Hazaras – like Uyghurs – are victims of state-backed genocides

by Anne Kader
13 minutes read

An interview with a Hazara activist

Can you please explain why the Taliban persecutes the Hazaras?

The Hazaras have been systematically persecuted and marginalized for at least two and a half centuries. Hazaras are the native population of Afghanistan, but they have been methodically subjugated and discriminated against throughout history. The full-scale Hazara annihilation campaign was started by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan at the dawn of the 19th century.  

The United Nations has still failed to recognize this crime against humanity that has continued for more than a century up to this day. After Amir Abdur Rahman Khan brutally crushed the Hazaras during the 1891-1893 religious war against the Hazaras, tens of thousands of Hazara women and children were enslaved and sold to India, Central Asia, and across the cities in Afghanistan. The Hazaras were dehumanized, driven out of society, and banned from getting an education, owning a business, and getting involved in any political structure until the 1970s.

One hundred and thirty years later, when the Taliban resumed power in the ’90s, they followed Abdur Rahman Khan’s footsteps and initiated a religious war against the Hazaras. Taliban has massacred between 6,000-10,000 Hazara civilians in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, and executed over 300 Hazara civilians in the Bamiyan Province. Independent human rights organizations and the United Nations have reported about this heinous crime against humanity. The Taliban, with its zealous religious ideology, views the Hazaras as foreigners to their native ancestral lands to justify their systemic persecution, discrimination, and marginalization.

Back in the 1990s, the Taliban leader, the governor of the Balkh Province Mullah Niazi, publically issued a decree that Hazaras were foreigners and non-believers and that they should be exterminated from Afghanistan. He repeated the same decree, just before he died in 2021. The state-run hatred, incitement, and dehumanizing of Hazaras is deep-rooted in Abdur Rahman Khan’s reign and embedded into the Afghan-Pashtun society.

In the 1990s, my father was anti-Taliban at that time, and the Taliban were chasing after him. I initially fled into the neighboring countries in the 90s and later made my way to the Western world into a safe zone. My father was anti-Taliban and involved in the anti-Taliban movement.

The early persecution and marginalization of Hazaras began in the 1830s by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan’s grandfather, Dost Muhammad Khan. Before that, the Hazara region had historically been an autonomous region of Hazaristan. The Hazaras maintained their autonomous region before the Afghan Pashtun rulers assumed power in the late 18th century. Historically, no foreign or domestic power in recent history had managed to subdue the Hazaras until the era of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan.

Are you able to maintain contact with your family in your homeland?

Hazara activists can stay in contact with their extended families back in Afghanistan. However, at the moment, under Taliban rule, there is a state-run apartheid against the Hazara. The Hazaras are second-class citizens: They cannot participate in political structure or hold any government positions. Taliban have banned Hazaras from practicing their religious procession. On the 28th of July, the Taliban opened fire on a Hazara religious gathering in Ghazni Province, slaughtering two civilians and injuring 11 others. The Hazara religion is not officially recognized by the Taliban. The Hazaras are banned from studying and researching their religion at all universities across Afghanistan.

Since the return of the Taliban, they have committed grave human rights violations targeting Hazaras throughout Afghanistan. The lack of independent journalists reporting from the Hazara-populated areas makes it difficult for the state-run persecutions, subjugation, and marginalization of Hazaras to get a fair report. Instead, the international community and human rights organizations convey their voices.

Image: Hazara boys in Ghazni by The Chuqur Studio on Unsplash

In the last two years, Taliban-affiliated Afghan-Pashtuns murdered seventeen Hazara civilians in Oruzgan Province. These equal to the last colony of Hazaras that survived Amir Abdur Rahman Khan’s annihilation in the 1890s. The Pashtun murderers illegally came to settle on Hazara ancestral lands, forcibly confiscated by Amir Abdur Rahman when he eliminated 65% of the Hazara population. Now, the Pashtun settlers are systematically forcing the remaining Hazara population out of the area. 

