Persecution of Hazara people

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A girl, in Bamyan, holding a placard against Hazara genocide in Pakistan

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People of Bamyan-3.jpg Hazara people

Persecution of Hazara people refers to systematic discrimination, ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Shia Hazara people, who are primarily from the central highland region of Hazaristan in Afghanistan. Significant populations of Hazara people are also found in Quetta, Pakistan and Mashad, Iran as part of the Hazara and Afghan diaspora. The persecution of Hazara people dates back to the 16th century, with Babur from Kabulistan.[1] It is reported that during the reign of Emir Abdur Rahman (1880–1901), thousands of Hazaras were killed, expelled and enslaved.[2] Syed Askar Mousavi, a contemporary Hazara writer, claims that half the population of Hazaras was displaced, shifted to neighbouring Balochistan of British India[3] and Khorasan Province of Iran.[2] This led to Pashtuns and other groups occupying parts of Hazarajat. The Hazara people have also been the victims of massacre by Taliban and al-Qaeda. Although the situation of Hazaras has not yet improved in Afghanistan even after ousting of Taliban government from power in 2001, thousands of Hazara People have been persecuted in neighboring Pakistan, by sunni extremists groups in recent years.


Hazara people are historically the most restrained[clarification needed] ethnic group and have witnessed slight improvements in the circumstances even with the setup of modern Afghanistan. The discrimination against this Shia ethnic group has subsisted for centuries by Mughals,[1] Pashtuns and other ethnic groups.[4] Syed Askar Mousavi, a contemporary Hazara writer, estimates that more than half of the entire population of Hazaras was driven out of their villages, including many who were massacred. "It is difficult to verify such an estimate, but the memory of the conquest of the Hazārajāt by ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan certainly remains vivid among the Hazāras themselves, and has heavily influenced their relations with the Afghan state throughout the 20th century."[2] The British from neighboring British India, who were heavily involved in Afghanistan, did not document such a large figure. Others claim that Hazaras began leaving their hometown Hazarajat due to poverty and in search of employment mostly in the 20th century.[5] Most of these Hazaras immigrated to neighbouring Balochistan, where they were provided permanent settlement by the government of British India.[3] Others settled in and around Mashad, in the Khorasan Province of Iran.[5]

The Hazaras of Afghanistan faced severe political, social and economic tyranny and denial of basic civil rights.[4] In the late 19th century, the Hazaras along with their Shia counterpart Qizilbash sided with the invading British-led Indians against the native Sunni ethnic groups of Afghanistan. In 1933, Abdul Khaliq, a Hazara student assassinated Afghan King Nadir Khan.


Main article: Afshar Operation

In February 1993, a two-day military operation was conducted by the Islamic State of Afghanistan government and the Saudi-backed Sunni Wahhabi Ittihad-i Islami militia led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. Ittihad-i Islami during that time was allied to the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. The military operation was conducted in order to seize control of the Afshar district in west Kabul where the Shia Hezb-e Wahdat militia (and allied to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Sunni Hezb-i Islami backed by Pakistan) was based and from where it was shelling civilian areas in northern Kabul. The operation also intended to capture Wahdat leader Abdul Ali Mazari. The Afshar district, situated on the slopes of Mount Afshar west of Kabul, is a densely populated district. The area is predominantly inhabited by Shia Hazara people. The Afshar military operation escalated into what became known as the Afshar massacre when the Saudi backed Wahhabi militia of Ittihad-e-Islami went on a rampage through Afshar, killing, raping, looting and burning houses. Two out of nine Islamic State sub-commanders, Anwar Dangar (later joined the Taliban) and Mullah Izzat, were also reported as leading troops that carried out abuses. The Islamic State government in collaboration with the then enemy militia of Hezb-e Wahdat as well as in cooperation with Afshar civilians established a commission to investigate the crimes that had taken place in Afshar. The commission found that around 70 people died during the street fighting and between 700 and 750 people were abducted and never returned by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's men. These abducted victims were most likely killed or died in captivity.[6][7] Dozens of women were abducted during the operation as well.[8]


Following the 1997 massacre of 3,000 Taliban prisoners by Abdul Malik Pahlawan in Mazar-i-Sharif[9] some 8000[citation needed] Hazara men, women and children were massacred by other Taliban members in the same city in August 1998. Human rights organizations reported that the dead were lying on the streets for weeks before Taliban allowed their burial due to stench and fear of epidemic. It is ironic that Hazara civilians were killed to avenge the massacres ordered by Uzbek commander Abdul Malik Pahlawan.

