Blood and Smoke in Hazarajat
Danger for the Taliban’s Favorite Victims
As the Taliban fights to make a comeback in Afghanistan, no group is in more danger than the Hazaras. The Taliban’s favorite victims, hundreds of Hazara families froze to death while fleeing their villages during winter attacks by the Taliban.
During its reign, the Taliban wreaked destruction and on as many Hazara communities as they could. Scores of Hazara villages were totally destroyed and their people killed or left to search for shelter from the harsh environment of the Hindu Kush Mountains.
Persecuted for centuries, the Hazaras, Shiite Muslims, and protectors of the Buddhist treasures in Bamiyan for a thousand years, have been persecuted, tortured, and slaughtered, but the ravages of the Taliban are only one chapter in the long history of discrimination and abuse.
A local official commented that their history has been characterized by “blood and smoke.” He said that the pain is still in his heart because of the thousands that were slaughtered or died trying to escape.
Although most Hazaras live in central Afghanistan, the land they refer to as Hazarajat, the Hazaras who migrated to Kabul looking for work make up a large underclass, which takes jobs that other groups refuse – as bearers, street sweepers and other common laborers, the jobs that are referred to as “Hazara occupations.” They are seen and insulted as “donkeys.”
His family is poor, his clothes used. But 15-year-old Ali Aqa isn’t deterred: He plans to be a lawyer. Childhood memories include Taliban occupation of his village in Bamiyan. “They burned everything, even my school,” he says. “I pray to God no regime comes like that again.
This fascinating and resilient people hopes to have a place at the table of Afghanistan’s government, but whatever happens in the central government in Kabul, these brave and independent people will continue to struggle for survival and dignity.