Blood and Smoke in Hazarajat

Danger for the Taliban’s Favorite Victims

As the Taliban fights to make a comeback in Afghanistan, no group is in more danger than the Hazaras.  The Taliban’s favorite victims, hundreds of Hazara families froze to death while fleeing  their villages during winter attacks by the Taliban.


Hazaras work in a candy factory in Kabul, 2006


Farmers work in front of empty Buddha niches where the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas that had stood for over a thousand years in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2002

During its reign, the Taliban wreaked destruction and  on as many Hazara communities as they could. Scores of Hazara villages were totally destroyed and their people killed or left to search for shelter from the harsh environment of the Hindu Kush Mountains.


Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2006

Persecuted for centuries, the Hazaras, Shiite Muslims, and protectors of the Buddhist treasures in Bamiyan for a thousand years, have been persecuted, tortured, and slaughtered, but the ravages of the Taliban are only one chapter in the long history of discrimination and abuse.


Hazara Girl, Kabul, 2002

A local official commented that their history has been characterized by “blood and smoke.”   He said that the pain is still in his heart because of the thousands that were slaughtered or died trying to escape.


Hazara School Boys, Bamiyan, 2002

Although most Hazaras live in central Afghanistan, the land they refer to as Hazarajat, the Hazaras who migrated to Kabul looking for work make up a large underclass, which takes jobs that other groups refuse – as bearers, street sweepers and other common laborers, the jobs that are referred to as “Hazara occupations.”  They are seen and insulted as “donkeys.”


Hazara man pulling cart past a burning house, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1985


Bamiyan, Afghanistan. 2007

His family is poor, his clothes used. But 15-year-old Ali Aqa isn’t deterred: He plans to be a lawyer. Childhood memories include Taliban occupation of his village in Bamiyan. “They burned everything, even my school,” he says. “I pray to God no regime comes like that again.

This fascinating and resilient people hopes to have a place at the table of Afghanistan’s government, but whatever happens in the central government in Kabul, these brave and independent people will continue to struggle for survival and dignity.

69 Responses to “Blood and Smoke in Hazarajat”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Nice Blog, you kind a sink into the pictures

  2. Hello Steve,
    I am one of those Hazara kids who you met about six years ago in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul. You came to our house and took our photos. These photos are entirely and truly my story…
    I am a first year student at United World College – USA in New Mexico. I would like to be in touch with you and have something to share with you.
    Please, if you would like to, stay in touch with through my email address (
    Farid Noori

  3. wallpaper…

    […]Blood and Smoke in Hazarajat « Steve McCurry's Blog[…]…

  4. farah atia Says:

    hi steve,
    i m a 23 years old hazara girl and really appreciate your work. glad to see atleast there are people who still see the truth, and have guts to bring that truth in front of the world. there are really hardly a few people in the world who feel the pain of sufferers… thanks

  5. Julia Simpson Says:

    It was extremely interesting for me to read this post. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

    Julia Simpson
    exclusive escorts london

  6. Says:

    hi steve you had done a great job .i was touched by the pic childrens of war .the world should see whats going on.these r the days that they should play and study they have chosen gun rather then pen.just look their eyes which carries the hope of freedom for what they r fighting for a free country where they can leave there life with out the fear of taliban.

  7. Says:

    hi steve you had done a great job .i was touched by the pic childrens of war .the world should see whats going on.these r the days that they should play and study they have chosen gun rather then pen.i have seen the hope of freedom for what they r fighting for a free country where they can leave there life with out the fear of taliban.

  8. hi steve do you have some more work related to hazaras i really want to see my people and heritage which was completly destoryed by the taliban

  9. hi steve i m a 18 year old hazara boy.and i have look at ur work which is not an art work but the truth which u have uncensored for rest of world that how badly we were treated in our own country why people treat us like that just becaues we r native to this country.i m just 18 year of old and i m giveing it up due this unfear world. .i was 8 that my father was killed by talliban and we escape to is 3 dec 2010 and i m in australia.but i will never forget all those brutality which they had done to us.when i saw ur photograph
    i was so pleased that still there r people who can see the truth.i really aprecaite what you had done for our poor people.

  10. Hello Steve,

    As a Hazara I have to say I’m touched by your knowledge and honesty about the Hazaras of Afghanistan. In North America, only you and Khaled Husseini dared to talk about our painful history. The western diplomats, journalists and even aid workers tend to ignore us as the Afghan government wants it.

    Please, Please keep doing more publicity about what happened and what is happening to Hazaras in Afghanistan. We will never forget you.

