Women protest the loss of innocent lives of Hazara in Afghanistan. Source: Yahoo Images
UN Forum on Minority Issues
The Hazara Genocide
Thank you, Chairperson. Excellencies, member states and participants – I thank the United Nations for sponsoring this important forum at this critical time.
I am Sitarah Mohammadi, the spokesperson for the World Hazara Council. I am a woman from one of the most persecuted peoples in the world, the Hazara people, an ethnic and religious minority that have been facing systematic persecution and genocide in Afghanistan. Hazaras are at high risk of continuing genocide under Taliban rule.
The Hazara people make up 25-30% of the population of Afghanistan. Hazaras are one of the largest Afghan refugee groups in the world. For over a century, Hazaras have been among Afghanistan’s strongest supporters of democracy, freedom, progressive thinking, and the pursuit of education.
Afghanistan is a country of minorities, with none of its ethnic groups making up a majority. However, the Hazara people, predominantly Shia Muslims, are a religious minority in a Sunni Muslim majority Afghanistan. The Hazara people have long faced relentless, systematic, genocidal massacres based on our ethnic and religious identity.
We have endured systematic marginalization, discrimination, and persecution under Afghan rulers since the nineteenth century. The Hazara people have been collectively subjected to slavery, systematic eviction from ancestral homes and lands, and genocidal massacres.
In the late 19th century, the Afghan ruler Abdul Rahman waged a brutal war against the Hazaras, which included bloody “massacres, looting and pillaging of our homes, enslavement” and the transfer of Hazara land to other ethnic groups. Historians have estimated that Abdul Rahman’s massacres killed 62% of Afghanistan’s Hazara population.
Persecution of Hazaras continued in the twentieth century. Until the 1970s, the Afghan government did not allow Hazara people any access to higher education, especially in universities that trained candidates for army and government jobs.
The killing of Hazara people has been preached as a key to paradise by some Sunni Muslim clerics. In the 1990s, there were at least nine genocidal massacres of Hazaras by the Taliban government and Al Qaeda.
Taliban commanders publicly proclaim the slogan:
“Tajiks to Tajikistan, Uzbeks to Uzbekistan, and Hazaras to Goristan”.
Goristan is the Afghan Dari word for graveyard.
In August 1998, in just a few days, the Taliban massacred eight thousand Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif simply because of their ethnic identity as Hazaras.
Since 2002, the Hazara people of Afghanistan have suffered over three hundred targeted massacres.
Since 2015, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISKP), affiliated with the Haqqani Network, has claimed responsibility for some of these massacres, giving the Taliban a way to deny responsibility, even though the Haqqani Network is part of the Taliban government.
To date, none of these crimes carried out against Hazara people has been investigated.
These massacres have all the elements of the crime of genocide in Article II of the 1948 Genocide Convention. They have led international organizations such as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Genocide Watch to declare Genocide Alerts regarding the threat of genocide against the Hazara people of Afghanistan.
Under Taliban rule since August 2021, genocidal attacks against Hazaras have increased significantly. Hazaras have been attacked in educational centres, places of worship, maternity hospitals, sporting facilities, public gatherings, and wedding halls. A genocidal attack this year on a Hazara girls’ school murdered 58 Hazara girl students.
Yet the UN and the international press nearly always refuse to identify the victims as Hazaras and fail to note the ethnically and religiously targeted nature of the attacks. This is Genocide Denial.
The Hazara people are enduring a continuous slow-motion genocide by attrition in Afghanistan.
Urgent international action is needed to protect the Hazaras of Afghanistan.
I conclude with the following recommendations:
1. The United Nations, US, EU, UK, journalists, and human rights organizations must recognise that the systematically targeted attacks against the Hazara people in Afghanistan meet the definition of genocide: the intentional destruction of a substantial part of an ethnic and religious group, as such.
2. The UN and national governments should initiate urgent consultations with Hazara organizations, such as the World Hazara Council, on practical actions for the protection of the Hazara people in Afghanistan, including internationally assisted, supported, and monitored self-defence.
3. The United Nations Human Rights Council should establish an independent fact-finding mission to investigate the ongoing systematic attacks on Hazara people, to collect evidence, map, document, and conduct investigations into the ongoing atrocities against Hazaras in Afghanistan.
4. The International Criminal Court should expand the scope of its authorised investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan to include cases of crimes against humanity and genocide against the Hazara people up to the present day.
5. We urge all refugee resettling countries to prioritise Hazara refugees for asylum and resettlement in their countries.