Hazaras still suffering in Afghanistan

Ishaq Mohammadi – Dec 25, 2002 |

 

Webmaster’s  Note:

The following document was written in response to the Immigration problems the Hazaras have been facing all over the world especially in Australia. Recently, the Australian Government had maintained a position that since the Taliban were gone from Afghanistan that somehow the problem of ethnic prejudice, hatred and security  situation for Hazaras have been resolved.

 

Hazara nation is one of the four main Ethnic Groups of Afghanistan. According to the survey conducted in 1995 by the “World Almanac and Book of Facts”, the population of Hazaras in Afghanistan is 19% (1). The Hazaras themselves estimate their population at 27.5 percent of the total for Afghanistan (2). Hazara nation is the sole and unique ethnic group of Afghanistan, in the sense that they belong to three different sects of Islam i.e, Shia, Sunni & Ismaili. As the majority of Hazara population belongs to the shia sect, they are perceived to be shias, collectively throughout the world. On account of this vague perception, they have constantly been the victims of oppression and prejudice, inflicted by the other ethnic and religious groups of Afghanistan.

Barely one century ago, during the reign of Amir Abdur Rehman (1880-1901), the Hazaras were officially declared infidels in Afghanistan. This decree legitimized the massacre of Hazara people, due to which, nearly 60% of their population were butchered and forced to mass migration from their native homeland to the neighboring countries of India, Iran and Central Asian republics. As a result of these atrocities, the vast agricultural lands and their livestock were confiscated and subsequently distributed amongst the Pashtoons. Nevertheless, Hazara men, women and children came to be known as the hallmark of slavery under the official patronage and protection of the then government of Afghanistan (3).

Later on, the grand-son of above mentioned tyrant Amir, King Amanullah (1991-1929) abrogated slavery of Hazaras, but till 1978, they were treated as third class citizen due to linguistic, racial and religious prejudices. It is noteworthy to mention that the Hazaras were subjected to such unjustified and inhuman treatment despite the fact that they are the aboriginal inhabitants of Afghanistan.

In April 1978, the motto of “Equity & Fraternity” disseminated by the Moscow-backed  communist government, attracted the Hazara population, as compared to the other ethnic groups of Afghanistan. But regretfully, due to the chauvinist policies of Hafizullah Amin, this short-lived and fragile enthusiasm soon converted into despondency and aversion. As a reaction, the whole Hazarajat (Central Afghanistan) came into direct confrontation with the Kabul government. However, the successive regimes of Babrak Karmal and Najeebullah, adopted more pragmatic policies towards Hazaras, which resulted into close relationship between the government and the Hazara nation. This policy of the government fascinated them to migrate from their backward rural areas and settle in the urban areas under the direct control of Kabul government. This migration of Hazaras also helped them get better education in government schools and colleges.

The discrimination meted out to the Hazaras by the fanatic and narrow-minded religious parties of Afghanistan, based in Peshawar, played pivotal role in ingratiating them with the government of Kabul. At that time, the Government of Kabul was facing with the problem of brain-drain and people from all walks of life, were leaving the country in great haste due instability and bloodshed. The elite and middle classes of the country became fed-up with the frequent change of loyalties in the corridors of power, due to which considerable number of intellectuals and men of letters lost their lives. This situation provided a
rare opportunity for Hazaras to fill the vacuum, created by the mass-migration of the elite and the middle classes. This scenario proved a stepping-stone for the people of Hazara to occupy some of the most important political posts in the government. For the first time in the history of Afghanistan, Sultan Ali Kishtmand, a Hazara, became the Prime Minister of Afghanistan.

As stated earlier, Peshawar (Pakistan) based sunni religious resistant groups always looked down upon the Hazara nation on account of their
racial, linguistic and religious bigotry. It is also evident from the fact that during the formation of the first and second governments of Afghanistan in Peshawar, the above mentioned Sunni religious parties expressed openly their abhorrence towards Hazaras, in order to establish their monopoly in the corridors of power (4). Subsequently, on the eve of formation of the third government, the Hazaras were deliberately kept aloof of the future dispensation by distributing all the government ministries amongst themselves, setting aside all the agreements and pledges previously inked with the Hazaras (5). Maulvi Younas Khalis, who is well-known for his fundamentalism and fanaticism, remarked that Hazaras consists of only two percent of the whole population and we are committed to give their due share, which is equal to the Hindus in Afghanistan (6). In this way, once more anti-Hazara policies were resumed in the country. The situation became so hostile and precarious for Hazaras that the second President of islamic regime of Afghanistan invited his arch-rival, Mr. Gulbadin Hikmatyar, head of Hazb-e-Islami, to join hands with the government in order to dislodge the Hazaras and Uzbeks, who were declared infidels and polytheists (7).

