Early in May, Islamic State Iraq and Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) militants carried out a bomb attack on a girls’ school in west Kabul killing 90 Hazaras and injuring around 240, most of them school girls. More recently, in a horrific targeted killing, elements belonging to the same militant group attacked the Halo Trust’s compound in Baghlan province and separated Hazaras from the rest of workers and killed 10 mine clearing Hazaras in cold blood.
The escalation of these systematic attacks on the Hazaras exposes the ethnic aspect of the war in Afghanistan that has long been ignored by everyone, except for the victims. Disappointed by the lack of response from the Afghan government and international community, the Hazaras last week turned to social media and tweeted out their demands making #StopHazaraGenocide a trending hashtag in several countries for over three days.
Nevertheless, the social media campaign did not gain the attentions Hazaras needed from the Afghan government and the international community. Both, welcomed the campaign with death silence at a time when the possibility of sectarian war is looming on Afghanistan’s future. Therefore, for Hazaras to sustain Afghanistan’s troubled future, three players need to make responsible decisions in regard to protecting this community against future sectarian war. First, the Hazara community itself must do a thorough documentation of systematic discriminations conducted by various state holders against them and present them to Afghan government and international community. Second, the Afghan government must support Hazaras to be recognized as vulnerable community against terrorism, war crimes, and genocide. Third, the international community must accept the Hazara community’s status as a persecuted community that needs to be protected as part of the concept of The Responsibly to Protect (R2P).
The role of the Hazara community
Research indicates that systematic discriminations are conducted against the Hazara community in Afghanistan throughout its modern history. Afghan history claims that more than 60% of the Hazara population was massacred, thousands of them fled their country of origin, and thousands more were displaced during the Amir Abdul Rahman reign in 19th century. Most Hazara intellectuals also claim that Hazaras were discriminated against during the Mujahidin, the Taliban era, and most importantly, in the last 20 years. All these claims are true based on historical records. However, they lack a thorough documentation based on the modern methods of research and studies. For example, for a modern reader, what does massacre of 60% population of Hazaras mean in regards to numbers? What was the exact number of Hazaras in the 19th century Afghanistan and out of that number what does 60% mean? Exactly how many people were internally and externally displaced? What do those figures mean in today’s financial calculation? Similarly, the psychological effect of that massacre and continued systematic discrimination need to be studied. Many similar concerns can be raised for the sake of nesting classic history with modern studies. However, such a thorough studies have not been conducted.
For the Hazaras to be recognized as a vulnerable community against acts of terror, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, it is imperative to conduct a thorough documentation of systematic discriminations against them and present the findings of those studies to the Afghan government and international community. If such a study was conducted, the Stop Hazara Genocide campaign would have not been avoided by the government and the international community.
Role of the Afghan state
In recent years, the Afghan government has armed 500 civilians to protect Hazaras’ mosques while Shia mosques in Kabul amount to more than that number. In other words, the government has provided less than 1 man per mosque. There is no personnel dedicated to protect schools, universities, hospitals, and other targeted Hazara sites however. The government of Afghanistan shows weakness in providing security to this vulnerable community at a time when the Hazaras are constantly targeted by ISL-K in Kabul and by the Taliban in rural areas.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has indicated many times that he has strong commitment toward minorities, especially Hazara people, and this is the right time for him to support Hazara people on the international stage to be recognized as a vulnerable community against acts of terrorism. Given the fact that the capacity and capability of Afghan government in providing special security measures to this community is limited, it is an obligation, not a choice to help them gain international attention.
The role of the international community
As per several reports, “for over a century, the Hazara community has suffered from targeted discrimination in Afghanistan,” however, their suffering has not been officially recognized as a concern to the international community, especially the United Nations (UN). The UN “has adopted 92 resolutions in regards to the Responsibly to Protect (R2P), an obligation that requires member states to fully acknowledge the right of their own vulnerable population at risk of ethnic cleansing, genocide, crime against humanity, and war crimes.” Besides several appeals from Hazara community, none of those resolutions addressed Hazaras’ concerns. Therefore, the UNSC must pressure Afghan government and other stake holders in Afghanistan to urgently recognize Hazaras as vulnerable people and officially appeal their status to the UN to adopt a R2P resolution to prevent atrocities against Hazaras and prevent a future devastating sectarian war in Afghanistan.
Afghan history in regards to Hazaras needs to be aligned with modern studies, the Hazaras need to provide factual evidence to the international community in order to be recognized as a group of people vulnerable to terrorist acts, genocides, and most importantly ethnic cleansing. In their quest for international recognition the Afghan government must provide necessary support. Finally, in the wake of foreign troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, the UN must practice the power of R2P to recognize Hazaras as a vulnerable people against genocide and ethnic cleansing before a devastating sectarian war erupts in Afghanistan.
Col Abdul Rahman Rahmani is a student at National Defense University in Washington DC and former staffer at the Office of the National Security Council, Afghanistan.