The past ethnic and religious animosity against minority Shiite Hazaras continues to drive the bloodshed today. When we shift our esponsibilities offshore, vilify refugees and pursue a punitive style of deterrence as a solution, we ignore these past and present atrocities.
This paper provides historical information about the source country, Afghanistan. As minority Shiites, Hazaras’ current persecution is borne out of an unresolved, century-old religious and ethnic hatred of them. This has resulted in massacres, dispossession of their lands and decades of institutionalised discrimination. Their persecution was fiercely reignited during the civil war and by the Taliban in the 1990s.
Understanding that history is critical to policy-making. Not only are Hazaras dying on boats, but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Australia must respond to this over-all crisis with humanity rather than punitive measures. I support the recommendations made in the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s submission and the Open Letter. As Afghanistan moves towards a possible Taliban alliance or faces growing lawlessness, and as Hazaras continue to be slain or attacked in Hazara-populated regions and in neighbouring Quetta, Hazaras are likely to continue to flee and have grounds under the 1951 Refugee Convention to fear persecution.
In addressing the problem of asylum seekers risking their lives on boat journeys to Australia, the reasons for their flight should remain at the forefront of policy-making and political debate. I offer...
an historical overview of a key source country, Afghanistan, and of the origins of Hazaras’ persecution. Current crises in both Afghanistan and Abdur Rahman’s subjugation of Hazaras in the nineteenth century After the traditionally dominant Pashtuns and the Tajiks, Hazaras are the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, although a minority. The Hazaras traditionally live in the Hazarajat, a loosely defined region within the central highlands. While about 85 percent of Afghanistan’s population follow Sunni Islam, most Hazaras are Shiite Muslims, causing them to be condemned as ‘infidels’ at different points throughout history. Their suffering began in earnest in the late 1800s. The Hazaras were a semi- autonomous society living in Afghanistan’s central highlands, the Hazarajat. The entire Hazara population possibly numbered over half a million, with about 340,000 families in the Hazarajat. Although not a cohesive group, most were Shiites and spoke the Hazaragi language, a derivative of Dari. In contrast, their surrounding ethnic groups were mostly Sunni Muslims and spoke Pashto or Dari.
Against a backdrop of imperial tensions between Britain and Czarist Russia, Britain helped install an anti-Russian Pashtun, Amir Abdur Rahman (1880-1901), on the throne in Kabul in 1880. In between British India and Russia. 4 exchange for a British annual subsidy, Afghanistan was to provide a buffer zone In the previous century, the Pashtun tribal ruler, Ahmad Shah Durrani (1747-1773), had already established a pattern of subjugating sub-groups and other ethnic groups within he region.
To bring Afghanistan’s many different tribes under a centralised authority, Abdur Rahman proclaimed the Durrani Pashtuns as supreme and mobilised Sunni Islam with a patriotic xenophobia. Condemning Shiite Hazaras as ‘infidels’. The Hazaras of Afghanistan: rallied soldiers and tribal levies to quash
Hazara rebellions in the Afghan-Hazara wars of 1891-1893.
Hazaras were slain, raped and sold into slavery. Soldiers piled Hazaras’ heads into towers to warn others against dissent, and some were skinned to death or had their tongues cut out. Although slavery was banned in 1895, many remained enslaved until King Amanullah’s emancipation laws were passed in the 1920s. Much of the Hazarajat was decimated, and their agricultural economy destroyed. Starving, some ate grass and sold their children for wheat to survive. The Hazaras were fined for rebelling and taxed indiscriminately. All facets of Afghani government, society and law conspired against Hazaras, seeking to destroy their property, tribal systems, religion and culture.
Rahid Rahman attempted to impose Sunni Islam and demanded that qazis (judges) and muftis (Islamic leaders) in various districts use only Hanafi, a Sunni Islamic legal system, for dealing with Hazaras. To depopulate the Hazarajat, the government issued ‘firmans’, royal decrees, authorising Pashtun nomads, Kuchis, to access Hazaras’ lands for grazing their livestock. Possibly several tens of thousands fled to Central Asia, and Balochistan in what is now Pakistan. Victorious, Rahid Rahman demeaned the Hazaras and claimed that Afghanis saw them as ‘enemies of their country and religion’,7 laying the foundation for a century of persecution to the present. Marginalisation in the twentieth century Successive governments have since marginalised Hazaras. Under the banner of nationalism in the early 1900s, ruling Pashtuns tried to assert their identity, culture and history over all other ethnic groups. The Hazarajat was removed from official maps and lands were divided into five provinces to weaken the Hazaras’ political authority.
King Nadir Shah (1929-1933) outlawed the promotion of Hazara history and culture, imprisoning or executing intellectuals who wrote on the subject. Official policies tried to strip names associated with the Hazaras from historical archives. Between the 1930s nd 1970s, the Anjom-e Tarikh (Historical Society), aided by the Pashto Tolana (Pashto Academy), rewrote much of Afghanistan’s official histories. Significant texts were also reportedly burnt. Until 1978, the Hazaras were marginalised, taxed indiscriminately, and denied equal rights and vital infrastructure in their villages.
Former president of Afghanistan Dr Najibullah (1986-1992) acknowledged their suffering, saying that ‘the most difficult and lowliest paid jobs, poverty, illiteracy, social and nationalist committed, and bloodshed continues to this day. discrimination were the lot of the Hazara people’. No justice was gained for atrocities Massacres during the civil war and Taliban regime Hazaras became politically mobilised in the 1980s and have since gained greater political representation. However, their persecution was brutally re-ignited during the civil war by rival ethnic groups and by the Taliban.
In 1993, soldiers under command of the Rabbani government (1992-1996) targeted the stronghold of the Hazaras’ political party, the Hizb-e Wahdat, in Afshar, a district in West Kabul with a large Hazara population. Soldiers, however, turned against civilians. After a frenzy of looting, rape killed or remain missing. 10 nd summary executions driven by ethnic hatred, approximately 700-750 Hazaras were Persecution intensified under the Taliban regime (1996-2001) as its soldiers advanced into Afghanistan’s north and the Hazarajat. Not only do Hazaras shun the Islamist beliefs of the Taliban,
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