It’s Like The Holocast: Hazara Genocide Under Taliban Regime Continues Endlessly

By Waliullah Rahmani and Shivani Singh

The seemingly quiet 20 years under a Republican government had given the Hazara community their ray of hope- a somewhat peaceful life. A silver lining after the dark clouds of the Taliban regime had cleared up. The Hazaras prospered in every field possible, but, they were still under threat as the Taliban and other groups continued to conduct attacks and operations against their community. And in August 2021, the light at the end of their tunnel suddenly disappeared when one night, there was no government to provide them protection as the Taliban took over the war-torn country and the US withdrew their forces.

Nine months hence, school columns in the Dasht-e Barchi area (a predominantly Hazara populated area) are riddled with splinters, walls are splattered with blood, there are remnants of torn schoolbooks, bags and belongings of little kids who were caught in the centre of senseless violence- the victims of a heinous attack. Shiite mosques across the country in Kabul, Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif- all sites of obeisance, now picture utmost grief. When worshippers bowed down in prayer on Ramadan Fridays (one of the most religiously significant days for Muslims), bombs ripped across mosques after mosques, week after week killings hundreds of devotees. Even the foundations of the House of God rambled after the barbaric, inhuman attacks. The alleged torture and murder of Hazaras are only limited to pages of intelligence reports as they continue to be marginalised, tortured and killed across the country without it being reported and acted upon.

Almost a year hence, on April 22, 2022, a suicide attack targeted Hazara worshipers in Seh Dukan Mosque of Mazar-i-Sharif causing at least 31 deaths and wounding 90 others, according to Amnesty International. It was one of the latest targeted killings of Hazara civilians under the Taliban. As the Taliban prevent attempts to document the exact numbers of victims, no official figure of the victims is available. But in general, in the past nine months, over 400 Hazara civilians have been killed and thousands have been wounded.

Deep dive: In order to give a better picture of the nature, geography, and victims of attacks against Hazara civilians, a chronological perspective is set as the followings.

Let’s look into 2021:

    • On August 24, 2021, Basir Ahmad Rahmani was killed by the Taliban in western Kabul, his relatives confirmed.
    • On September 11, 2021, Narges, 38, lost her life after a Taliban member shot her on the forehead in District 13 of western Kabul city.
    • On September 22, 2021, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, Salam Watandar’s Hazara reporter was shot by unknown armed men in western Kabul, for being a journalist.
    • On October 2, 2021, Alia Azizi, a Hazara policewoman, and director of a women’s prison in Herat province disappeared, whose fate is unclear yet.
    • On October 8, 2021, a Body Borne Improvised Explosive Device (BBIED) detonated his vest inside a Shiite mosque in Kunduz city’s District 1 area. Aljazeera reports indicated that around 60 worshippers were killed and over 100 people were wounded. The victims were mainly Hazaras.
    • On October 15, 2021, Fatemiya, a Shiite mosque in southern Kandahar province was hit by multiple suicide attackers, killing at least 47 people and wounding at least 70 more, based on Al Arabia.
    • On November 13, 2021, a mag-IED attached to a minivan detonated in western Kabul, claiming the lives of at least 5 people, and wounding multiple others.
    • On December 10, 2021, 2 mag-IEDs attached to civilian vans detonated in Hazara Shiite-dominated western Kabul, killing 2 and wounding 4 others per Taliban spokesman.
    • On December 19, 2021, Jawid Yusufi, a local journalist was stabbed in Haji Nowruz square in western Kabul by 3 armed men. He survived the attack after inflicting serious injuries.

