By Susan AKA Peacefull
I have written the word holocaust in this heading as I just interviewed a jewish woman who is a survivor of the Holocaust. She explained to me the hatred of the Nazi’s towards the jews and how they saw them as vermon. They were tortured, experimented on and persecuted during the Second World War. This woman as a young girl saw horrendous inhumanity that no child should see.
What is evident is when one ethnic group persecutes another on the basis of their religion, their culture or ethnic disposition and so on, great suffering it the outcomes.
It was evident to me speaking with a holocaust survivor that persecuted people must be protected by the international community. I watched the footage of WWII liberation of holocaust survivors today and was reminded of how important equality and human rights are as a global universal standard of a shared civilisation. Moreover, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an example of values that should be upheld through an international community that sees peace and stability inherent in upholding values for all minorities across the world. It is so important that we do not turn our heads away with the muttered belief that there are no economic interests or value in it for us, but to look at the problem through universal eyes whereby all peoples of the world are joined, with an interest in universal human rights as the very foundation to peace and stability across the globe. Importantly it is a statement of who we are as a civilised species. The separation of nation states is a false division, we are all human. I saw that clearly when I travelled the world as a World Peace Clown, I saw nothing but my own people in every country, we are more similar than different. Racism or discrimination emerge from unquestioned beliefs of difference exploited to divide people and give a false sense of power.
Whether killing people is slow over time, systematic or adhoc or done surruptiously in the background or quickly as a public display is irrelevant, the reality is that one group is seeing another groups as less than, sub-human or an enemy to be destroyed due to their perceived cultural, economic or political differences.
There are United Nations Conventions on torture and discrimination and many more that are supposed to enshrine codes of conduct for all nations to observe as many are signatories. It is so important that globally the international community does not view these Conventions as lip service or symbolic but acts on violations equally and with no fear or favour. I am always curious to see which countries are the true leaders of the global community and acting on what they know is right rather than special or national interests.
I went out with an Afghan for 6 years and he told me about the Hazara, he himself was a Pashtun and he saw it as shameful how his people were the ones persecuting this ethnic group. Even during the Russian occupation and then the allied occupation the Hazara people were being persecuted as well as having to deal with war.
What amazed me about the Australian refugee situation was that there was resistance to bring people in as refugees. Our government set up the pacific solution where they had the boat people, many who have risked their lives to ride on leaky unsafe boats, arrive at Christmas island and Nauru, to ensure they were not arriving on the mainland. The conditions were primitive and the cuelty of their situation was isolation and being kept in limbo without any clear indication of their status. The Harazas would not have had paper work or could prove persecution even though a war was going on in their country, a war in which Australia was involved. There were stories of the Afghans sewing their lips as they felt they had no voice or suiciding in what for them was clearly prison for crimes they did not commit, only a desire to save their lives and to create better lives for their families. It took great courage to make the trip to Australia. I’ve interviewed refugees and been stunned at the hardship, the discrimination, the danger and the fear they go through for the good of their familes. We in Australia have no idea of this desperation as we go to the shops for food, we go to work for money to pay bills and we have a roof over our heads. Australia is an island and we don’t have a collective memory of war, so in truth, we have no idea of what refugees go through.
I shook my head at our government who were part of the problem and either not aware or not caring that the Hazara were the most persecuted people in Afghanistan, yet the government questioned their legitimacy under the Refugee Convention. I knew of experts in Canberra who would have been able to give an overview of the situation in Afghanistan and the different ethnic groups, so it is not that our government cannot find out. It is common knowledge here the boat arrivals was really a political issue and people were suffering as a result of this. At the same time there were a lot of Australians supporting refugees and offering them refuge. There were true advocates of human rights, I met many opening their homes to refugees, spending time teaching them English and making sure they had enough food, helping them fill out forms to ensure they received the benefits they were entitled to. Of course there were others who bought the line that they were queue jumpers and that they were taking our jobs (common argument) and for some they saw Muslims as terrorists, so there was a lot of division largely caused by the media and misinformation by the government for political reasons, particularly the former Howard Government. Yet we still see the controversy today. Until we release refugees into the community and close down the offshore processing facilities costing $1.2 billion (see http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/immigration/blow-out-hits-12bn-with-offshore-costs-to-come/story-fn9hm1gu-1226501041767) we are still in the dark ages in my opinion. For the cost accountants the humanitarian approach is not only the right thing to do it is cost effective.
I actually clowned at a detention centre in Melbourne and saw many Hazara in there. What shocked me as an Australian, was that effectively I found myself in a maximum security prison. We tried to bring humour and happiness to the people and the few children in detention but overall it was clear to me this was inhumane treatment. Silently they were rounded up and returned to their cells by burly prison guards. I couldn’t believe in a country like Australia we would treat innocent civilians like this. Such is the power of ignorance, greed and disconnection (lack of empathy), as I feel these are the motivations behind locking them up.