Under the Taliban. We can maintain contact but need to keep our activism discreet. The regime can easily get hold of the extended family, put them behind bars, and torture them. The Hazaras have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands in Daikundi, Nahur district of Ghazni Province, in Sar-e-Pol Province, in Bamiyan, Sharistan district of Bamiyan Province, in Behsud district of Maidan Wardak Province and Ghur Province. Taliban are illegally paving the way for the new Afghan-Pashtun settlement.

Do you have to stay cautious because of your activism in the West? Does your activism affect your family back home?

Indeed, if, for example, the Taliban militants find out that the activists on social media have extended family in Afghanistan, in whatever way, they will not be safe. Taliban will persecute and torture them and in some cases, take them hostage and ask for a ransom. Taliban has affiliated groups in the area and may operate through them, as they cannot openly admit they are kidnapping the families. Taliban knows that many Hazaras in the West run businesses and are thus vulnerable to extortion.

Why do the Pashtuns want to take over the Hazaras’ land?

It all began during Ahmad Abdali son Temur Shah Abdali 1772-1793, in the early 19th century when Pashtuns started to expand and move from

India into what is now Afghanistan. As the Hazaras were scattered throughout the land from Balkh to Kabul, Ghazni, Kandahar to Herat, and so on, the Pashtuns used the opportunity to grab the fertile agricultural land and drive the Hazaras out of their ancestral homeland. We can find an example in the Afghan Boundary Commission, which consists of six volumes. It is a survey done by the British-ruled India in 1885. We can

see the extent of the confiscated Hazara lands by Afghan-Pashtun rulers in the suburbs of Kandahar. Specifically, under the Temur Shah Abdali state-run aggression marginalized and subjugated the Hazaras, and their ancestral lands were forcibly taken away and distributed amongst the different Pashtun tribes.

The commemoration of the Kaaj massacre took place on September 30th. Can you please tell me more about what happened on that day in 2022?

On September 30, 2022, many Hazara young girls took entry exams for the University. They were sitting in the exam hall when suicide bombers entered the premises. They first tried to kill the guard, entered the classrooms, started shooting at the students, and eventually detonated their bombs. It resulted in the deaths of 56 young Hazara higher education students, mostly girls, and more than 115 others were injured.

What does the pine tree symbolize?

The name of the college was “Kaaj”, which in Farsi means a pine tree. That is why many Hazara activists display a pine tree icon on their social

media profiles. Since this incident, the Hazara movement for justice and the #StopHazaraGenocide was started. Hazaras have held protests in many countries and 130 cities across the globe, such as Washington DC, Toronto, Melbourne, Sydney, Australia, London, Berlin, New Zealand, Brussels, and so on. In addition to Hazaras, other Afghan nationals and people from the host countries have joined in solidarity with the

Hazaras to condemn the Hazara genocide and ask the United Nations to take action.

Do the international bodies such as the United Nations take the Hazara genocide seriously?

At the turn of the 19th century, 65% of the Hazaras were annihilated, uprooted, and forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands. The official government records of the time of Amir Abdur Rahman

Khan stated that four hundred thousand Hazara families were massacred, uprooted, and displaced. Since then the Hazara genocide has never

stopped, and the Hazara ancestral lands have been distributed between the Pashtun populations. Amir Abdur Rahman Khan signed a religious decree that criminalized Hazaras, that they were non-Muslim and foreigners in the land, which permitted the Pashtun tribes to volunteer to take part in the persecution and killing of Hazaras. He even

brought Pashtun settlers from outside of Afghanistan from places like present-day Pakistan. The cycle of continuous Hazara Genocide unfortunately to this date is still going on, even though we have vowed not to allow another genocide to happen again. “Never Again” has not been taken seriously after the Jewish Holocaust. The countries that are signatories to the 1948 Geneva Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide have not been able to stop new atrocities. In the case of the Hazara genocide, no perpetrators have been brought to face justice. So far, no country or international body has officially recognized the Hazara genocide. That is why the genocide has been able to continue for so long.

The United Nations and the international community have so far failed to fulfill their obligations. The international community should have taken firm action a long ago. 

Do you know about the Uyghurs’ persecution under the Chinese regime? Can you see similarities between the sufferings of the Uyghurs and the Hazaras?

