- ELLIS HEASLEY
This time last year, two shocking attacks targeted Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim community. First, on October 8, 2021, an Islamic State-affiliated suicide bomber – Khorasan Province target a mosque in the northern town of Kunduz with an attack timed to coincide with Friday prayers that left at least 50 dead and injured 100 others. Some estimates place the death toll as high as 100.
Then, exactly one week later, terrorists bombed another Shia mosque, again timed to coincide with Friday prayers, in the southern city of Kandahar. Estimates of those killed vary between 47 and 65while at least 80 others are believed to have been injured.
The family of Vahida Heydari, 20, a victim of a suicide bombing at a Hazara education center, visit his grave for a mourning ceremony, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, October 2. PHOTO: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi.
CSW wrote at the time that the attacks “raised questions about the Taliban’s ability to provide security to Afghan citizens, which they had presented as a key benefit of their regime.” And then, last month, with the anniversaries of the two attacks looming, the Shia community was once again targeted.
“The Hazaras are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Afghanistan and are predominantly Shia, and they have faced systematic discrimination and recurring periods of targeted violence and forced displacement for years.”
On September 30, a bomb attack targeted the Kaaj educational center in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul. The original death toll was reported as at least 19 people, with estimates since rising to 35. Most of those killed were women and girls from the Hazara community who had been specifically targeted as they prepared for an exam.
The Hazaras are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Afghanistan and are predominantly Shia, and they have faced systematic discrimination and recurring periods of targeted violence and forced displacement for years.
Earlier this year, the same neighborhood was target in a series of bombings at two other educational institutions, in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees wrote on Twitter: “The ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of Afghanistan is in great danger. It must be respected and kept safe.
Again, as this most recent attack indicates, the Taliban have failed to do so. In fact, the group, which took control of the country in the weeks following NATO’s August 2021 withdrawal, has always perceived the Hazaras as their adversaries and reportedly targeted the community with mass killings and other serious abuses when in power in the 1990s.
The return to power of the Taliban has raised justified concerns for the security of the Hazara community, and not only has this illegitimate government failed to curb the efforts of IS terrorists, but in some cases it has committed its own violations.
For example, in September and October 2021, reports more than 4,000 Hazaras from their homes in Daykundi province, and about 2,000 families were evicted from their homes by a local Taliban court in Mazar-e-Sharif.
More recently, Amnesty International reported that on June 26, 2022, the Taliban illegally detained and executed four Hazara men, at least one of whom was allegedly tortured, allegedly in search of a former security guard. A woman and a 12-year-old girl were also killed in the same raid.
Predictably, the Taliban showed little willingness to investigate the September 30 attack on the Hazara community. Instead, when women took to the streets to protest the shelling and the Taliban’s continued failure to protect them, Taliban forces allegedly opened fire and used physical violence to disperse them.
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A woman said The Guardian United Kingdom“The Taliban will never protect us and they cannot represent us in the international community.”
She is absolutely right. It is abundantly clear that the Taliban are not fit to govern a country or defend basic human rights which should be granted to all citizens without discrimination.
It is true that the Taliban have not been recognized as a government by any member of the international community, and CSW particularly welcomes the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the situation in Afghanistan to the Human Rights Council. However, it is increasingly clear that more needs to be done to hold the Taliban to account and ensure that the lives of Hazaras and other Afghan citizens are protected.
As Christians, we can and should pray for the land, saying this verse from Leviticus 26:6 about the nation: “I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will drive away the wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not cross your land.
As citizens, we can also take action, including calling on our own governments to create safe pathways for Afghan refugees and migrants, to support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur, and to seize every opportunity, both in both public and private, to hold the Taliban to its expressed commitments to inclusiveness and non-retaliation.
Ellis Heasley is a public affairs officer with the UK-based Religious Freedom Advocacy CSW.