Afghanistan: Protect the persecuted Shia Hazaras in Afghanistan
Statement from FORUM-ASIA
5 August 2023
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(Bangkok, 4 August 2023) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) calls for urgent and concerted international action to protect Afghanistan’s Shia and Hazara community.
The Shia community of Afghanistan—whose members are predominantly Hazaras—are facing systematic discrimination, targeted attacks, marginalisation, persecution, and harsh restrictions by the Taliban.
The Taliban has imposed bans on the Shias’ and Hazaras’ freedom of religion or belief. In addition, the Taliban is responsible for the forced displacements and disappearances of Shia Hazaras, their exclusion from humanitarian aid, as well as arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings of civilians across Afghanistan.
In their recent edicts, the Taliban has banned the Shia Hazaras from organising, participating in, and practising Muharram ceremonies (Shia religious mourning events) across the country. Muharram is a holy month for Shia Muslims around the world wherein they commemorate the martyrdom of Hussain—the prophet Mohammad’s grandson—by organizing religious processions and mourning ceremonies.
Following the ban, the Taliban has further raided the Muharram processions and opened fire on Shia mourners, killing and injuring Shia civilians. The Taliban has also blocked internet connection in the areas under their attack. The attacks have repressed Shia events and affected the community in Kabul, Herat, Ghazni and Balkh provinces of Afghanistan.
Furthermore, the Taliban has coerced members of the Shia-Ismaili community to convert to Sunni in order to receive humanitarian aid in Badakhshan province of Afghanistan.
‘The situation of massive and systematic human rights violations against the Shia community is extremely alarming. Such callous and organised persecution of the Shia community is fundamentally linked to the complete denial of their freedom of religion or belief–a bleak situation that necessitates global condemnation. International solidarity with the Shia Hazaras and other ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan has never been more important and necessary,’ said Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, FORUM-ASIA Executive Director.
As a religious minority—which has been historically persecuted by the Afghan state, terrorist groups such as the Taliban, ISIS, and other non-state actors—the Shia Hazaras in Afghanistan are currently at serious risk of a ‘slow’ genocide.
Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, at least 700 Hazara civilians have either been killed or injured in 13 targeted attacks by Islamic State affiliates.
Several international human rights groups and monitoring bodies have expressed serious concern over the increasing attacks against the Shia Hazaras, sounding the alarm on a possible genocide.
The Taliban has also abolished all legal mechanisms for upholding human rights and the rule of law in Afghanistan. They removed legal provisions and national events dedicated to Shia Hazaras, hence putting the community at further risks of persecution.
Taliban sanctions on the Shias and Hazaras include:
removal of the Shia Personal Status Law as ratified by President Hamid Karzai in 2009
ban on the teaching of the Shia Jafari doctrine curriculum in higher education
removal of Shia national holiday (Ashura) from the country’s calendar
restrictions on Muharram ceremonies
As of July 2022, more than 25,000 primarily-Hazara people have been displaced from their ancestral lands through the Taliban’s military campaign, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Meanwhile, people in Hazara areas remain cut off from humanitarian aid distributed through the International Committee of the Red Cross due to the Taliban’s intervention.
Since their return to power, the Taliban has launched systematic attacks against indigenous ethnic and religious groups, which included the Shia Hazara, Tajiks, and Uzbeks. Likewise, Sufis, Sikhs, and Hindus fear persecution by the Taliban and ISIS.
Call to Action
FORUM-ASIA is in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. We urge the Taliban to:
Immediately lift the imposed restrictions on the fundamental rights of the people of Afghanistan, in particular women and girls and marginalised communities such as Shia Hazaras, including their freedom of religion or belief; freedom of expression; and rights to access education, information, work, travel, and peaceful assembly and association.
Fully respect and abide by international obligations of Afghanistan to uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Preserve religious diversity and protect marginalised groups at risk, particularly women and girls; the Shia Hazaras; Sikhs; Hindus; and Sufis.
We call on all relevant international stakeholders to:
Support the establishment by the UN Human Rights Council of an international investigative and accountability mechanism to collect, preserve, and document evidence on all human rights violations in Afghanistan.
Help raise awareness on the continued persecution of the Shia Hazaras and other marginalised groups in Afghanistan.
Publicly call to immediately end the systematic attacks against the Shia Hazaras, which bears the hallmarks of a genocide.
Protect vulnerable ethnic and religious communities and provide feasible protection measures such as providing humanitarian visas and resettlement opportunities for the most persecuted groups such as the Shia Hazaras.
Ensure equitable delivery of humanitarian assistance, ensuring that aid and assistance reach all in need including marginalised communities, such as the Shia Hazaras.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a network of 85 member organisations across 23 countries, mainly in Asia. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The FORUM-ASIA Secretariat is based in Bangkok, with offices in Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. www.forum-asia.org