October 29, 2021 | By Zoraiz Zafar | OPINION
Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Balochis: These are just some of the ethnic groups that make Afghanistan one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries. But just like the country’s past and present leadership, this list ignores the Hazara community.
Comprised mostly of Shia Muslims, Hazaras have been subject to severe levels of sectarian violence for the past several decades. Following the 9/11 attacks, the Hazara community became a central ally of the coalition forces in their joint effort to take down the extremist enablers who produced the conditions that allowed Afghanistan to become a breeding ground for terrorism.
In retaliation, these terrorist groups unleashed a wave of brutal attacks on Hazaras in Afghanistan. In the past two decades, thousands of Hazaras, mostly civilians, have been killed as the country struggles with its goals to achieve stability.
However, these deaths were rarely recognized by Afghan leaders. Hazara communities continued to be under-protected compared to the rest of the country.
But after a lifetime of staring into oblivion, there was a glimmer of hope earlier this year for the war-torn community.
Upon the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the incoming Taliban regime promised an “inclusive” government and vowed to protect all ethnic groups from the ever-expanding South Asian chapter of ISIS: Islamic State — Khorasan Province (ISKP).
From the outside, this appeared to be a much-needed, progressive step in the right direction. For the Hazaras, it seemed to be yet another façade.
Considering the events of the past two months, it seems that the Hazaras’ were spot on with their assessment. In the month of October alone, there have been two massive suicide bombings targeting Shia mosques, each attack resulting in dozens of fatalities. Responsibility for both attacks was claimed by the ISKP.
Though the Taliban condemned these attacks, the on-ground reality suggests a different outlook. In fact, according to Amnesty International, Taliban soldiers have been actively involved in carrying out targeted killings of Hazaras.
Similarly, the promise of an “inclusive” government seems to have fallen flat – not a single member of the Hazara community was included in the transitionary Taliban government. As prophesized by the Hazara elders, when it comes to eliminating ethnic disparities, the Taliban lack the resolve to take action.
To understand this two-faced approach and predict how it is likely to evolve in the future, we must first look into the reasons behind the Taliban’s claims of modernity and inclusion.
In search of international recognition, the Taliban’s Pakistani handlers have insisted on the implementation of a more “receptive” regime. This, however, is in direct conflict with the ideology that the Taliban soldiers have followed on their path to Kabul. If the Taliban leadership continues to ignore these evident red flags, then communities like the Hazaras will only continue to suffer.
Western powers have a role to play in this emerging crisis. First of all, the Taliban must be incentivized, in some way, to take concrete steps towards the eradication of ISKP.
Secondly, international recognition and monetary assistance must be tied to the inclusion of minority groups in the government. The Taliban must also be pressed to allow human rights organizations to actively monitor the treatment of all minority groups in Afghanistan, including the Hazaras.
The timely enforcement of these steps could potentially help alleviate the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan. And choosing to ignore the plight of an ever-shunned community will have consequences far beyond the immediate region.