New Delhi: The Hazaras, an ethnic minority group in Afghanistan, have been subjected to repeated persecution and torture by the Taliban in the past. According to a 2018 United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report, most attacks by the Taliban on civilians in Afghanistan are directed towards the country’s minority population, most of whom are ethnic Hazaras.
Just last month, the Taliban had captured and killed nine men of the Hazara community in Afghanistan, according to a report released by human rights group Amnesty International Thursday.
As the Taliban returns to power in the country, ThePrint explains the history of the Hazaras and the reason for the persecution.
Who are the Hazaras?
The Hazaras are the third largest ethnic group of Afghanistan and a religious minority. Around 10 per cent Muslims in Sunni-majority Afghanistan are Shiite and almost all of them are Hazaras. The Taliban as well as the Islamic State are Sunni groups.
The Hazaras are said to be of Mongolian and Central Asian descent, and the descendants of Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, who invaded Afghanistan in the 13th Century.
History of Hazara persecution
Not just the Taliban, Hazaras have been persecuted and repressed by the majority Sunni population in Afghanistan even as far back as in the reign of Pashtun leader Amir Abdul Rahman in the 1880s, when Sunni leaders had declared jihad on all Shias of the country.
After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996, ethnic minority groups, such as the Hazaras, and women bore the brunt of the Taliban torture.
Even though the Constitution of Afghanistan gave equal rights to Hazaras in 2004 and former president Hamid Karzai had included Hazaras in his cabinet, the minority group continues to face discrimination and is placed at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in the country.
Why Taliban hates the Hazaras
The Taliban’s hatred for the Hazaras is primarily due to their different sect and distinct ethnic origins, and they thus consider them to be ‘infidels’. In a report by Human Rights Watch, during the Taliban’s search operations in Mazar, it ordered some residents to prove that they were not Shia by reciting Sunni prayers.
Mohammed Alizada, a Hazara member of parliament, has said that the Hazaras’ “support for democracy and thirst for knowledge” have clashed with the strict religious and conservative values of the Taliban and Islamic State.
Former Taliban governor of Mazar-e-Sharif Mullah Manon Niazi was also known to make provocative speeches at mosques and over radio against Hazaras.
“Wherever you go we will catch you, If you go up, we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below we will pull you up by your hair,” he had once said .
During the Taliban’s past rule in Afghanistan (between 1996 and 2001), Hazaras were massacred in 1998 in Mazar-e-Sharif and in central Bamian province in 2000 and 2001. The Buddhas of Bamian, gigantic statues that were held in respect by Hazaras because of their antiquity, were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
Two days ago, the Taliban blew up the statue of Hazara political leader Abdul Ali Mazari (1946-1995) in Bamian. Mazari was known for highlighting problems being faced by the Hazaras at international forums.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)