Afghanistan: the Hazara terror | The interpreter
As the Taliban take control of Afghanistan, violence is again rampant across the country. The global awareness of the oppression of women and girls under the Taliban is well known; the persecution of the Hazaras is less understood. As one of the largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan, the Hazara people have suffered a history of oppression, including slavery, torture and massacre, most recently under majority Pashtun governments. At the hands of the Taliban, the Hazaras have been the victims of institutional discrimination, systematic attacks and mass atrocities. It was an experience that earned the Hazaras the sad title of one of the most persecuted people in the world.
To save the Hazara people of Afghanistan, the international community must pressure the Taliban through diplomatic channels to protect the rights of religious minorities to prevent atrocities and take immediate action to accept more Hazara refugees.
Excluded from the reconstruction of the current state and the new Taliban cabinet, the Hazara population will remain under-represented and vulnerable to repression and persecution. The fear of genocide is not unfounded.
Young Hazaras are particularly subject to violence as they represent a generational driving force for social change and the empowerment of girls and women.
The Hazaras, with their distinctive Turkish-Mongolian ethnic origins and values of social liberalism and democracy, are visible targets for the monocultural Taliban. They also differ in religion, being predominantly Shia Muslims amid the majority Sunni Muslim population in Afghanistan – a difference that is abhorred by radical Sunni Muslims such as the Islamic State and the die-hard Taliban. The Hazaras do not all share a single religious affinity, but rather represent a plurality of positions across the branches of Islam and atheism. This culture of liberalism is contrary to the orthodox belief of the Taliban.
The Hazaras’ hard-earned relative success over the past two decades, especially in education, has made them permanent targets because their accomplishments wield cultural power and influence beyond their own community. Young Hazaras are particularly subject to violence as they represent a generational driving force for social change and the empowerment of girls and women.
This cultural challenge has vexed the Pashtun authoritarians for centuries. The ethnocentric Pashtun policy pursued by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan at the end of the 19th century led to a sectarian jihad against the Hazara Shiites, who were considered “infidels”. During his reign, up to 60% of all Hazaras were murdered or forced to leave their homeland, sometimes sold as slaves. The repression continued under subsequent governments until the end of the 20th century.
Until the 1970s, governments maintained laws prohibiting any member of the Hazara population from holding elected office or attending university, while the killing of Hazara people was touted by some Sunni scholars like the “Key to paradise”.
In the 2001 Bonn Agreement, the Hazaras were conservatively estimated at 19% of the total population of Afghanistan. It is now estimated that the Hazara Shiites make up about 20% of the country’s 38 million inhabitants. This number excludes a large percentage of Hazaras who belong to the Sunni and Ismaili religions. Yet previous peace talks and speeches have been characterized by the silence of Hazara voices.
The Hazaras are right to fear that the present mimics the past. In July and August this year, Taliban spokespersons made appalling threats to kill thousands of Hazaras and claimed responsibility for past atrocities. Because of the forced famine and the infamous massacre of the Hazaras in Mazar-i Sharif in 1998, described as “genocidal in its ferocity”, Hazara groups estimate that more than 15,000 members of their population have died at the hands of the Taliban, triggering large flows of refugees. to neighboring countries, and abroad to Europe and Australia.
The United States, in particular, has a political and moral responsibility to establish a program that allows more Afghan refugees to enter the country.
A new Amnesty International investigation has found that the Taliban were responsible for the massacre of Hazara men when the group captured Ghazni province in July. The Hazaras fear the worst is yet to come, saying the Taliban’s human rights promises could simply be a way for the militant group to present a new face to the world and gain legitimacy and trust abroad . But the Taliban are not a homogeneous group: there is a rift between Taliban leaders seeking to moderate their image and grassroots members, some of whom already have warned that they intend to to commit atrocities against the Hazaras. Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), which has targeted the Hazaras, is also active in Afghanistan, and the Taliban may not be able to restrain them.
Beyond diplomatic and economic pressure on the Taliban to meet their human rights commitments, countries with vast resources and capacities must immediately find safe passage for the Hazaras in urgent need of protection. Australia and New Zealand must follow the lead of Canada and the UK and expand their humanitarian resettlement programs. The UK has said it will accept 5,000 Afghan nationals this year, with priority given to women, children and religious minorities. The United States, in particular, has a political and moral responsibility to establish a program that allows more Afghan refugees to enter the country.
While the withdrawal of the United States and allied forces from Afghanistan may be complete, Washington and the international community have an obligation to protect the rights of vulnerable populations and to ensure that the Hazara people are protected internally. of Afghanistan as well as protection for refugees abroad.