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The Hazara ethnic group resides mainly in the central Afghanistan mountain region called 'Hazarajat'. They make 20-30% of Afghanistan's population. There are also significant populations of Hazaras in Pakistan and Iran.
Historically Hazaras seem to have Mongolian origins, as evidenced by physical attributes and parts of the culture and language. It is commonly believed that Hazaras are descendants of Genghis Khan's army, which marched into the area during the 1200's. Many of the Mongol soldiers and their family members settled in the area and remained there after the Mongol Empire dissolved in the 1300's, converting to Islam and adopting local customs.
The langage 'Hazaragi' is a unique dialect of the Persian language, with many Mongolian and Turkish elements.
Hazaras are predominantly Shia (twelver) Muslims, although there are significant populations of Sunni and Ismaili Hazaras in the north and northwestern Afghanistan. The Aimagh (Chahar Aimag) Hazaras for instance are predominantly Sunni.
Politically, most Hazaras have fallen under the Hizb-e-Wahdat party since the early 1990s. The most influential person of the party was Ustad Abdul Ali Mazari, who was taken captive and killed by the Taliban. The martyrdom made him the symbolic leader of this ethnic group.