Robatak Pass[edit]

The pass connecting the settlements of Tashkurgan and Pule Khumri is known as Robatak Pass. A mass murder was carried out there by Taliban in May 2000 in which 31 people were reported dead. Twenty-six of the victims were Ismaili Hazara from Baghalan province. Their remains were found to the northeast of the pass, in a neighborhood known as Hazara Mazari, on the border between Baghlan and Samngan provinces. The victims were detained four months before their execution by Taliban troops between January 5 and January 14, 2000.[10][11]


In January 2001 Taliban committed a mass execution of Hazara people in Yakawlang District of Bamyan province, Afghanistan. This started on January 8 and lasted for four days; it took the lives of 170 men. Taliban apprehended about 300 people, including employees of local humanitarian organizations. They were grouped to various assemblage points where they were shot dead in public view. Around 73 women, children and elderly were taking shelter in a local mosque when Taliban fired rockets at the mosque.[11][12]

Khas Urozgan[edit]

In June 2010, at least nine Hazara men were killed in an ambush in Khas Urozgan District. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack.[13]


In November 2015, Afghan militants claiming loyalty to the Islamic State beheaded seven ethnic Hazara civilians who had been abducted in the southern Afghan province of Zabul. Their throats were cut with metal wire.[14] The victims were four men, two women, and a 9-year-old girl.[15]


The history of Hazara people in Pakistan dates back to the 1840s, when Hazara tribesmen from Hazarajat began migration to colonial India because of persecution by Pashtuns and Tajiks. Many Hazaras were enlisted in the British Indian Army during the first Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1840). The mass-migration and permanent settlements started in the 1890s when Emir Abdul Rahman Khan started persecuting the Hazaras of Afghanistan.[16] The majority of Hazara are Shi'a Muslims with a sizable Sunni minority. Although sectarian violence in Pakistan, home to an estimated 20% Shia Muslim population, started during the reign of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, Balochistan had remained peaceful until the turn of the century in 2000. Peace activist Ali Raza said in 2015 "43 Shias are killed every month on average".[17]


In recent years, the persecution of Hazaras in Quetta has left at least 1300 dead and more than 1500 wounded. The victims include high-profile community members, laborers, women and children.[18] One third of the victims are children. No one has yet been arrested for these murders.[19][20] The major attacks included assassinations of Hussain Ali Yousafi, Olympia Abrar Hussain, bombing of a Hazara mosque, Ashura massacre, Quds Day bombing, Play ground massacre, Mastung massacre, January 2013 Quetta bombings, February 2013 Quetta bombing, Hazara Pilgrims carnage, Akhtarabad massacre & other terrorist attacks on Hazara People in Quetta.[20][21]

The Al-Qaeda affiliated Pakistani Sunni Muslim extremist militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks.[22][23] Other theories suggest the involvement of Taliban's Quetta Shura,[24][25][26][27][28][29]

In response to these killings, worldwide demonstrations were held to condemn the persecution of Hazaras in Quetta. The Hazara diaspora all over the world, namely in Australia, Western Europe, North America as well as the Hazara in Afghanistan, have protested against these killings and against the silence of international community.[30][31] Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the political leader of the Hazara in Afghanistan, has also expressed solidarity with the Hazara community in Quetta.[32][33] The persecutions have been documented by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.[34][35][36][37][38][39] EU parliamentarian Rita Borsellino has urged the international community to address the plight of Hazara people in Quetta.[40] The members of British Parliament, Alistair Burt, Mark Lancaster, Alan Johnson, and Iain Stewart asked the government to pressure Pakistani authorities concerning the absence of justice for Hazara community in Pakistan[20][41]

As a consequence of the attacks, and the alleged impunity by which they are perpetrated, there has been a recent exodus of Hazaras trying to flee the violence. They are headed mainly to Australia & other Western Countries, where thousands of them have taken shelter and successfully relocated after obtaining refugee status. To get there, they complete an illegal and treacherous journey across Southeast Asia through air, land and sea that has already left hundreds of them dead.[42][43]


So far Hundreds of Hazara individuals have been killed in Karachi, but none of the killers has never been brought to Justice. Among the dead were social workers & intellectuals.[44] In Karachi terrorists shot dead Agha Abbas, owner of famous fruit juice outlet Agha Juice.[45] Sindh police announced the arrest of Akram Lahori, chief of a banned religious group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (lej) along with his four accomplices, for their alleged involvement in sectarian killings, including the murder of Agha Abbas.

In fiction[edit]

The main character in Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner is Amir, a Pashtun boy who has a Hazara friend, Hassan, in 1970s Afghanistan. They are bullied by an older Pashtun who expresses scorn for the Hazara people.

In the book In The Sea There Are Crocodiles, Eniatollah Akbari, a Hazara boy, details his journey to escape persecution in Afghanistan.


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