Afghan students protest in Pune against Hazara genocide
Students demand action from the international community, including India.
The day the news about the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi inviting a key Taliban figure for the Republic Day parade broke out, students from Afghanistan's Hazara community held a protest in Pune. The students demanded action from the international community, including India, against the ongoing genocide of minorities in Afghanistan and the suppression of women's rights by the Taliban. In the last couple of weeks, several cities across the world have seen protests demanding international action over the Hazara genocide.
After almost 20 years of war, American and other Western troops withdrew from Afghanistan on August 15, 2020 and the Taliban took over Kabul. Thereafter, Talibani rule has returned to Afghanistan with full force, taking away the rights of minorities and women.
Abdul Hadi, a student studying in India said, "The situation is horrible for Hazaras and women in Afghanistan, we are asking the Taliban to stop Gender apartheid. They, the Taliban, unfortunately, stopped girls from going to schools, colleges and universities. Women can not even go to the market to buy essentials. Even the condition of Hazara has also worsened, just sometimes back about 17 people were killed in a district because of their faith or religious belief," says Abdul.
Afghanistan is a Sunni majority society and the Taliban Deobandi school of thought. But on other hand, Hazaras are Shia Muslims. "The extremist group does not consider us as Muslims. They call us infields. They tell us to leave Afghanistan or convert to their thoughts," Hadi adds.
Data released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan shows that in the last quarter of 2023, at least 49 members of the Hazara community were killed and 88 others injured in Afghanistan.
From Brazil's spirited protests to Berlin's resounding streets, and finally reaching Islamabad's heart, voices converged yesterday against the Hazara genocide in Afghanistan. Each plea carried the weight of a global community standing in solidarity. #StopHazaraGenocide pic.twitter.com/TfBwwnYiEj— Hussein (@mhr_rahimi) January 22, 2024
Persecution of Hazaras did not start after the Taliban's recent takeover of Afghanistan, it has existed long before it. For over a century, the Hazara community suffered from targeted persecution and massacres. In the 1890s, 60 percent of the Hazara population in Afghanistan was killed and those who survived were displaced and sold as slaves.
At the time when American troops were present on Afghan soil things were slightly better, says Hadi. "Hazaras are moderate people, they believe in democracy, women's rights. They are secular people. They don't want to combine religious ideology with politics. They want to have good relations with the international community and neighbouring countries," he adds.
As there has been no census in Afghanistan for a long time, no accurate data about the population of Afghanistan or the share of the Hazara community in the country is available. But it is estimated that Afghanistan's Population is somewhere around 4 crores and about 25 percent of it is Hazaras. Even amongst the Hazaras, there are multiple schools of thought.
The students studying in India have lost all hope of returning to their homeland, says Abdul. "We can not go back to Afghanistan. Moreover, the Taliban does not have good relations with India and we are studying here, so it creates more challenges for us. We are Hazaras and we are studying in India."
The only girl in the protest, while speaking to Indie Journal said she is concerned about women left behind in Afghanistan. "Their condition is heartbreaking, they are under pressure. They are deprived of basic rights such as education, employment, they cannot even walk on the streets alone anymore. They are arresting little girls for going to school," she said.
She also added that she and other women of her community feel twice as suppressed in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as they are not only women but are also members of Hazara. She faced many terrorist attacks when she was in Afghanistan and one terrorist attack at her school killed most of her classmates. She is the only girl from her school to survive that attack.
Taliban have continuously used terror attacks as a mode of waging war against American troops, then Afghan government and citizens of Afghanistan.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has released a report for the last quarter of 2023, revealing that at least 49 members of the Hazara community were killed and 88 others injured in Afghanistan.https://t.co/f7gDn0UIV8 pic.twitter.com/TwC0OcSexG— Amu TV (@AmuTelevision) January 22, 2024
A student from the group who has been in India for the last five years said on condition of anonymity that the moment he heard about the Taliban taking over Kabul, he felt like every dream he ever dreamed of died a sudden death. "We were thinking of our future, what will happen to us since they have control over Afghanistan, we don't know what we will do. Most of the target killings are happening to Hazara people. But they are also targeting people who want to reform the society," he says.
Talking about the persecution of Hazaras, he added that terror attacks death threats and pressure to convert are not the only ways in which Hazara's are being persecuted. He said he constantly faced discrimination as a Hazara even in the Islami republic of Afghanistan. "The government system in Afghanistan only favours everyone who is not a Hazara. Hazaras are treated as second-class citizens and are not given fair chances even after having capabilities," he added.
As a neighbouring country which believes in democracy, secularism, freedom of expression and education, these students have many hopes from the Indian government. "Indian government is a powerful government, internationally they can play an important role and ask them to bring peace and justice in Afghanistan," says Hadi.
But the Indian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has invited the Taliban’s envoy, Badruddin Haqqani, for the Republic Day celebrations in Abu Dhabi. India sent a multimember team of senior diplomats to Afghanistan in June 2022, the first time since the Indian Embassy in Kabul was evacuated in August 2021.
The protesting students want the international community to recognise Hazara genocide and gender apartheid happening in Afghanistan. "We want the international community and those who have some role to play in Afghanistan to pay attention to us," the students reiterate.