majority live in Afghanistan. Approximately 125,000 live in Pakistan; and the remainder are scattered throughout the various places and cities of the Middle East. The Hazara Berberi live primarily in the Iranian province of Khorasan, south of Mashhad. Others live in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran.
The Hazara Berberi traditionally lived as nomadic shepherds. Today, however, many have turned to farming as a means of survival.
What are their lives like? The Hazara Khawari (Berberi) nomads originally immigrated to Iran in search of better pastures for their flocks. They also hoped to escape the consequences of a failed revolt against the Afghan government. In times past, the Hazara Khawari (Berberi) were primarily sheep and goat herders. The second generation had to rely on farming as a supplement to their shepherding. Their main crops are wheat, barley, beans, and milk, which are the staples of their diet.
Today, most have moved to the cities, mainly Mashhad and few to Tehran. The third generation had the opportunity to study, so today there is a social layer of educated person among the other layers of the people in Iran, mainly in Mashhad. There are engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and many others who running medium to large-scale factories and farms.
During the Iran-Iraq war, many Hazara from northeastern Iran fought in the war and showed their braveness on the battlefield. Many of them were killed. Approximately half of the numbers of causalities from Mashhad were Hazara, in spite of the fact that their population makes up only one tenth of Mashhad.
Unfortunately there is race discrimination in Iran regarding minorities, and the Hazara are not immune this problem. During the war Hazara were popular, but after the war only during the Presidency of Mr. Khatami were the Hazareh awarded, involved in Parliament and other government positions.
There had been huge intermarriage between the Hazara and other people in Northeastern Iran.
The common language of the Hazara Berberi is Hazaragi, a language that has been passed down for many generations. It is sometimes referred to as Afghan-Persian and it appears to be related to Dari, a language also spoken in the Middle East.
What are their beliefs? The Hazara Berberi are virtually all Muslim, divided into two sects of the Shi'ite order. The dominant sect is the Ithna Ashari, also known as "Twelvers." The second group is known as the Ismailis, or "Seveners." The vast majority of the Berberi are Ithna Asharis, and the remainder are Ismailis. Strong negative feelings exist between the two groups.
The Hazara Berberi believe that the way to God is only found in the teachings of their holy book, the Koran. The Muslim religion is a religion of works-based specifically on the five basic teachings or "pillars." In order to attain heaven, one must adhere to these teachings. Muslims believe that there is only one god: Allah. They must pray five times a day, give alms to the poor, fast during the month of Ramadan, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once their lifetime.
What are their needs? The Hazara Berberi are considered one of the least evangelized ethnic groups in the Middle East. Unfortunately, they have been somewhat forgotten by Christian missionaries ever since their identification as a separate ethnic group.
There are only a few known Hazara Berberi Christians. Until 1990, there were no known Scripture translations in their native language, Hazaragi.
Prayer Points * Pray that the doors of Iran will soon open to missionaries.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Iran and share Christ with Hazara Berberi.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will protect and encourage the small number of believers.
* Pray that God will raise up intercessors to stand in the gap for the Hazara Berberi.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to give missions agency strategies for reaching these precious Muslims with the Gospel.
* Pray for the effective use of the Jesus film in Hazaragi.
* Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Hazara Berberi. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.