In 1995 when Taliban appeared on the Afghan scene, they invited the leader of the sole Hazara party (Hizb-e-Wahdat) for negotiation. But, in the disguise of table talk, this Islamic resurgent group, in flagrant violation of all humanitarian laws, brutally murdered him along with his delegation members, treacherously. This malicious act is ample proof of their extreme animosity and bigotry towards the Hazaras. The Taliban continued their anti-Hazara policies, especially during the capture of northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, where the Taliban forces butchered systematically thousands of non-combatant unarmed civilian Hazaras. The Human Rights Watch, reported that Mulla Abdul Manan Niazi, the then Governor of Mazar, in his public addresses, reiterated that the Hazaras had three options to either leave the country, convert into sunni sect or be prepared to die (8). In the subsequent years, the pogrom of Hazara unarmed civilian continued unabated, especially during the fall of Bameyan Province and the adjacent district of Yakaulang. In 2001, when the Taliban forces recaptured the town of Yakaulang, the Hazara people were exterminated and the reverberations of horrifying tales jolted the conscience of the civilized world that the Taliban forces skinned alive young boys (9). The bottom line is that the Taliban forces perpetuated the inhuman policies of Amir Abdur Rehman against the Hazaras.

Under the leadership of the United States, the coalition forces managed to liberate the people of Afghanistan from the clutches of Taliban government’s ferocity, who are known for their fundamentalism and adherents to international drug trafficking. In December 2001, under the auspices of the U.N, a broad-based interim government came into being. For the first time, the Hazaras were accepted as one of the four main ethnic groups and 19% rights were pledged to them. But, it is important to note that under pressure from the powerful internal anti-Hazara elements, they were intentionally kept aloof of the important ministries, such as the posts of the President, defence, interior and foreign affairs divisions. Unfortunately, in June 2002, once again, the same bigoted elements coaxed Hazaras to accept 10% seats in the government, instead of 19%, which was their rightful share. Another obnoxious example of planned conspiracy against Hazaras is evident from the fact that these narrow-minded anti-Hazara elements declared Dr. Sima Samar, an internationally renowned social worker, former Vice President and minister for women affairs, as Salman Rushdi of Afghanistan, leaving no other choice for her but to abdicate the post of deputy speaker of Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly). Nonetheless, in a unanimous decision, she was elected for the said post with overwhelming majority votes of the Assembly. It is a fact that if the above named Iron Lady is alive today, it is just because of the outright support extended to her by the Hazaras living in Afghanistan and other
parts of the world and the world media. Otherwise, this intellectual lady could have been a victim of target killing.

No one can deny the fact that the principle of “might is right” is prevalent particularly in Kabul and generally in the rest of the country. This can be gauged from the fact that the serving Interior Minister Mr. Taj Mohammad Wardak, was restrained to take the charge of his office. The above named Minister barely succeeded to take over the charge of
his Ministry at the intervention of the ISAF forces. Wouldn’t it be the synonym for the Hazara people to take out their rights from the jaw of a lion, especially when the fierce anti-Hazara elements control the predominant ministries in Kabul. It is interesting to nore that the incharge of the “Centre for conversance of Knowledge” Mr. Najeebullah, whose letter was published in the monthly “New Era” wherein he pointed out that now-a-days people are generally complaining that the officials of Interior Ministry are filling Tajik or Pashtoon words in the ethnicity column in the National Identity Cards of Hazara candidates with the malicious intention to convert them into a tiny minority. He has further stated “I am confused, whether the implication of being a Hazara is still a crime or by adopting this method, it is a deliberate nefarious designs to convert Hazara population into minority” (10).

Mr. Karim Khalili, leader of Hazara Hizb-e-Wahdat, despite having a lenient and conciliatory temperament, in one of his recent interviews, complained that while meeting with the other members of the cabinet, he has asked them, time and again that Hazara dominated areas of western Kabul is running short of the basic necessities of life, such as water, electricity, roads, health-care, education and public transport. He has further stated that the officials of Kabul Municipal Corporation are not taking any interest to provide such facilities for the inhabitants of that area. It is pertinent to mention here that the residents of central parts of Kabul, such as Housing Scheme Nos. 3 & 4, have also no electricity. While at the same time, the mountainous region of Paghman, which is situated farther from the above said Hazara areas, have been provided electricity and other civic facilities. It may be reminded that Paghman is the den of renowned anti-Hazara guerilla fundamentalist leader Abdur Rab Rasool Sayyaf (11).