Some Hazara of course gained temporary or permanent status but it has been a difficult road for a long persecuted people. Recently we have had some documentaries highlighting the plight of refugees in a sympathetic light to inform Australians of their desperation. The last one I saw was the documentary ‘Send Them Back To Where They Came From’ this was a common cry from those who know nothing of the reality these people are emerging from. So the documentary team sent those with the loudest voices to Afghanistan and other war torn countries and let them experience first hand what the refugees go through. When they came back their views had changed and their stance softened, there is nothing like experience to show people the reality. In my work this is how people learn empathy by standing in the shoes of another and feeling their feelings. It is a powerful way of helping people to understand their situation as if our own. What I learned is that the right wing naysayers were lovely people too, just ignorant. When they found the truth they changed their views and their humanity was visible.
At the end of the day it comes down to who we are as a nation, are we a selfish nation only taking in those of economic value? or do we honour our obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention as global citizens and provide refugee for people who are desperately fleeing persecution? Our decision reflects us not the people we keep out. In the case of the Hazara they were genuine refugees receiving endless persecution even from nations who did not know them. Such is the vulnerability of statelessness, the Palestinians would relate to that feeling.
I feel a deep sorrow in my heart when I think of the depth of their suffering even though I have no clue as I haven’t lived it. I appeal to those in our world to stop persecuting people and start to question your own beliefs and imagine how you would feel if you were them. How do you know your belief is true? Can you be absolutely sure that your belief is true (100%)? How do you feel and how do you react (treat people) when you believe that thought? Who would you be without the thought? (imagine you didn’t think it). Then turn the thought around and imagine the opposite. In the new thinking these days we are realising that negative thoughts are projection, they come from negative beliefs that are believed and not questioned, they come from us not the other. I thought long and hard about Hitler and his belief that the jews were sub-human, of course it was a lie but a nation supported it and they were persecuted and genocide was committed as a result. Some were interviewed afterwards, they felt no guilt as the brainwashing was so intense. We saw that with Pol Pots Khmer Rouge and the list goes on endlessly. Nationalism and racism creates divisions between people as there is a belief that creates them and us. Yet if all are in a sporting team, suddenly the identity changes as the one team identity, those of different ethnic group fade away, such is the power of identity. You can create an identity for anything in order to see the ‘other’, this of course only strengthens the ego and leads us away from our spiritual truth, we are all one.
When we question the negative lies we have carried as individuals, as groups as nations in the spirit of truth seeking, then these are the questions that lead us to peace. Go to www.thework.com to find out more about questioning beliefs.
Many of religious backgrounds say that god is love and that mercy is an answer, I would ask them to exercise what they say they believe in and help those less fortunate then themselves.
I was telling people tonight how generous and kind the ordinary Afghanistani people are. I had just made some Afghan food and was explaining what I had learned from a compassionate Afghan former partner and how blessed I had been to observe such a humble and hospitable people. I ask the people of Afghanistan to show mercy on the Hazara and know what it is like to be terrorised, the wars they have all endured are deeply painful. It is time to heal the past, to bring love back to a country deeply traumatised. Yet it is a proud culture and one of survivors. I pray for the happiness of all.
Here is letter to the United Nations highlighting the plight of the Hazara people as a persecuted people. Beneath the letter is some history about the Hazara people.
An open letter from World-wide Poets addressed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Sunday 10 February 2013, by
After more than a century of systematic crimes such as genocide, slavery, sexual abuse, war crimes, and discrimination, being a Hazara still appears to be a crime in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As recently as Thursday, January 10, 2013, more than one-hundred Hazara were killed in an organized terrorist attack on the city of Quetta, Pakistan. In the past few years, more than a thousand Hazaras were killed in similar attacks in Pakistan alone.
Today, even in their homeland, Afghanistan, Hazaras are not safe. Every year, they are attacked by Afghan Kuchis who are backed by the Taliban and the Afghan government. Hazara roads are blocked by Taliban gunmen. Hazara cars are halted and its passengers are killed.
In the center of Afghanistan, where a huge population of Hazaras are marginalized, they do not have access to basic legal rights. They still suffer systematic discrimination and Taliban attacks. As a result, millions of Hazaras have fled to numerous countries as refugees or asylum seekers, frequently living in terrible conditions.
The Hazara indigenous people made up nearly 67 percent of the population of Afghanistan prior to the 19th century. In that century, they were subjected to genocide and enslavement twice. They were forced to flee most of their land, located in the south of modern Afghanistan. More than 60 percent of them were killed and thousands were sold as slaves.
