Words by Rayahana Neyazi
Last week, at least seven people were killed and seven others wounded after a suicide attack near a Shia mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan. According to a deputy spokesman for the interior minister, a suicide bomber blew himself up while entering a commemoration anniversary of the death of Abdul Ali Mazari (also known as Baba Mazari).
Baba Mazari was a former leader of the Hazara party, Hezb e Wahdat, and was brutally killed by the Taliban in 1995. He had been captured and tortured, his body was dropped from the plane. Ever since his death, the Hazara ethnic minority would annually commemorate his death, reviving his strength and courage for standing up for his people. He remains so significant in our ethnic community because he purely represented peace, he fought against the repeated violence and racism inflicted on Hazaras in Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries. Even now as you are reading this, Hazaras are being discriminated against on the streets of Kabul as well as other countries which hold Hazara refugees, mainly Pakistan and Iran. The Hazara persecution dates back to the establishment of the Durrani Empire in 1747, the Pashtuns (the majority in Afghanistan) would believe that they are entitled to the nation, mistreating minorities especially Hazara. The Pashtuns would see them as descendants of the Mongols with the oriental features.
‘perfectly round face, a face like Chinese doll chiselled from hardwood…flat, broad nose and slanting, narrow eyes like bamboo leaves’ – Khaled Hosseini in The Kite Runner
The facial features would easily distinguish Hazaras, making them vulnerable to violence and abuse. One other reason why they were disliked by the Pashtun was being a Shia Muslim while the Pashtuns were Sunni, and they would be regarded as infidels for this reason. The history of the Hazara discrimination has been very complicated and these events have shaped current situations. They are still being targeted by the majority in Afghanistan, their lands and homes are under threat, men are executed and women are abducted and sold. Hazaras who migrated to Pakistan and Iran are facing daily threats due to the same reason, racial difference. In northern Pakistan, near Peshawar and Quetta, a lot of Hazaras have been massacred and sickeningly this is still going on.
Being a Hazara myself, I have been one of the few fortunate ones to have escaped these threatening attacks, simultaneously I feel saddened to think that this form of genocide is continuously taking place in 21stcentury. It is very difficult to think that across the globe, repeated conflicts persist and innocent lives are lost purely because of their race and ethnicity – aspects which we are not in control of. Last year I wanted to visit Afghanistan for research and for the experience, however I couldn’t pursue this journey due to the increased insecurity and the extreme threat imposed on individuals. What distresses me the most is that a culture that is packed with richness and history is being shattered by its people – the conflicts in power binary and disputes between two equal groups of people. One of my favourite sites in Afghanistan is the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the 179-feet male Buddha and the 124-feet female Buddha. These were created in the 6thcentury and have attracted global attention. Unfortunately, these were heartlessly blown to pieces by the Taliban in 2001. The reason behind this barbarous act was its location, in Hazarajat where the Hazaras are situated. As symbols of infidelity, they were regretfully destroyed.
Afghanistan has undergone many conflicts in the past and are globally known to be a site of carnage, however the culture still exists, the pride and honour of Afghans still exists and our positivity continuous to live within each of us, hoping for peace. However, it is devastating to think that conflicts are continuously taking place around the world in not just Afghanistan, but other countries. What we all seem to overlook is the value of individuals, the daily loss of children and women marks the loss of humanity. This makes me question how long will it take for us to realise that killing is not the solution, rather it is accepting and saving that is the solution.
Let’s stand against racial violence and learn to accept.
Read more from Rayhana on her blog: Let’s End Violence Everywhere
Hosseini, K. (2011). Kite Runner, The. London: Bloomsbury.
Mousavi, S. (1995). The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Study. Central Asian Survey, 17(3), pp.510-513.