Irrespective of the prevailing political bottlenecks (whatever shape it will take in future), the Hazaras of central Afghanistan called “Hazarajat” are also living in an extreme difficult situation. On the one hand, the economic sanctions imposed by the former Taliban Government, has bitterly aggravated their economic situation, while on the other hand, the worst ever drought in the history of Afghanistan, almost destroyed their agricultural lands and livestock, which were the prime source of their livelihood. As a result of severe drought, the people of Hazarajat, especially those living in remote areas, have had no other choice but to eat grass for the sake of their survival. Millions of people of that region are dependent on aid from International Relief Agencies or their family members, who are working as laborers in the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and some European countries. If they lost this sole source of their income for some reason, the international community should be prepared to witness the occurrence of another horrifying human catastrophe. In response to the repeated requests of Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders, the Iranian Government agreed to postpone the eviction of afghan refugees from Iran for the time being. It is worth noting that the overwhelming majority of the afghan refugees living in Iran are comprised of Hazaras.

In view of the foregoing, we are very concerned with the news emanating from Australia that the government there is pursuing anti-immigration policies against the afghan refugees, consisting of predominantly Hazaras. The Australian government is repatriating the refugees back to Afghanistan, who are presently held up in Nauru Island and those living in mainland camps. It seems, the Australian government is convinced that with the collapse of Taliban government, these refugees will be able to live in peace and amity in Afghanistan, ignoring the ground realities that Afghanistan is still in the grip of turbulence and violence. No one can predict about the advent of peace and tranquility in Afghanistan in the near future. Twenty-three years of prolonged and disastrous civil war has annihilated the infrastructure of the country, as a whole. Resultantly, the irrigation system of the country has been affected severely. At the same time, protracted drought and the land mines havee greatly confined the livestock. The whole country, except Kabul, is still hostage in the hands of various warlords, whose countless stalwarts are roaming around plundering and looting with impunity. In such an atmosphere, the perception of a peaceful environment in Afghanistan dangerous.

It is, therefore, obligatory on the part of west, as stalwarts of human rights, to play their role in bringing this war-stricken country out of the
prevailing volatile situation. Simultaneously, it is also their sacred duty not to turn down the status of refugees to the Afghans, abruptly. They should reconsider their refugee policies and the return of Afghan refugees should be made conditional with the restoration of peace and fraternity in Afghanistan. In the meantime, every sane person and Human Rights Organizations must shoulder their responsibilities and come forward for the resolution of this grave problem. The Australian government and its peace-loving citizens did not protect the Afghan refugees to ultimately deport them to their country, still in turmoil and insecurity. The humanitarian commitment should continue, until real peace is restored in Afghanistan.

In the end, it is pertinent to note that there is a wide perception amongst the Australian government that a few Pakistani nationals entered into Australia, under the garb of Afghan refugees. This should form not the basis for any hostility against the Afghan refugees. Anyone can easily get Pakistani citizenship certificates, due to rampant corruption in the country. Some of the Afghan refugees might have obtained fake Pakistani documents enabling them to reach Australia to seek refuge. International law contemplates such a situation and caters for it by accepting the principle that a person in need of protection has the right to protect his life under all circumstances. Since Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and it protocol, they are obliged to implement their international commitment, fully and without any reservations. This will only be in accordance with the fine tradition of Australia being a safe haven for people facing persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion and belonging to a particular social group.
( Ishaq Muhammadi)

R E F E R E N C E S .

(1)National Independent Federation (2000 – Pakistan) Vol:No.6, P.No.110. Weekly Wahdat (Iran) Vol: No.388, P.No.6.

(2)Mir Bhubar, Afghanistan Dar Maseer-e-Tareekh, IIIrd Edition (1983 Iran), P.No.669-670. Mousavi – The Hazaras of Afghanistan, Landon-1998 P.No.124.

(3)Qais & Changezi, Bisat-e-Shatranj, Pakistan – 2001, P.No.49.

(4)Ibid – P.No.92.

(5)Ahya-e-Hoviat (Compiled Speeches of Baba Abdul Ali Mazari Shaheed, Iran 1995. P.No.169.

(6)Bisat-e-Shatranj – P.No.84.

(7)Human Rights Watch Report “The Massacre in Mazar-e-Sharif, November, 1998, Vol: No.10, No.7©.

(8)Taliban Atrocities (U.N. Report Oct; 12, 2001).

(9)Monthly Ahd-e-Jadid (New Era) Vol:No.II, June 2002 – Kabul, P.No.27.

(10) Monthly Ahd-e-Jadid (New Era) Vol:No.I, May 2002 – Kabul, P.No.35.