By: Syed Zafar Mehdi

U.S. and NATO neglect Afghan Shia massacres

August 21, 2018

TEHRAN - As the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, the government in Kabul is finding itself in troubled waters. According to the UN, civilian deaths recorded a new high in the first half of this year. Meanwhile, the targeted attacks on Hazara Shias of Afghanistan also continue unabated.

More than 50 young children, mostly girls, were killed when a suicide bomber attacked Maw'ood Education Center in Shia-dominated neighborhood of western Kabul last week. They were high-school students preparing for their Kankor examination.

In an interview with Tehran Times, Basir Ahang – an Afghan journalist, poet, activist and former counter-terrorism advisor – speaks about the attacks on Hazara Shias of Afghanistan, why life has become hard for Hazara Shias, why the world does not know their story, and how the Hazara Shias are being massacred in their own country in the presence of NATO and U.S. forces.

Following are the excerpts:

Q. More than 50 students were killed few days ago in a school bombing in Kabul, all of them Hazara Shias. It's not the first such attack on Shia places of worship or education in Kabul. How difficult has survival become for Hazara Shias of Afghanistan?

A. Unfortunately it is not the first neither the last attack of such kind on Hazara people. These targeted killings have alarmingly increased during the tenure of President Ashraf Ghani We have lost hundreds of highly educated people in different parts of Afghanistan in these years. In current situation, when the cultural and educational centers of Hazara Shias are under attack. Life has become difficult for Hazara Shias in any part of Afghanistan.  

Q. The dangerous spiral of sectarian bloodletting in Afghanistan has assumed alarming proportions since the advent of ISIS. Is government doing enough to ensure safety and protection of Hazara Shias?

A. Based on the reliable information from the former Afghan security and intelligence officials, members of parliament and experts on Afghanistan, the existence of the so called ISIS in Afghanistan is shrouded in mystery. It is not what it is perceived to be. It doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with the real ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan is too far for them to reach.

Q. Hazara Shias have been persecuted throughout history despite being very peaceful people. They continue to be targeted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan without much outrage around the world. Why is world not interested in your story?

A. I don't think the world is not interested in our story. I think the world doesn't know our story yet.

For example, until few years ago, when some terrorist attack against Hazara would happen, most of the international media simply wrote that ‘the Shia minority’ has been attacked. Now, this is slowly changing. We are reclaiming our Hazara identity and some media outlets have started to pay attention to it.

Another reason for this lack of knowledge is that there has always been a monopoly on history. The history of Afghanistan has always been written from a single point of view: that of ruling elités. Consequently, the history is partial and in some cases totally false. 

We need to challenge the common narrative in order to be included in our country's history.

Thankfully there is a beautiful book now that does that – ‘The Hazaras and the Afghan State: Rebellion, Exclusion and the Struggle for Recognition’ by Niamatullah Ibrahimi.

Q. There was a Twitter storm on Sunday with hashtag #BarchiAttack, referring to the Kabul school attack. What was its objective?

A. The main objective of this Twitter storm was to bring the attention of the world and international media to the plight of Hazara Shias and tell the world how the Hazara Shias were being massacred silently in Ghazni and Kabul in the presence of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, while the International community continued supporting and funding the corrupt Afghan government.

The other objective was to make the Afghan officials more responsive to the issue of security of Afghan citizens. So far our people have been so patient and have always used civil protests, civil movements to respond to these attacks and massacres, but our young generation may be impatient and will use other harsh and hard methods to defend our existence, if these tragedies continue and take us to the edge of non-existence.

Q. Do Hazara Shias in Afghanistan lack credible, strong leadership?
A. Not really. The current Hazara society is experiencing a transitional period in their leadership. Since the fall of the Taliban regime, the Hazaras have started to shift their leadership from traditional religious leaders to the new generation of non-religious political leaders, and they are still in the phase of that transition. The Hazara society has reached a high level of political understanding and many crucial decisions are taken in democratic forums among them.    

Q. Recently, at least 150 ISIS fighters reportedly surrendered to Afghan security forces in northern Afghanistan. According to reports, they might be given amnesty by the Afghan government. What should the Afghan government be doing?

A. Regarding Daesh or the so-called ISIS in Afghanistan, we have many serious doubts over what the Afghan government, especially the Afghan Security Council and the National Directorate of Security, are doing. It is odd and suspicious.

It was reported that the 48 non-Pashtun ANA soldiers needed reinforcement to break Taliban’s siege in Chora district of Uruzgan, but the government didn’t send any helicopter for them and they were massacred by the Taliban. The government sent helicopters to save those 150 ISIS fighters in Jowzjan, so this seems very suspicious operation to us.

Q. The strategic Ghazni city was overrun by the Taliban last week, resulting in the killing of more than 100 Afghan security personnel. There has been fighting in Faryab, Baghlan and Kunduz as well. Can we say, at present, the Taliban has got an upper hand in this war?

A. In Ghazni, based on our information, over 300 ANA soldiers and 197 civilians were killed during the five-day Taliban siege. The city was burnt in fire and a lot of people had to flee their homes. But, the head of intelligence in Ghazni was given promotion by the government.

Q. How would you rate the performance of Ghani led government? Do you believe he will be re-elected in next year's election?
A. Unfortunately we do not have free and fair elections in this country. During his tenure, Afghanistan has become the most dangerous country for ethnic and religious minorities. Hazaras, Hindus and others have faced a hard time and lost many of their people in terror attacks.   

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