Of course, I know the Uyghurs. Traditionally, the Hazaras are close to Uyghurs ethnically, and their cultures are very similar. The two ethnic groups share a lot of the same DNA. Some historical books such as “A History of India Under the Two First Sovereigns of the House of Taimur

and Humáyun” and “Tarikh Rashidun” document that five hundred years ago, there were a lot of Hazaras living in Kashgar who also controlled some provinces that are in modern-day Afghanistan, Wakhan corridor, and upper districts of Badakhshan in Darwaz (which is part of Badakhshan Province today in Tajikistan). The similarities don’t end there: I know that Uyghurs are now under persecution by the Chinese communist regime. It is also impossible for independent journalists to enter these regions. Both the Uyghurs and Hazaras are suffering from state-backed persecution. The Uyghurs have managed to get some platform in the international arena through many Uyghur organizations in exile. However, even this is not sufficient. Hazaras still lack a proper platform on the international arena to get their voices heard. There is a strong parallel between what is happening to the Uyghurs and the Hazaras: State-backed persecution and genocide.

If international bodies, such as the UN, the International Criminal Court, and countries signatories to the Geneva Convention Genocide, have failed to condemn these genocidal crimes against humanity and other global atrocities. It highlights that they have not understood their original mandate and have abandoned their moral obligations. The perpetrators, whoever they are, individuals or states, sadly get vindicated, and these atrocities will occur elsewhere in the world. These institutions must act before it’s too late.

What are your thoughts about the partnership between China and the Taliban? Will that affect Hazaras?

The Taliban-Chinese partnership is already impacting the Hazaras. Together, the two are extracting the minerals from the Hazaras’

homeland: For example, in the coal mines in the Sar-e Pol Province, nearly 10,000 tons of coal have been illegally extracted and exported to neighboring countries like Pakistan to feed the Chinese-built state-subsidized power plants. The Hazaras in the region live in poverty, and are deliberately kept in deprivation. We can already see the impact of the Chinese involvement and backing of the Taliban. A few weeks ago, the Taliban agreed with the Chinese government to extract minerals in Takhar Province. The local population will not benefit from these extractions. The profits will go to the Taliban and China. Taliban are not a legitimate government, and any contractual agreements to extract the mineral are illegal. Chinese surveillance equipment and technology will target activists, Hazaras, and women in particular. With the help of Chinese surveillance technology, these groups are easy to identify and detain. Taliban won’t go after terrorists, as most terror groups are affiliated with the Taliban and share the same ethnic background.

What would be the way out of the Hazara genocide?

As a first step, the international community must officially acknowledge the Hazara genocide. It has been the longest-running genocide in recent human

history, lasting over 130 years. The international human rights bodies must act according to their moral obligations and provide a mechanism to prevent further atrocities against the Hazara community. The perpetrators must face justice.

In the last twenty years, over seventy genocidal attacks have targeted Hazara schools, maternity wards, places of worship, wedding halls, Universities, laborers at coal mines, etc. The attacks have intensified since 2016. The aim is the destruction of the fabric of the Hazara nation, targeting every aspect of Hazara life.

What kind of a message would you send to Uyghurs?

The Uyghurs, like the Hazaras, must have their voices heard in the international arena. Uyghurs and Hazaras must continue their peaceful demonstration to bring their causes before international decision-makers, the United Nations, human rights organizations, and countries to help stop these genocides. Hazaras and Uyghurs could even campaign together, as both groups suffer from state-backed persecution. I encourage the Uyghurs to stay resilient and to fight for justice! Fight till the end! We will eventually get our voices heard! We will get the international community on our side!

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Ali October 5, 2023 - 9:35 am

peace be upon you Qun Hazare in Afghanistan have been subjected to systematic discrimination and genocide since 1891. The international community turns a blind eye to this massacre. Taliban armed groups are now taking the lands of the Hazara people and killing their travelers on the roads.

Ali danesh October 5, 2023 - 9:36 am

peace be upon you Qun Hazare in Afghanistan have been subjected to systematic discrimination and genocide since 1891. The international community turns a blind eye to this massacre. Taliban armed groups are now taking the lands of the Hazara people and killing their travelers on the roads.


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