Then, came the second wave of these bloody attacks in 2022 under the Taliban’s defacto authority:

    • On March 29, 2022, Hadi Rezwani, a Hazara lad was killed in a Shiite-dominated area in the western Herat province of Afghanistan.
    • On April 1, 2022, a blast took place among a group of Hazara youth playing a local game in the Shiite populated area of western Herat province, killing at least 5 and wounding 20+ others.
    • On April 19, 2022, two attacks (3 explosions) happened against students of an educational center and Abdulrahim Shahid high school in the western Part of Kabul city. RFI reported at least 30 were killed and scores of others were wounded.
    • On April 21, 2022, an explosion took place in a Shiite/Hazara Mosque in northern Mazar-e Sharif city, killing at least 37 and wounding 90 others per Amnesty international.
    • On April 28, 2022, car bombings in Mazar-e-Sharif killed at least nine people and wounded 13 others, according to local Taliban officials. An Islamic State terrorist group statement said 30 Shiites were killed or wounded in the two attacks.
    • On April 29, 2022, a blast targeted a mosque on April 29 in Police District 6 in the city of Kabul, causing at least 10 deaths and many wounded, security officials confirmed. The blast took place in the Darul-Aman area of Kabul.
    • On April 30, 2022, an explosion took place in the center of the Kunduz city on April 30. Sources said that the explosion was due to a planted mine in a shop on the 9th street of Rastaq Abad area where Shiite citizens live.

Between the lines: Taliban, and other terrorist organizations didn’t stop after the cold-blood killing of Hazaras alone, rather, the community had to ensure forced migrations, and lack of political and social participation, among others.

    • In the first months after the Taliban takeover, several journalists of a small outlet called Etilaat Roz were arrested and beaten. They were all Hazaras.
    • Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in September, more than 2,800 Hazara Shiites were forcibly evicted from their homes. As an ethnic and religious minority, targeted violence from the Taliban and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) is not new but is worsening under the Taliban’s rule. The rapid increase in human rights violations against the backdrop of a century-long pattern of systemic oppression has increased the risk of the Hazaras facing imminent ethnic cleansing

Back story: The Hazaras have experienced ethnic cleansing, slavery, land grabbing, unwarranted taxes, looting, and pillaging of homes, which have systematically excluded them from the government, economic opportunities, and social dynamics. Hazaras make up 15-20% of the country’s 38 million population, originally living in the mountainous Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan. This makes them the third-largest ethnic group after Pashtuns and Tajiks. Hazara’s genocidal killings in the last decade reached its peak in 2014, when 31 Hazara passengers were taken hostage in Zabul province. This was the start of a trend of killing Hazara civilians in masses across Afghanistan for their ethnic and religious identity. In an overview of attacks between 2014 to 2017, over 19 major targeted killings of Hazaras took place in Afghanistan that took lives of around 550 and wounded over 1000 Hazara civilians. These attacks targeted Hazara mosques, sports centers, schools, educational institutions, and other public places. The numbers don’t include other major attacks on Hazaras, in the next four years of former Ashraf Ghani’s government until the collapse of Kabul on August 15, 2021. But under the Taliban, this trend has reached crossed insurmountable numbers and seems to be unprecedented even in comparison to the killings under the republic constitutional order.

Take note: There is massive international condemnation regarding the ethnic cleaning currently underway in Afghanistan, but little action has been taken on ground. Taliban officials claimed that they had arrested the “mastermind” behind the Mazar-e-Sharif attack, however, that was it. In the past nine months, burdened with the responsibility of governance, the Taliban have insisted that they have turned a new leaf, making assurances of security to wary Hazara community leaders and saying that Hazaras, too, are beneficiaries of their supposed liberation of the country. But throughout that time many Taliban foot soldiers have stood accused of carrying out their own attacks on the community.

    • In its annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said religious minorities have “faced harassment, detention and even death due to their faith or beliefs” since the Taliban reimposed its harsh interpretation of Sunni Islam on Afghanistan. It also cited attacks on religious minorities by an Islamic State affiliate that is an enemy of the Taliban. This year’s report marks the first time since 2001, when the Taliban last ruled in Kabul, that the commission recommended designating Afghanistan as a country of particular concern, the report said. The State Department last year already listed the Taliban on a similar list of non-state violators of religious freedom based on its actions before returning to power in August. The commission also cited a Human Rights Watch report of the Taliban attacking and seizing property of ethnic Hazaras belonging to the Shiite Muslim minority, plus an Amnesty International report of a Taliban massacre of Hazara men in 2021.
    • The commission recommended sanctioning individual Taliban officials deemed responsible for severe violations of religious freedom and urged that those facing persecution receiving priority in refugee resettlement.
    • The team’s call for information and theories has been gathered since April 2 through a special website it started and is scheduled to continue until April 30. The team’s website quoted a report by the British house of lords’ select committee on international relations and defence citing that Hazaras have a long history of suffering for their ethnic and sectarian reasons.
    • The European Union has called recent attacks on mosques “heinous” and said that targeting religious sites violates international law. In a statement, the European Union said the recent attacks were violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as crimes committed in the Islamic religion.

