First of all, a brief background as to who we are and why we are concerned and alarmed by the recent Taliban onslaught in Afghanistan.
The Hazaras are one of the main ethnic groups in Afghanistan, constituting about a third of the population. Contrary to the majority of Afghans, we are generally Shias and considered by the Taliban as infidels. In Afghanistan, Hazaras have been the victims of historical oppression, systematic discrimination, violence, and genocidal campaigns. We also have Sunni and Ismaili Hazaras living in different parts of the country that are also subject to discrimination due to their ethnicity.
Our bloody history goes back to the 1890s when more than 60% of our people were massacred in a genocidal fashion by a Pashtun Amir and his tribe, our land was confiscated and given to the Pashtuns brought in from across the border. Our women and girls were sold to slavery and the surviving individuals were dispersed in the region. The successive governments and regimes continued the discriminatory policies towards us and we were marginalized and kept out of the system.
More recently during the Taliban onslaught in Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998, more than 10,000 Hazaras were massacred and in some cases, people were not allowed to bury their dead and they were left on the street to rot or be eaten by the dogs. We suffered more killings and massacres in other parts of Hazarajat, the central part of the country.
Despite the presence of international military forces in Afghanistan for the past 20 years, Hazaras continued to be the victims of extremist violence by Islamic insurgents and systematic discrimination by the Afghan state. In the past six years, Hazaras have been regularly targeted and murdered in the capital city, Kabul, and across Afghanistan. Our places of worship, schools, universities, hospitals, sports club, and public gatherings were targeted by suicide bombers.
When the US and NATO went to Afghanistan, we welcomed them warmly. During the foreign presence, we thrived socially, educationally, economically, and politically, relative to the past. Of the nearly one trillion dollars spent in Afghanistan, we did not benefit, not even a mere 100 million dollars, but we relied on our own meagre resources and worked hard ourselves. Here is a brief list of what we achieved:
• We built the best private universities in Kabul and elsewhere. We built the best high schools, all coeducational. We taught our children boys and girls alike, to reach the pinnacle of their lives.
• In a patriarchal male dominated society for the first time in its history we had the first vice president, the first governor, the first mayor, and the first district governor, all women.
• We built schools, hospitals, clinics, and even dams to make better use of water in rural areas.
• We were the first people to surrender our arms through an international scheme. Afterward, we did not engage in militancy. Not one foreign soldier was killed by us, not a single one. We did not have one suicide bomber to kill or destroy things, we are builders, not destroyers.
In short, we have the most liberal views towards women. They work, study, conduct business and practice a variety of sports. They are artists, musicians, singers, poets, writers, and lecturers. Yearly, we had huge
outdoor concerts for our people in Bamiyan in front of the great statues of Buddha that the Taliban had destroyed in the late 1990s.
All of these are sins in the eyes of the Taliban as they detest education, progress and empowerment of women. The Hazaras are overwhelmingly pro-education and progress. We cooperated with the former government and the international community.
We are also persecuted for being Shias. The Taliban believe in a brand of Islam that is fundamentally against any values of the modern world. We do not have any problem with moderate Islam, but theirs is a fundamentalist version akin to ISIS. We do not feel safe, we do not trust the Taliban, and all the sins and the crimes that in the eyes of the Taliban we commit and have committed, make us a prime candidate for persecution. We remember the ISIS treatment of the Yezidis in Iraq and Syria and how they sold their girls and women in auction. The Taliban are the mirror image of ISIS. We fear they will do the same to us.
Based on the recent reports from Daikundi province the Taliban have forcibly expelled the Hazaras and have occupied their homes and lands. This is a clear indication of ethnic cleansing.
Currently, no single place in Afghanistan is safe for Hazaras, and given their capture of the country, we feel that the first casualty of the Taliban’s ascendance to power will be the Hazaras in general and the intellectuals and elites in particular. During the recent international evacuation, most of our people who are very vulnerable were left behind. Of more than 120,000 people that evacuated, less than %1 of them were from our people. The Taliban and their tribal people who were in charge of the airport introduced their own kins and barred our people from leaving. Therefore, we request the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and any country that is willing to accept refugees and asylum seekers to:
1- Set a certain percentage of the people they accept for Hazaras who are discriminated against even in the process of evacuation. The persecutors got away and the persecuted were left behind.
2- Stop and rescind any policy toward repatriation of the Hazaras because sending the refugees and asylum seekers to Afghanistan of today, would be akin to sending the sheep to the slaughterhouse.
3- Accept the intelligentsia of Hazaras to your countries. Hazaras are in general very vulnerable but their educated and elite especially among the women are the prime targets.
4- Help our people generously both economically and politically. We have no friends in the region. Iran, our coreligionist is more in line with the Taliban than with us.
If the Taliban consolidate their position in the country, there will be a bloodbath for all those who are not in line with them ideologically, ethnically, and politically. We do not fit in any category as their associate.
5- Not recognize Taliban’s regime. The Taliban have not changed and will not change no matter what they promise. Recognition of the Taliban’s regime will give them the green light and help in more oppression and genocide of innocent people in Afghanistan.
The US Department of State in its 2017 annual human rights report said that “Societal discrimination against Shia Hazaras continued along with class, race, and religious lines in the form of extortion of money
through illegal taxation, forced recruitment and forced labor, physical abuse, and detention.” This was under the so-called democratic and elected government. We cannot imagine the situation under the Taliban.