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Hazara Shia Minority Protests on Anniversaries of Killings in Pakistan

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 22nd January, 2022 07:55:02 PM
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Hazara Shia Minority Protests on Anniversaries of Killings in Pakistan

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January is a bad month for the Hazaras of Pakistan, the Shia minority that radical Sunnis regard as non-Islamic and persecute from decades. This month, Hazaras both in Pakistan and in the diaspora in the United States, Canada, U.K., and Australia commemorated the victims of two terrorist attacks in 2013 and 2021.

It was not a memory of the past only. The Hazaras called on the Pakistani government to protect them from daily acts of slander, discrimination, beatings, and killings. Between 1,000 and 2,000 of them (estimates diverge) have been killed in Pakistan in the 21st century only.

On January 10, 2013, different bombings in the same city, Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, killed 100 in a predominantly Hazara neighborhood. The total death toll was 130, as the bomb attacks were two, and the second also killed police officers, rescue workers, and journalists who had entered the neighborhood after the first bombing. A radical Sunni Deobandi group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, part of a constellation of violent anti-Shia movements, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

On January 3, 2021, eleven Hazara coal miners from the same neighborhood in Quetta were sleeping in their rooms near the mine where they worked in Mach Town, when armed men came. They separated the Hazara Shia from the Sunni miners, took the Hazaras, and killed them. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack but, one year thereafter, there are still doubts about the identity of the perpetrators.

The Hazaras are a population of Turkic origin, but speaking a Persian dialect, which settled in Afghanistan between the 16th and the 17th century and embraced Shia Islam. In 1893, Afghan king Abdur Rahman Kang decided to wipe out the Hazaras, both because they were “heretics” from his point of view as a strict Sunni ruler, and they fought for the self-government of their region. At least 100,000 Hazaras, or 60% of the entire Hazara population of Afghanistan, were killed, and more than 10,000 were sold as slaves. Most historians recognize the 1893 events as a genocide.

Because of the repression in Afghanistan, which continued through the Taliban era and is still going on today, since the late 19th century thousands of Hazaras escaped to British India. Pakistan is now home to one million of Hazaras. Four million still live in Afghanistan.