Kabul: Afghanistan’s Hazara community was targeted again over the weekend when a series of explosions outside a school in western Kabul killed more than 50 people mostly schoolgirls and wounded over 100. The attack was the latest in a series of brutal assaults aimed at the Hazaras, who are mostly Shiites, by the Sunni extremists. Here’s a brief history of Afghanistan’s Hazara and their brutal treatment over the years. Who are the Hazara? – Hailing from the country’s rugged central highlands, the Hazara are believed to trace their lineage from Gengis Khan’s Mongol invaders who ransacked Afghanistan in the 13th century. Comprising between 10 to 20 percent of the country’s 38-million people, Hazaras have been marginalised for their largely Shiite faith by Sunni hardliners in a country riven by deep ethnic divisions. By some estimates, nearly half of the Hazara population was wiped out in the late 19th century, with many later enslaved during the conquest of their traditional homeland by Pashtuns. Throughout the centuries, the group has been subjected to slavery, religious and economic persecution, as well as displacement and ethnic cleansing. They have also been targeted by an array of different groups during the past four decades of conflict, including the vicious shelling of their areas by mujahideen fighters. Hazara militia fighters were accused of carrying out atrocities of their own during the internecine civil war that followed the withdrawal of the Soviet army in the late 1980s. Thousands were believed to have been slaughtered by the Taliban during the militants’ scorched-earth takeover of the country in the late 1990s. – Why are they targeted? – The Hazaras make up the bulk of the country’s Shiite minority, which has historically been despised by Sunni hardliners who consider the sect heretics. The group has also been accused of being too allied to neighbouring Iran, and tens of thousands have moved over the years as economic migrants to work mostly menial jobs. Thousands of Hazaras have been trained by Iranian security forces and deployed with Shiite militias in Syria over the past decade. Last year, the Iranian foreign minister called the Hazara militia fighters the “best forces with a military background” that could be used against the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. – What happens to them when US troops leave? – Few groups have taken as much advantage of the new order established after the US invasion and overthrow of the Taliban regime. The Hazara rushed to put their children in schools — including their daughters — and entered the political scene and workforce in unprecedented numbers. But those gains remain tenuous. The group has increasingly taken the brunt of escalating violence as jihadist Islamic State suicide bombers targeted their mosques, schools, rallies and hospitals in western Kabul’s Hazara enclave of Dasht-e-Barchi, killing hundreds. Fearing they will again be slaughtered when international troops exit Afghanistan this summer, some in the community have started to rearm with a small militia based in Wardak province recruiting and training Hazaras to fight back.