The big picture: The systematic killings of Hazaras under the Taliban authority, have increased concerns about the genocidal nature of these crimes. The unsettling reports regarding the repeat of another genocide of the ethnic and religious community has been voiced clearly by Hazara and non-Hazara activists.

    • In April 21, 2022, in an open letter, a list of Hazara political and civil activists to the UN and world leaders asked for the protection of Hazara people against the genocide of the ethnic and religious community under the Taliban and called on them to stand with the Hazaras and recognize the genocide against the ethnicity.
    • Continued campaigns for Hazara rights on social media particularly on Twitter is another attempt to stand against the genocidal killings of the Hazaras of Afghanistan. On April 21, 2022, Hazaras launched a twitter campaign under #StopHazaraGenocide, which was tweeted 159529 times and has garnered 315598 responses, quotes retweets. Hazara and non-Hazara activists joined from 50 countries to tweet about the Hazara genocide.

Zoom out: The systematic persecution, genocidal killings, political and religious discrimination of the Hazaras had been at the top of the list of rights violations of all global leaders when the Taliban regime seemed imminent last year. However, as the days and months have progressed, we have witnessed massacre after massacre without any, well, consequences. Since the collapse of the internationally recognized Afghan government last year, attacks on the Hazaras have increased — and the IS-K is responsible while the Taliban keeps silent and take no security measures to protect members of this community.

And after spending nine months in power, nine months on consolidating international recognition, nine months to improve their ideology, nine months to better their track record of women and human rights’ violations- the Taliban still only has “we are investigating the matter” to add to how they are solving the systemic genocide of the Hazaras under their regime. The Taliban leadership may have moderated its rhetoric to please the international community on paper, claiming that it will protect all ethnic groups, but it has done nothing to stem the growing number of crimes being committed by its fighters. No Hazara representative has been included in the Taliban government announced since September. A survey shows that 82.7% of the Taliban’s cabinet members are Pashtuns and 96.5% of them are their own members. According to this survey 79.4% of governors are Pashtuns and 100% of them are Taliban members and there are no women or Hazara members. This comes even as a number of former political figures and the international community have urged the formation of an inclusive government with presence of all ethnic groups’ representatives. It is also not surprising that, despite the insistence by the Taliban that it can provide security and peace in the country, IS-K (Daesh) has continued its deadly attacks against the Hazaras.

The bottom line: The rights violation and genocide can only stop if the international community continues to pressurize the Taliban to uphold human rights and stay true to the commitments it made in order to be recognised. The aid and grants given by the global leaders can be sanctioned and leveraged as a bargaining chip in order to make Taliban toe the line and secure the guarantees of Hazara rights and protection. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have already stopped payments to Afghanistan, while the US has frozen the country’s assets held on US territory. These funds can be used in negotiations with the Taliban.

What we need right now, is not just negotiations, but negotiations coupled with extreme sanctions and steps to ensure that justice is ensured and the ensuing genocide is stopped in its deadly track.

Today, we talk about not just the Hazaras, the story of this community is the beacon that the world needs to see to recognise the doom imminent in this country if action is not taken against the human rights violations, marginalisation and extremist ideologies. All Afghans face a grim future ahead if educational rights are not maintained, if human rights are violated and if the right to freedom of expression and religion are under constant attack. In a divided global community, it requires painstakingly tremendous efforts to campaign for recognition of the Hazara genocide. Nonetheless, the path to seek international recognition of the Hazara genocide should be one of the main components of political agendas to the Hazaras in the diaspora and they need to dedicate their energies. They might presumably be the world’s most persecuted ethnic group in the world as they continue to endure heart-breaking suffering and misery, but they strive on to fight for their rights and life with grit and determination.

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