  11. hi

    i started getting interested with hazaras when i read khaled hosseini’s the kite runner…hassan in the book was a hazara, and his character was very outstanding, really…

    i hope their people wont be oppressed anymore…

    if i was gonna be a full time photographer, i wish i could do what you do..

    god bless..

  12. hope all the hazaras will have the right that is due to every human being. they had already sufferd a lot. the government of that country must be equal to all

  13. Steve, have you some photos from Portugal?

  14. Amasing photos.

  15. You and Cartier Bresson are my favorites photgraphers .I´m always triyng to be near you or him.

    Will be a honour to see you personaly tonight at the MIS…

  16. Linda Westberry Lewis Says:

    Some of the most amazing photos I’ve ever seen. The lighting, contrast of light and dark, and colors that pop are so great. Then, there are the children with “asking eyes,” that dwell in your mind.

  17. This is a very interesting series. Both visually and thought provoking in it’s content. I like to call myself a photographer. I study light, life and people and capture what I see on a digital sensor. But what Steve does, he brings life to every image he takes.

  18. It was certainly interesting for me to read that article. Thank you for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

    Truly yours

  19. Julia Dyer Says:

    Hi Steve,

    I met you at a lecture you did at the National Gallery of Victoria a few years back. You kindly signed a copy of the Afgan girl picture for me which is simply amazing. I have since given it to an artist who had lost a lifetime of work from the devistating bushfires in melbourne, Australia last year. The artist was completely overwhelmed and has told me that the picture will take pride of place on his walls once he rebuilds his new home and studio.

    Keep up the good work and keep the pics coming on the blogg!!

    Kind regards


  20. Really impressive post about Hazara people. I just visited your exhibition in Milan last week. I was really impressed and Hazara School
    Boys was one of my favourite shot, I think for the curiosity and effort, fever to learn I see in the eyes of the boy. Thank you very much I feel “richer” after having seeing your pictures.

  21. I am so glad, I just found out that your pictures are on display at Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur, where I live!

  22. All the pictures are amazing as are the stories and history. What a beautiful people. It seems that their spirit can not be broken. My heart was hurt when the large buddha was destroyed, in 2002. Thank God for photography to preserve history, tell stories and share life. Thanks, Steve you give so much to the world.

  23. Great and great, love your portrait ! love all you work…..i guess, your favorites are Afghanistan and Asia and you dont like to work in Baghdad, but i really like to see you here:)

  24. It is not just the life you show in your images, but also the love towards the humanity.

    I love your images.

  25. I like the photo of the men in the candy factory. It reminds me of my childhood, when my father made us candy on new year´s eve. Although my fathers candy was a great deal smaller than the candy, they are making in the picture, the photo tells me that we all the same have a lot in common. The need to make our life a little sweeter

  26. Hi Steve,

    I visited your exhibition in Milan and found it unspeakably beautiful.
    What impressed me the most is the fact that I expected to go to a photographer’s exhibition, but I found myself into an artist’s one.

    What I wanted to ask you and what I need to know for a research I’m doing about your incredible work, is your idea of beauty. Is pure beauty what you saw in Sharbat Gula’s eyes, or in the ones of the other young girls in your portraits?

    Thank you for your time.

  27. Hi steve
    I’ve just seen your esposition in Milan (italy) and I found it fantastic! potraits are super. the eyes tell all the people life!
    I find your photograpy of great impact and it is a mixture of superb art and harsh reality.
    You have given good reflection of the Hazaras! I think is very important for us to see the strength of these people in a life so full of difficulties.
    I do not take street photography in countries or dangerous situations such as you…. but I’d like to be able to transmit this passion and emotion with my photos!

  28. Thank you for sharing these moving and beautiful photos- once again!
    There is such an amazing sensitivity and it feels like you are allowing these beautiful people to open up their souls … such depth.

    In gratitude, as always.

  29. Hi Steve!
    When do you do a workshop in Afganistan?
    Thank’s for your beautiful work!

  30. […] The Taliban’s favourite victims – the Hazara. You may remember them. They had some huge statues at Bamiyan. Steve McCurry has taken some striking photographs in Afghanistan. The two pics here are from his post Blood and Smoke of the Hazarajat. […]

  31. Hello Sir,
    I just wanted to congratulate you on another amazing feature The National Geographic FEB 2010 Issue.
    My favorite photo is of the women digging a reservoir. Masterful composition and perfect timing make this photo stand out as being an amazing work of art.
    Well done.