Afghanistan’s entire 20th century history has been marked by killings of Hazaras and systematic discrimination against them. On February 10 and 11, 1993 in the Afshar area of Kabul, the Mujahadeen government, and its allies exterminated and left injured thousands of Hazara men, women and children. In August 1998, the Taliban killed more than ten thousand Hazaras in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Similar bloodbaths quickly spread to other parts of Afghanistan. Destroying Hazara history and making and promoting an inaccurate, demeaning history of their culture have been further strategies, in addition to violent crimes.
For example, in March 2001, the Taliban notoriously destroyed the ancient Buddha statues of Bamiyan which were principal symbols of Hazara history and culture, and one of the most popular masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. Such is the history of two centuries of crimes against the Hazara, and from which they still suffer.
Therefore, we poets from around the world declare our solidarity with the Hazara people and ask you world leaders to take the following steps to properly insure the security and safety of the Hazara people and culture:
1: Declare a state of emergency regarding the Hazara state of affairs, as authorized by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
2: Apply diplomatic pressure on both the Afghan and Pakistani governments to immediately cease acts of discrimination against the Hazara and to stop supporting terrorist groups who commit violent acts against them.
3: Ask the Refugee Convention’s state parties to protect Hazara asylum seekers and grant them asylum.
4: Establish an international truth Commission to investigate crimes against the Hazara.
5: Open comprehensive cases concerning genocide and gross human rights violations in international courts such as the ICC.
6: Over 150,000 international troops are in Afghanistan. They must ensure the safety of the Hazaras before they leave Afghanistan.
7: Appeal to international media to investigate and report on activities against the Hazara, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Poets Around the World
Signatures with names, positions and countries (see article for signatures)
Persecution of Hazara people refers to systematic discrimination, ethnic cleansing and genocide of the ShiaHazara people, who are primarily from the central highland region of Hazarajat in Afghanistan. Significant populations of Hazara people are also found in Quetta, Pakistan and Mashad, Iran. The persecution of Hazara people dates back to the 16th century, with Babur from Kabulistan. It is reported that during the reign of EmirAbdur Rahman (1880-1901), thousands of Hazaras were killed, expelled and enslaved. Syed Askar Mousavi, a contemporary Hazara writer, claims that half the population of Hazaras was displaced, shifted to neighbouring Balochistan of British India and Khorasan Province of Iran. However, “it is difficult to verify such an estimate, but the memory of the conquest of the Haz?raj?t by ?Abd-al-Ra?m?n Khan certainly remains vivid among the Haz?ras themselves, and has heavily influenced their relations with the Afghan state throughout the 20th century.” This led to Pashtuns and other groups occupying parts of Hazarajat. The Hazara people have also been the victims of massacre by Taliban and al-Qaeda. Although the situation of Hazaras improved in Afghanistan with the ousting of Taliban government from power in 2001, hundreds of Hazara have been victimised in neighboring Pakistan, in recent years.
1.3 Robatak Pass
Hazara people are historically the most restrained ethnic group and have witnessed slight improvements in the circumstances even with the setup of modern Afghanistan. The discrimination against this Shia ethnic group has subsisted for centuries by Mughals, Pashtuns and other ethnic groups. Syed Askar Mousavi, a contemporary Hazara writer, estimates that more than half of the entire population of Hazaras was driven out of their villages, including many who were massacred. “It is difficult to verify such an estimate, but the memory of the conquest of the Haz?raj?t by ?Abd-al-Ra?m?n Khan certainly remains vivid among the Haz?ras themselves, and has heavily influenced their relations with the Afghan state throughout the 20th century.” The British from neighboring British India, who were heavily involved in Afghanistan, did not document such a large figure. Others claim that Hazaras began leaving their hometown Hazarajat due to poverty and in search of employment. Most of these Hazaras immigrated to neighbouring Balochistan, where they were provided permanent settlement by the government of British India. Others settled in and around Mashad, which is in the Khorasan Province of Iran.
The Hazaras of Afghanistan faced severe political, social and economic tyranny and denial of basic civil rights. On the other hand, the Shia Hazaras have a long history of rebelling against Sunni governments and leaders. They refuse to be ruled by Sunnis and work against the state. In the late 19th century, the Hazaras along with their Shia counter part Qizilbash sided with the invading British-led Indians against the native Sunni ethnic groups of Afghanistan. In 1933, Abdul Khaliq, a Hazara student assassinated Afghan King Nadir Khan.
