If there’s anything the first few days of 2021 have reaffirmed for us, it’s that being part of any minority group in any country puts one at double the risk of unjustified prejudice. Just now, we’ve witnessed white supremacy on the steps of Capitol Hill in the United States, with pro-Trump rioters all but casually being let into the building to loot and wreak havoc. The ease with which these domestic terrorists practically walked in, knowing their white privilege will see little to no repercussions for their actions, was startling. Especially in stark contrast to police brutality and the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that took place last year, where people were attacked, arrested and even killed for fighting for their right to live.

Allow me to redirect your attention to other side of the world. Towards the Hazara Community of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Hazaras – Afghanistan's oppressed minority | Morning Star
[Image Description: a group of Hazara women wearing brightly coloured headscarves smiling at the camera] Source: Morning Star
Hazaras are a Persian speaking ethnic minority from the Hazaragi region of Afghanistan and the third largest ethnic group of the country. They have Turkic and Mongol roots, with notable East Asian ancestry. Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs. 

Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs.

The existence of a strange binary has led to a growing divide between not just the major religions, but also various sects within one religion; one “right” set of religious beliefs to be followed, while all other “wrong” ones to be eradicated. This binary has overpowered many Sunni Muslims’ (usually those in extremist groups) outlook on things; a sense of righteousness trumping any shred of humanity when they believe eradicating Shi’a Muslims, Ahmedis, Qadianis and the like is the equivalent of eradicating the “wrong” from their society. Never mind that this mindless eradication is something even Islam does not condone.

The Hazaras have been one of the most persecuted minority groups in Afghanistan since the 1890s, during which 60% of their population had been eradicated. Half of the Hazaras were driven out of their villages due to the killings, and forced to migrate to other countries due to the injustice and poverty they had to suffer. There are large groups of Hazaras residing in Pakistan, Iran and various parts of Europe, Australia and Canada. The Hazara community residing in Pakistan, about 900,000 people, had immigrated to the country for better opportunities. Most of them reside in the Balochistan province, where they work in labor jobs and coal mines in order to support themselves and their families.

Religious and sectarian violence and prejudice run rampant in Pakistan, with Hindus and Christians residing in the country constantly being on the receiving end of it. Shi’a-Sunni clashes are sadly a common occurrence in the country, with thousands of Shi’as being killed by extremist groups and mobs since 2008, according to the Human Rights Watch. Even the country’s politics have long stood to serve Sunni Islam over the other sects, with the Pakistani Legislative Assembly (PLA) passing the Protection of Foundation of Islam bill last year, which states Sunnism as the only acceptable form of Islam. This was followed by over 42 blasphemy cases being registered against Shi’as in Pakistan, one of them being on a 3 year old child.

It’s a clear example of state politics enable behaviour towards and against other groups by favouring one.

On Sunday, 3rd January, 11 Hazara coal miners were kidnapped and brutally murdered by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) in the Mach area of Balochistan. One family related to five of the deceased say they no longer have any male relative to even attend funeral prayers and take bodies for burial.

Hazaras continue protest on 5th day, refuse to bury slain miners despite PM's request - Pakistan - DAWN.COM
[Image Description: A group of Hazara men sitting in front of coffins, with a picture of one of the deceased miners visible.] Source: DAWN.com
Sadly, this is only the latest incident to happen in the cold-blooded persecution of Hazara people, which has been going on for years. Militant groups have attacked and killed large groups of Hazara Shi’as traveling in vans or buses, at processions and weddings, and have bombed Hazara mosques over the last two decades. Even children of the Hazara Community are not spared.

The outcry against the Hazara genocide is loud, with hashtags like #StopHazaraGenocide, #HazaraShiasWantJustice and #HazaraKoJeenayDo (Let Hazaras Live) being on the forefront of twitter trends. GoFundMe pages, non-profits, and initiatives such as The Grief Directory and Imamia Medics International are working to raise money and awareness for those affected by such acts of terrorism.

The real question is: when will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

When will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

It has been six days since the murders of the miners, but their families and thousands of the Hazara Shi’a Community continued to stage sit-ins on the streets of both Quetta and Karachi, in below freezing temperatures. They refused to bury the bodies of their loved ones until their voices reach the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan; until he comes to Quetta himself to meet the mourners and show that he does, indeed, hear their cries and will take immediate action. 

“If someone really is concerned about our security and tragedy we are facing, it must be reflected by their moves,” said Maulana Sadiq Jaffrey, the leader of a Hazara political party. “We will not call off our sit-in and bury our loved ones until Prime Minister Imran Khan personally meets the mourners”, said another party leader Syed Agha Raza.

Khan only just arrived in Quetta, after convincing the families to arrange the funerals. Just the day before, he gave a poorly worded statement to the grieving families; insinuating they are blackmailing him into visiting by not burying the deceased.

Regardless, justice is yet to be served for the Hazara Community after being massacred for years. Minority groups all over the world continue to be persecuted, simply for their differences, with little to no action being taken for their right to live and peacefully co-exist with others. It’s as if a few factors like religion, race and gender are considered enough to determine one’s worth. To determine whether voices should be heard, or to determine whether rights matter. To determine whether one is any more or less human the other.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Justice delayed is justice denied. It is only so long until the silence becomes deafening, and the inaction shows how much one truly cares about those being wrongly persecuted.  

But, as always, we still continue to hope for better days.
It is, after all, only the beginning of a new year.

 

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  • Arsh Khan

    Graduated with an Honours degree in Applied Psychology from Kinnaird College for Women University. Partnerships & Community Manager at The Tempest. Just your sassy, classy, and very smart-assy Pakistani woman whose dream is to sip on some good chai while she watches the patriarchy burn to the ground.

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