By Sanchita Bhattacharya*
On September 10, 2022, two explosions hit Dasht-e-Barchi, a Hazara neighborhood in the west of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. The first explosion reportedly occurred at 06:45am (AST) in front of a crowded commercial market and later another bomb exploded at the Pul-e-Khushk bus stop. Taliban’s Ministry of Interior announced that the explosions occurred as a result of sticky bombs placed on bicycles. Three civilians were injured.
On June 26, 2022, the Taliban killed six Hazara people in a deliberate attack on the ethnic minority group in the Lal wa Sarjangal District of Afghanistan’s Ghor province. An Amnesty International investigative report dated September 15, 2022, observed,
Taliban forces fired rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at Muradi’s home, killing Taj Gul Muradi, his 22-year-old daughter, who had studied medicine and had been providing health care in the community. The attack wounded Muradi and two of Muradi’s other children, a son and his 12-year-old daughter. The girl suffered severe stomach injuries and died the next day. Muradi’s left leg was injured, and he surrendered to Taliban forces through the intervention of local elders. However, the Taliban then dragged him outside of the house and shot him dead. An analysis of photos of Muradi’s body shows damage to the front of his shirt, indicating a likely chest wound, and an exit wound in his forehead… Three other men who had been staying at Muradi’s home were detained and then extrajudicially executed.
As reported on August 17, 2022, Taliban killed one of their former leaders, Maulvi Mehdi Mujahid, who was known as the first commander of the group hailing from the minority Shi’ite Hazara community. He was killed at an undisclosed location in Herat province, close to the border with Iran, where he was trying to flee.
On April 28, 2022, a bomb explosion killed nine people and wounded 13, in a minibus carrying Hazara passengers in Mazar-e Sharif.
On April 27, 2022, unidentified men killed five Hazara men on their way to the Dare-Suf coal mine in Samangan Province.
On April 19, 2022, a series of bomb blasts in Abdul Rahim Shaheed High School and near the Mumtaz Education Center, both of which are located within the predominately Hazara Shiite neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi in West Kabul, killed six and injured at least 11. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) took responsibility for the attack.
On January 21, 2022, a bomb blast on a minibus killed at least seven people in an area inhabited by the minority Hazara community in the western Afghan city of Herat.
As reported on August 30, 2021, 14 people belonging to the Hazara community were shot dead by the Taliban in the Khadir District of Daykundi Province. Among those killed were 12 soldiers, who had reportedly surrendered, and two civilians.
Earlier in between July 4 and 5, 2021, Taliban tortured and killed nine men of the Hazara community and ransacked their homes in Mundarakht village of Malistan District in Ghazni Province. The entire episode was part of a ‘door-to-door’ killing operation orchestrated by the Taliban.
According to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Afghanistan 2021 Midyear Update on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,
…a resurgence of deliberate sectarian motivated attacks against the Shi’a Muslim religious minority, most of whom also belong to the Hazara ethnic minority, nearly all claimed by ISIL-KP. These included a string of non-suicide IED attacks and shootings, including at least eight IEDs in May-June alone that targeted buses or similar vehicles carrying members of the Hazara community. In total, from all tactics between 1 January and 30 June 2021, UNAMA documented 20 incidents targeting Shia/Hazara, resulting in 500 civilian casualties (143 killed and 357 injured).
In the worst attack during this period, on May 8, 2021, explosions outside the Syed Al-Shahda school for girls in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul, killed at least 68 people and wounded over 165. The majority of victims were girls attending school. The attack targeted Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras who live in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood.
The Hazara comprise 10 to 20 per cent of the national population of Afghanistan, where their traditional homeland is, in the central region called Hazarajat. The Hazaras faced massacres, oppression, destruction of their cultural heritage, and the expurgation of their identity during the first Taliban rule in the 1990s. The various forms of attack, beyond their immediate damage, take a dreadful long-term toll on the survivors and families of victims, depriving them of breadwinners, often imposing severe medical burdens, and limiting their access to the necessities of daily life. For women, losing a male family member has predominantly terrible social and economic costs, particularly for young women who are suddenly widowed in a Taliban-ruled land.
The Hazaras suffer from a double persecution, first on the ground of ethnic difference with the majority Pashtun tribes, and second, because they follow the Shia sect of Islam in a Sunni majority country. The Hazara community is Afghanistan’s third largest ethnic group. Their distinct features make them easy prey for Sunni hardliners, both of the Taliban and the IS-KP, who consider them ‘apostates’ and ‘infidels’. After the collapse of the first Taliban regime in 2001, the Hazaras continued to suffer targeted violence. Since 2015, the emergence of Da’esh (Islamic State) unleashed an even deadlier wave of attacks, with suicide bombers targeting schools, mosques and even hospitals in Hazara neighbourhoods.
On September 9, 2022, Richard Bennett, in his Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan stated,
Hazaras are subjected to multiple forms of discrimination, affecting a broad-spectrum of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The Taliban have appointed Pashtuns to senior positions in government structures in Hazara dominated provinces, forcibly evicted Hazaras without adequate prior notice from their homes and imposed religious taxation contrary to Shia principles. There are reports of arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, summary executions and enforced disappearances. In addition, an increase in inflammatory speech is being reported, both online and in some mosques during Friday prayers, including calling for Hazaras to be killed…
Apart from the violence and brutal attacks, the Hazara community is also facing the problem of forcible eviction and land grabs. Taliban officials in several provinces across Afghanistan have forcibly displaced residents, partly to re-distribute land to their own supporters. In early October 2021, the Taliban and associated militias evicted hundreds of Hazara families from the southern Helmand province and the northern Balkh province. This followed earlier evictions from Daikundi, Uruzgan, and Kandahar provinces. Since the Taliban came to power in August, 2021, they have told many Hazaras and other residents in these five provinces to leave their homes and farms, in many cases with only a few days’ notice, and without any opportunity to present their legal claims to the land. The largest displacements have reportedly taken place in 15 villages in the Daikundi and Uruzgan provinces, where the Taliban evicted at least 2,800 Hazara residents in September, 2021.
In a political eye-wash in October 2021, the Taliban Interior Ministry spokesperson, Saeed Khosty, declared that the regime would guarantee security for religious minorities: “As a responsible government, we are responsible for protecting all citizens of Afghanistan, especially the country’s religious minorities.” The reality, however, is that the minorities in Afghanistan, prominently including the Hazaras, are being crushed both by the Taliban and by IS-KP, and are without any recourse or protection against the depredations of this twin terror. Despite their pretensions at international forums, there is increasing and cumulative evidence that the present Taliban is little different in its convictions, policies and actions, from its earlier and deeply regressive regime of 1996-2001.
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management