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Voices raised over killings as #StopHazaraGenocide trends on Twitter

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(Last Updated On: June 5, 2021)

Following a surge in targeted attacks against civilians in the predominately Shiite Hazara community in the western suburbs of Kabul city, tens of thousands of people have taken to social media calling on the Afghan government to recognize the attacks as acts of genocide.

The hashtag #StopHazaraGenocide has been trending over the past few days and by Saturday night had topped 100,000 tweets alone.

This comes amid ongoing attacks against the Hazara community – attacks that have over the past few years left hundreds of civilians dead and hundreds more wounded.

One Afghan woman said on Twitter “The systematic killing of Hazaras in Afghanistan is a clear example of genocide.”

Another Twitter user said: “Every day Hazara are digging a new mass grave to bury their loved ones. The hills of Kabul turned into a wasteland of despair where newborns, schoolgirls and mothers have been laid forever.

“Those who work for human rights and peace must today stand up and help us to #StopHazaraGenocide,” he said.

Another Twitter user stated: “The normalization of violence against Hazaras, the denial of the systematic persecution of a community simply because they belong to a particular ethnicity is the untold & rather unpopular truth of what is happening with Hazaras in Afghanistan.”

Dozens posted tallies around the death toll going back to 2018 – while many said that these attacks had been carried out by the Taliban, Daesh and other terrorist groups in the presence of US and NATO forces.

Referring to the UN convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, a number of people stated that the attacks on Hazaras must be recognized as an act of genocide.

According to the UN Genocide Convention Article 11, any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group can be counted as genocide.

A number of Afghans stated that though all people in Afghanistan have been victims of terrorism, “the Hazaras have been constantly targeted for their ethnicity.”

Musa Zafar, an Afghan author, stated: “If you ask which ethnic group has suffered the most casualties in Afghanistan in the last twenty years, you can expect Pashtuns as an answer. Pashtuns have been killed on both sides of the conflict. Their children have been deprived of basic rights. But the targeted killings of Hazaras are an example of genocide.”

“The world should know that the Taliban and their like-minded terrorists are committing genocide along with countless other crimes [in Afghanistan],” he said.

A member of the Afghan Republic peace team, Mohammad Amin Ahmadi, said Saturday the voice of victims must be heard.

“It is a reality that the Hazara people are subject to genocide because they are being killed for their ethnic and religious identity,” Ahmadi said.

Shuja Zaky, TOLONews Anchor, stated that “targeting civilians anywhere and on all sides is condemned and deeply disturbing. But targeted attacks on Hazaras have gravely increased this concern.”

MP Arif Rahmani stated: “The world should not close its eyes to this systematic genocide.”

Parwiz Shamal, an Afghan journalist, said: “In Afghanistan, all ethnic groups have been harmed – Hazaras, Tajik Pashtuns, Uzbeks … but the fact cannot be ignored that seniors, young people, and children – even newborn babies – of no ethnic group like the Hazaras have been targeted just because of their ethnicity and have been slaughtered.”

This growing hashtag campaign, #StopHazaraGenocide comes after four private passenger vehicles were targeted in explosions in the densely Hazara-populated area in the west of Kabul city this week.

Dozens of people including Ariana News Anchor Mina Khairi, who was a Hazara herself, were killed in the bombings.

Tomas Niklasson, Acting Special Envoy of the European Union for Afghanistan, on Thursday spoke out about this and said that “targeting Hazaras” must be stopped.

Niklasson meanwhile also met with survivors of the deadly bombing at the Sayed-ul-Shuhada school in early May. Over 90 people, mostly schoolgirls, were killed when explosions were detonated at the school in Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul – which is also a densely populated Hazara community.

Niklasson stated that crimes were committed and that these must be investigated.

“Targeting Hazaras must stop and crimes [must] be investigated,” he said.

He also noted that some people want to stop the grieving of Sayed-ul-Shuhada students, but that “their memory can be honored by pursuing dreams.”

“Those taken away too early can’t be brought back. But their memory can be honored by pursuing dreams that some want to stop,” he stated.

So far, no group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Recently the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) called on the Afghan government to grant special protection to Hazaras and the community in Dasht-e-Barchi.

The AIHRC said in a statement that it was the government’s duty to protect the Hazara community against crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

“The Afghan government has an obligation under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law to protect the population at risk of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing or genocide and international law obliges the government to take measures to end and prevent genocide and war crimes, crimes against humanity and persecution on the basis of ethnicity and gender,” the statement read.

“In October 2020, just over six months ago, more than 40 students died in an attack on Kawsar Danish tutoring center. In May 2020, almost a year ago 11 mothers were murdered with their unborn babies, two boys were, and an Afghan midwife was killed, with five mothers injured; this is femicide and infanticide,” the statement highlighted.

The AIHRC stressed that the Afghan government should fulfill its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights “which includes acknowledging massacres targeting Hazaras.”

“The Afghan government should immediately communicate a human rights-based protection plan for Dasht-e-Barchi and West Kabul. This should include plans for collective reparations,” the organization said.

One of the world’s most persecuted peoples

In a recent opinion article, in The Diplomat, by two political commentators, who are both former Afghan refugees, Sitarah Mohammadi and Sajjad Askary said the Hazara community “wears the sad reputation of being one of the world’s most persecuted peoples.”

They pointed out that while Hazaras now make up roughly a quarter of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million, they were once the largest Afghan ethnic group, constituting nearly 67 percent of the total population.

“The decline is due to the sad history of the Hazaras. Sanctioned state persecution against the Hazara began in the late 19th century. Since that time about 60 percent of the Hazara population has been eliminated in different ways: killed, sold into slavery, or forced into exile,” they wrote.

The Taliban’s massacre of thousands of Hazaras in Mazar-e Sharif in 1998 remains one of the most notorious atrocities in Afghanistan’s 40-year conflict, Mohammadi and Askary wrote.

They stated that members of Afghanistan’s Hazara community remain continually vulnerable to violence and that Hazara culture promotes democratic values of social liberalism and progressive thinking, and the community has embraced expanded educational opportunities.

“These cultural distinctions are at odds with the predominantly conservative religious views of wider Afghan society, and particularly with the Taliban. The Hazaras’ success, strides and liberation pose a threat to ethnocentric circles,” they wrote.

According to Mohammadi and Askary, the genocidal persecution of the Hazara people is maintained in contemporary attitudes throughout Afghanistan.

“Attacks against newborn Hazara babies, pregnant mothers, school children, girls, and youth are a matter of record. Hazaras have faced violence at educational centers and schools, fitness centers, wedding halls, and maternity wards.”

They also noted that “understandably, the persecution of the Hazaras has resulted in thousands seeking refuge across international borders in Europe, the U.K., and Australia.”

Mohammadi and Askary stated that emerging power dynamics in a post-withdrawal Afghanistan leave the Hazaras uniquely vulnerable to ongoing violence and that as the foreign military presence decreases, the need for increased international engagement with Hazara civil society organizations grows more crucial.

They stated that a vulnerable community is relying on its international friends to maintain humanitarian protection and institutional engagement as it confronts the dangers of a destabilized and chaotic time.

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Female teachers concerned about their future

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

Female teachers for grades seven to 12 say they are uncertain about their future as they have been instructed by the Ministry of Education not to return to work.

Many of these teachers say they are the only breadwinners in their families and have asked to return to teaching.

This comes after the Ministry of Education issued a notice calling on male students and male teachers from grades seven to 12 to return to school.

This came into effect on Saturday.

However, the notice did not make mention of female students and teachers, nor did it give any indication of what would happen in future to the hundreds of thousands of secondary school girls.

Khatara, a Grade 12 Pashto subject teacher at the Bibi Sara Khairkhana school in Kabul, said that the Kabul Education Department had asked her not to return to school until further notice, and that the education process for girls in Grades 7 and above had stopped.

Khatara, who is her family’s only breadwinner, has been a teacher at the school for 15 years. However, she is now struggling financially and has called on education ministry officials to allow female teachers to return to work.

