Remembering Mazar-i-Sharif Massacre: Memories still alive 25 years on

Scores of people have taken to social media to commemorate the Mazar-i-Sharif massacre that took place in August 1998 by remembering the horrors of the past and honoring the lives of victims.

On August 8 and the days that followed, Taliban forces and its allies carried out an indiscriminate murder of thousands of civilians, including women and children, from ethnic Uzbek, Tajik, but mostly Hazara communities in Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

While the exact figures are unknown, HRW stated that between 2,000 and 8,000 Hazaras were methodically executed in part because of their religious identity in one of the deadliest mass murders of civilians in the country’s decades of war.

Local leaders told Associated Press that in the first five months of their rule, the Taliban executed up to 15,000 Hazaras in and around the city.

AP report on Mazar-i-Sharif massacre in 1998

The horrific pattern of the massacre was rife which included summary execution, beheading, suffocation in containers and trailers, and indiscriminate killings in residential areas, streets, marketplaces, and in prisons. HRW stated that Hazara women and girls were raped and abducted during the Taliban takeover of the city.

Witnesses described it as a “killing frenzy” with the Taliban forces shooting at “anything that moved.”

Bodies would lie on the streets for several days and rot and stink in the dry summer heat or be fed by stray dogs. Taliban commanders allowed for burial later while stacks of bodies were dumped by heavy trucks in mass graves.

According to HRW, then-Taliban governor, Mullah Manan Niazi, delivered speeches at mosques throughout the city, threatening Shia Hazaras to either convert to the Hanafi Sunni sect, leave the city, or be killed.

Hazara analysts believe the 1998 Mazar-i-Sharif massacre was part of a genocidal campaign against the community.

“Darkest Chapter in History”

The Council of National Resistance for the Salvation of Afghanistan, comprised of former political leaders and politicians, has in a Farsi statement expressed their grief and condemned the Taliban’s “ruthless” and “most inhumane” massacre in Mazar-i-Sharif in August 1998.

“On the 25th anniversary of the 1998 Mazar-i-Sharif massacre, we express our condolences to the families of victims and survivors and pay homage to the memories of innocent lives lost. The Taliban committed one of the worst crimes against the people of Mazar-i-Sharif during that time, particularly against the Shia Hazara community. Taliban’s fatwas against the Hazara community calling them “infidels” and the group’s mass murder is accounted for genocide.”

Daud Naji, political analyst and former BBC journalist said, “We honor the memory of this human tragedy and continue to seek justice.”

World Hazara Council called the massacre as one of Afghanistan’s darkest chapters and a tragic reminder of genocide against the Hazaras.

Zohal Azra, co-founder of Human Media, said, “We remember and mourn the thousands of lives taken due to their ethnic and religious identity.”

Homira Rezai, a human rights activist, said in a tweet: