Female-Run Restaurant Bends Back Social Barriers in Pakistan's Quetta
Maisam Iltaf, 15 Nov 17

Hamida Ali Hazara, her staff and some patrons at the Hazara Restaurant in Hazara Town, Quetta. Hamida is standing fourth from the left. Photo shared on Hamida Ali Hazara's Facebook. Permission to reuse.

Restaurants aren’t a rare sight in Hazara town, a middle-income neighborhood in the western Pakistani city of Quetta, but there’s one that has caught the attention of many. Subtle in its splendor, the eatery's interior features traditional Hazaragi decorations and a poster of a giant Buddha. More unusual, however, is the fact that the restaurant is run and staffed exclusively by women.

The Hazara minorities are Hazaragi/Dari speaking people. Hazaras have continued to face regular persecution since they escaped ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan and migrated to neighboring countries including Iran and Pakistan.

Most ethnically Hazara people are religiously Shiite Muslims. Hazara Restaurant opened its doors to women and families looking for quality time in Quetta, the administrative capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province, earlier this summer.

Hamida Ali Hazara, who comes from the marginalized minority, is the driving force behind the bustling restaurant, whose small menu features mostly authentic Pakistani delicacies like biryani (generally made with spices, rice and meat), karhai (stew, made with meat), kebab and fresh-squeezed juices.

The newly-created space is also used for business conferences, gatherings, wedding parties and birthday celebrations. Hazara Restaurant employs six women in total.

‘I will not stop because of what people think’

Hamida Ali Hazara, who is also a social and political activist, is perhaps best known as the founder of the Hurmat-e Niswa Foundation (HNF), which enables Hazara women to improve their lives through health, education, and sports. HNF has helped dozens of Hazara girls receive scholarships to study at universities in Pakistan's major cities Lahore and Karachi.

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