By Kamran Mir Hazar
I remember it was 2006 when a former Kabul police chief, General Ali Shah Paktiawal, told local media that the police had detained a Hazara suicide bomber before he had a chance to detonate the bomb in front of Sarai Shahzada Exchange Market. The general appeared very pleased with himself as he posed in front of the international news cameras.
This was before an investigation and a search of the detainee. It turned out that the young Hazara man was carrying several bottles of drinking water under his clothes to deliver to his girlfriend. Security officers told me that Ali Shah Paktiawal didn’t question the fact that not a single Hazara had ever been accused of a terrorist act of any sort, much less a suicide bombing. The former chief never even met the young man, but wanted to take the opportunity to show how successful the police were.
Four years later, a senior Afghan officer in Helmand, General Ghulam Farook Parwani, alleges that the killer of three British soldiers used a rocket-propelled grenade. He described the attacker as a member of the Shia Hazara from Ghazni province.
Most international media outlets published this news without noting how unusual it was that an ethnic Hazara, who are generally reviled by fundamentalist Pashtuns, would be doing their bidding. The general’s claim reminded me of Ali Shah Paktiawal’s earlier speech that was so quick to defame the Hazara people, before any investigation into the event. Such declarations are mere ethnic propaganda that has been a common tactic of Afghan officialdom’s efforts to turn international forces against the Hazara people.
You cannot find any statement by the general or other Afghan officials that is so quick to identify a terrorist as Pashtun. All Afghanistan knows that 99% of the Taliban are Pashtun. But when it comes to terrorist ethnic labelling, it is the Hazara who are specifically named by government officials. How fair is that?
To think that a Hazara man would be welcomed and protected by the Taliban is a fantasy. On 24 June, it was reported that at least nine Hazaras were assassinated by the Taliban in Uruzguan, a province dominated by Pashtuns.
It is easy to see that the Taliban are following a successful strategy. On one side they commit war crimes, killing thousands of civilians and fighting against international troops. On the other side they have a big supporter who happens to be the president of Afghanistan. This man, Hamid Karzai, addresses their leader as “my dear Mullah Omar” and is making a great effort to remove important Taliban members from the UN blacklist. He is bringing the Taliban into the Afghan government, and giving them control over key government ministries such as finance, defence, interior, parliament, and justice.
These Taliban cronies are changing laws in order to quash human rights, promote fundamental religious intolerance, and provide secure information regarding coalition military plans and activities to their Taliban brothers in arms – those very same people who are killing young American and British soldiers.
And now these same Afghan officials have mounted a huge propaganda campaign against the Hazaras. These are the Hazara who face continuing massacres by Taliban and their agents.
In May, the Hazaras faced a bloody attack by Kuchi-Taliban thugs in the Behsood and Daimirdad districts and thousands were forced to flee. This triggered world-wide demonstrations, but was essentially ignored by the US media because it did not fit the script fed to them by their Afghan syncophants. Similarly, thousands of Hazaras were massacred by Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif, Yakaolang and Robatak Pass. This was documented by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project:
“Almost immediately after the Taliban took control of the city, the new Taliban governor, Mullah Manan Niazi, delivered speeches at mosques throughout the city, threatening violence against Hazaras in retaliation for the killing of the Taliban prisoners in 1997, warning them that they should convert to the Hanafi Sunni sect or leave the city, or face the consequences, and threatening punishment for anyone who tried to protect Hazaras. In another speech he reportedly said, ‘Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shia. They are kuffar [infidels]. The Hazaras killed our force here, and now we have to kill Hazaras.’
As Human Rights Watch noted: “These speeches, given by the most senior Taliban official in Mazar at the time, clearly indicate that the killings and other attacks on Hazaras were not the actions of renegade Taliban forces but had the sanction of the Taliban authorities.”
In recent years Hazaras have been facing discrimination by the Afghan government but they are great supporters of human rights and democracy, and they know the only way to improve their lives is through education. They are not against women’s rights, they elected a female governor and mayor. Approximately 50% of students in the Hazara districts are girls, which far exceeds other areas in Afghanistan. Many Hazara girls attend schools constructed and run by local people with no national governmental support at all.
Consider the following warning letter from the Taliban to a female teacher. Is this not a warning to Hazaras too?
“You [name removed] teaching at [name removed] School which is a girl’s school. You should be afraid of God. We warn you to leave your job as a teacher as soon as possible otherwise we will cut the heads off your children and will set light to your daughter. We will create a situation that you will regret.”
Source: www.guardian.co.uk, Monday 19 July 2010 14.00 BST