“If an educated woman is not represented in society like a woman doctor, then who would treat women? If this issue is not addressed, there will be an education crisis in the country,” said Khatara, the school teacher.

Family members of Khatara are worried about what their future will entail if the family’s only breadwinner loses her job.

“We call on the Islamic Emirate to allow women to continue their work. Many women are their family’s only breadwinners,” said Basharatullah, Khatara’s brother.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Cultural Commision at the Ministry of Information and Culture said on Saturday that they are working on a way to resume the process of education for women and girls in the country.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund on Saturday welcomed the move to reopen secondary schools in Afghanistan, but stressed that girls must not be left out

“We are deeply worried, however, that many girls may not be allowed back at this time,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement.

She said it is critical for all girls to resume their education and that female teachers need to resume work.

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UN chief urges action to prevent economic collapse in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called on the international community to urgently inject some cash into Afghanistan, saying it would be disastrous if the country’s economy collapsed.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Guterres said currently “millions and millions of people (are) on the verge of dying because of hunger”.

Should the economy collapse, “it would be a total disaster; it would be lots of people dying and I believe a massive outflow into the neighboring countries with horrible consequences for the stability of those countries, so I think it’s very important to avoid that collapse.

“I’ve been saying that humanitarian aid is essential but at the same time it’s necessary, and of course there are ways to do so even in respect for international law, it’s essential to inject some cash to allow the Afghan economy to breathe and to avoid the kind of collapse that would have devastating consequences,” he said.

Guterres’ statement comes amid a cash flow crisis in Afghanistan. Essentially a dollarized nation under the former government, weekly shipments of US dollars stopped the day the Islamic Emirate took over Kabul – on August 15.

Since then, severe weekly limits have been imposed by banks on cash withdrawals for individuals, foreign reserves have been frozen, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank also stopped loans.

Guterres said: “It’s our duty to do everything possible to support the Afghan people and to help create the conditions for those concerns that everybody has about terrorism, about human rights, about inclusivity, to materialize.”

He also stated that the “situation is unpredictable” but added the UN is working with the Islamic Emirate to allow for humanitarian aid to be distributed to the people.

He said that is would be a “disaster if terrorist organizations could operate again from Afghanistan.”

Guterres also noted that it was important for the Islamic Emirate to “understand the importance of an inclusive government that takes into account the diversity of the different groups [in the country]” and to respect basic human rights.

Asked about what he thought went wrong in Afghanistan, Guterres said the first problem was the “idea that the Afghan people can be ruled from outside.”

He said the British and the former Soviet Union had both tried to do this in the past, but both had failed.

The Afghan people are “very proud and they have lots of problems among themselves but they have even more problems with the idea that they can be dominated from the outside”, he said.

He also said he felt there had been too much “military action and not enough support to building institutions.”

According to him, the former Afghan leaders were divided – singling out the two past elections that had both been contested.

He said the election system adopted for Afghanistan “that was a unitary system was not the most adequate for a country that is so decentralized”.

“The truth is that there was a huge dysfunctionality in the government and we have seen it in relations of the president; and the international community looked at it without any capacity to really allow things to improve and so all these fragilities accumulated and in the end what we had, and we had it in a very chaotic way that nobody was forecasting.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen; as I said the situation is unpredictable but i think that there is at least a part of the leadership of the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) that would like to have Afghanistan as a country recognized by the international community and would be ready to pay a price for that,” he said.

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Saudi FM in India on 3-day visit, expected to discuss Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud arrived in India on Saturday on a three-day visit during which he is expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with Indian leaders.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Al Saud will hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday and meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

“H.H. Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, arrived in New Delhi today evening,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

People familiar with the visit said Afghanistan is expected to be a major focus of the talks between Jaishankar and Al Saud, NDTV reported.

India’s Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane visited Saudi Arabia in December last in the first-ever visit by a head of the 1.3 million-strong army to the strategically important Gulf nation.

Naravane held extensive talks with senior Saudi military officials in the hope of enhancing bilateral defence cooperation.

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