For more than a century, Hazaras have been targeted through a system of bigotry and persecution. Ethnic discrimination has followed the Hazara community from Afghanistan to Iran and Pakistan. Sunni terrorist groups have declared war on the ethnic group; here’s what you need to know about the Hazaras genocide.
History of persecution
This year will mark the 130th anniversary of the Hazara genocide, which was initiated by the Emir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan. More than half of the Hazara population was executed during his regime, leaving countless displaced. However, that murderous history has been purposely left out, just like the recognition of ceaseless violence towards the Hazaras still happening today. Khan’s criminal acts are still an influence in today’s Afghanistan as structural discrimination against the Hazaras holds weight within the region.
Not only are Hazaras in remembrance of the Hazara Genocide by Abdur Rahman Khan, but several other events of target killings. This year also marks 28 years since the Afshar operation in which thousands of Hazaras were massacred by the Islamic State of Afghanistan government. This year will also mark the 23rd anniversary of the mass murder in Mazar-I Sharif by Taliban forces, which again left thousands of Hazaras dead. Since then and now, there have been innumerable attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan on Hazaras, the most recent one being on May 8th of this year in Dasht-e-Barachi. a settlement located in western Kabul home to a primarily Hazara population. Fifty-five people were killed, many being young female students, and hundreds were injured in the car bombing outside a school.
Dasht-e-Barachi is, unfortunately, no stranger to attacks, as only a year ago, a maternity ward was attacked by gunmen killing 24 people.
For Hazaras living abroad in the region, Pakistan and Iran have been anything but safe refugees. In Pakistan, several thousands of Hazaras have been killed; the Pakistan National Commission for Human Rights has cited that over 2,000 Hazaras have been targeted and murdered. Earlier this year, relatives of coal miners who were targeted and slaughtered in the southwestern province of Balochistan refused to bury their dead until the government delivered justice by capturing the terrorists.
Like Afghanistan’s Dasht-e-Barachi, Balochistan has a long history of death for the community of Hazaras. Data shared by the Balochistan home department estimates that from 2012 to 2017, there were over 500 Hazaras killed in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital.
Hazaras living in Iran don’t face the threat of physical attacks, but they are still facing systematic discrimination. Since the arrival of Afghans in the late 1970s in Iran, several laws have been put in place to identify settlers migrating from Afghanistan. Different ID cards allow for different rights and privileges. For example, most Afghans in Iran hold an identification card that either comes in pink or gold; the difference is not just in color, but benefits as gold holders are given to elite figures who can also open bank accounts in Iran. However, Hazaras are given fewer rights despite still coming from Afghanistan and often are employed in labor industries with low wages.
Fear for the future
Hazaras are clearly victims of sectarianism and ethnic conflict, but they are also victims of false propaganda and racialism. Hazaras have been speculated to be from Mongolian roots by some and have been falsely accused of being agents of Iran wishing to spread Shia beliefs into Sunni- majority Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, several of these countries’ governments often ignore Hazara voices. Moreover, western media often reports on their deaths as if it were any Afghan or Muslim fatality, which has the dire consequence of not shedding light on Hazara tragedies.
The announcement of US troops withdrawing from Afghanistan has raised concerns about the safety of Hazaras within the region and globally. With the Taliban in a power position, an ongoing genocide is probable. The Taliban has recently condemned attacks towards Hazaras, but many believe the change of heart is entirely performative.
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