Main article: Afshar Operation
In February 1993, a two-day military operation was conducted by the Islamic State of Afghanistan government and the Saudi-backed Sunni Wahhabi Ittihad-i Islami militia led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. Ittihad-i Islami during that time was allied to the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. The military operation was conducted in order to seize control of the Afshar district in west Kabul where the Shia Hezb-e Wahdat militia backed by Iran (and allied to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar‘s Sunni Hezb-i Islami backed by Pakistan) was based and from where it was shelling civilian areas in northern Kabul. The operation also intented to capture Wahdat leader Abdul Ali Mazari. The Afshar district, situated on the slopes of Mount Afshar west of Kabul, is a densely populated district. The area is predominantly inhabited by Shia Hazara people. The Afshar military operation escalated into what became known as the Afshar massacre when the Saudi backed Wahhabi militia of Ittihad-e-Islami went on a rampage through Afshar, killing, raping, looting and burning houses. Two out of nine Islamic State sub-commanders, Anwar Dangar (later joined the Taliban) and Mullah Izzat, were also reported as leading troops that carried out abuses. Some commanders tried to stop abuses from taking place. The Islamic State government in collaboration with the then enemy militia of Hezb-e Wahdat as well as in cooperation with Afshar civilians established a commission to investigate the crimes that had taken place in Afshar. The commission found that around 70 people died during the street fighting and between 700 and 750 people were abducted and never returned by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf’s men. These abducted victims were most likely killed or died in captivity. Dozens of women were abducted during the operation as well.
Following the 1997 massacre of 3,000 Taliban prisoners by Abdul Malik Pahlawan in Mazar-i-Sharif some 8000 men, women and children were massacred by other Taliban members in the same city in August 1998. Human rights organizations reported that the dead were lying on the streets for weeks before Taliban allowed their burial due to stench and fear of epidemic.
The pass connecting the settlements of Tashkurgan and Pule Khumri is known as Robatak Pass. A mass murder was carried out there by Taliban in May 2000 in which 31 people were reported dead. Twenty-six of the victims were Ismaili Hazara from Baghalan province. Their remains were found to the northeast of the pass, in a neighborhood known as Hazara Mazari, on the border between Baghlan and Samngan provinces. The victims were detained four months before their execution by Taliban troops between January 5 and January 14, 2000.
In January 2001 Taliban committed a mass execution of Hazara people in Yakawlang District of Bamyan province, Afghanistan. The Human butchery started on January 8 and lasted for four days which took the lives of 170 men. Taliban apprehended about 300 people, including employees of local humanitarian organizations. They were grouped to various assemblage points where they were shot dead in public view. Around 73 women, children and elderly were taking shelter in a local mosque when Taliban fired rockets at the mosque.
The history of Hazara people in Pakistan dates back to 1840s, when Hazara tribesmen from Hazarajat began migration to colonial India for work. Many Hazaras were enlisted in the British Indian Army during the first Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1840). The mass-migration and permanent settlements started in 1890s when Emir Abdul Rahman Khan started persecuting the Hazaras of Afghanistan. The majority of the Hazara is ShiiteMuslims with a sizable Sunni minority and others. Although sectarian violence in Pakistan, home to an estimated 20% Shia Muslim population, started during the reign of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, Balochistan had remained peaceful until the turn of the century in 2000.
Further information: Persecution of Hazaras in Quetta
In recent years, the persecution of Hazaras in Quetta has left at least 800 dead and more than 1500 wounded. the victims include high-profile community members, labores, women and children. One third of the victims are children. No one has yet been arrested for these murders. The major attacks included assassinations of Hussain Ali Yousafi, Olympia Abrar Hussain, bombing of a Hazara mosque, Ashura massacre, Quds Day bombing, Play ground massacre, Mastung massacre and Akhtarabad massacre.
The Al-Qaeda affiliated Pakistani Sunni Muslim extremist militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks. Other theories suggest the involvement of Taliban’s Quetta Shura, and Pakistani military establishment, as most of the terrorist organizations in Pakistan are allegedly supported by the country’s military. It is also suggested that the country’s security establishment might be trying to provoke the Hazara against other ethnic groups in the province.
In response to these killings, worldwide demonstrations were held to condemn the persecution of Hazaras in Quetta. The Hazara diaspora all over the world, namely in Australia, Western Europe, North America as well as the Hazara in Afghanistan, have protested gainst these killings and against the silence of international community. Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the political leader of the Hazara in Afghanistan, has also expressed solidarity with the Hazara community in Quetta. The persecutions have been documented by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. EUparliamentarian Rita Borsellino has urged the international community to address the plight of Hazara people in Quetta. The members of British Parliament, Alistair Burt, Mark Lancaster, Alan Johnson, and Iain Stewartasked the government to pressure Pakistani authorities concerning the absence of justice for Hazara community in Pakistan
So far dozens of Hazara individuals have been killed in Karachi, but none of the killers has been brought to Justice. Among the dead were social workers & intellectuals. In Karachi terrorists shot dead Agha Abbas, owner of famous fruit juice outlet Agha Juice. Sindh police announced the arrest of Akram Lahori, chief of a banned religious group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (lej) along with his four accomplices, for their alleged involvement in sectarian killings, including the murder of Agha Abbas.
Published on Feb, 2013