  32. Dear Steve, thank you for your pictures and text on the Hazara people. Many comment on the esthetical beauty of your photographs; I find that they are more beautiful in their intention of capturing the soul of the subjects and of bearing witness to their story. This is journalism at its very best.
    Hope to read you soon. Annette

  33. I love your photos. I hope to learn a lot from them.

  34. hi steve,
    these photos speak themselves. each one is a different story on the same context. excelent post.

  35. great photo’s. they have beautiful faces.

  36. A_wandering_mind Says:

    Such gut wrenching stories and pictures..

  37. These people all seem to have beautiful eyes. How can the Taliban look into eyes like that and still kill these lovely people?

    • they do, i love their beautiful eyes,green it looks really amazing with their dark hair and skin. how could anyone have anything against them?

  38. wow..nice
    visit my blog…

  39. Your blog is really one of my favorites. It captures a lot about the real world. Your pictures also tell a story. Your work is really amazing! I’m so glad I found your blog.:) Congratulations for being featured in WP!:) I’m looking froward to reading more from you.

  40. I think your photography is unique and of great impact. We just exchanged some emails and I had reported my upcoming trip to Ethiopia. I would be very grateful if you had time to see the pictures of what I experienced. The link can be found in in section Ethiopia. Thank’s for all.


  41. The Hazara Giril, and the Hazara school boys pictures are great. Amazing photos.

  42. great pictures!!!! great documentation!!!! great courage!!!! need to learn from you!!

  43. Thank you for sharing this and those remarkable images! That last one of the boy who wants to be a lawyer tells so much in one picture.

  44. yep some really meaningful pictures no doubt, keep up the goos work!

  45. keith miles Says:

    I feel my heart bleeding for these precious souls and I want to know How I can volunteer to go over and assist in anyway possible please

    • I am writing this reply with tears of happiness in my eyes and these tears are coming down my face because I am realizin that there are people who care about us.
      I am a Hazara student at UWC-USA (United World College) in New Mexico, USA. I don’t know if still want to help, but if I am always ready to make that possible for you. (
      Farid Noori

  46. insightful reflections,
    amazing photos,
    thank you for sharing a piece of the world to the public,


  47. Excellent photos!

  48. I saw your post on the WordPress homepage. Absolutely beautiful pictures. They truly tell an amazing story. Thank you for posting!

  49. you are more than just another blog. you are very important. and this blog is special. thank you.

  50. […] likes to learn all she can.  about the world.  all its different parts and people.  i came across just another wordpress weblog … but it was love in just another place as well.  it’s a place where i can learn about […]

  51. Hi Steve,

    thanks for the insight! Now I know who protected the Buddha statue at Bamiyan.

    BTW, I love your images which are not “hard” such we can see in digital photos. Great treasure you have! Since I like your blog, if you don’t mind, I put it on my blogroll.


    Jos Runarka

  52. Hi Steve,

    Just read more about Hazaras in a wiki link, their struggle for life and resistance against Taliban is commendable.

    Hope they will have a peaceful life afterward.


  53. Blood and smoke…and insulted as donkeys? No people should ever be treated so. They look very brave and strong, and I hope they continue to be so. I am completely captivated by the image of the young Hazara girl and wonder where and how she is now 8 years later…

  54. Ali Aqa statement is so moving and his wish of being a lawyer such a hope for all of us… may the gods be good him! and to all Hazara people:-)

  55. Great work, awesome detail you just keep getting better
    take care G

  56. Once again, wonderful images!
    I really like the green wall of the “Hazara School Boys” image.


  57. Hi Steve,

    You have given an accurate reflection of the Hazaras! They truley are determined people, I just hope there are more inspiring young Hazaras who take up key government positions! It will definitely bring inspiration to hundreds of thousands of Hazaras across the country. Your post dedicated to the Hazaras will add to that inspiring force!

    These images are immaculate in every way Steve, I have one question, were these taken with a Leica? or your Nikon film camera?


    PS. Happy New Year and hope you had a good Xmas, and Santa got you everything you wanted, if not I’ll have a word with him next year!

  58. Like always excellent collection of pictures. Especially the last one portrait and “Hazara School Boys”.

  59. Alvaro Menendez Says:

    Steve, I´m a young amateur photographer from Spain. I have in your work (specially in your shocking portraits) a reference to improve my technique and my “photographic view”. I find in your work the inspiration and the motivation to continue trying once and once again. Thank you for show us your vision of life, often not nice or happy, but always truthful and touching.

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