The Blog

Terror Against Hazara Muslim Minority in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

7:31 AM, Mar 19, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Who are the Hazaras and why are they marked for annihilation in Pakistan? Two frightful terror bombings, taking 185 lives and wounding hundreds more, were reported from the city of Quetta, near the border with Afghanistan, and the capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, in the first two months of 2013. They were followed by a similar massacre in Karachi, Pakistan’s main port, in March. Prominent Hazara individuals have been assassinated in Karachi and Lahore. And the ordeal of the Hazaras is hardly new.

The Hazaras stand out among Muslims that are oppressed by other Muslims. Counting 4.5 to 7.5 million spread across Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, they are mostly Shia believers. They have been targeted for extermination in Afghanistan, by the Taliban, and in Pakistan, by Taliban-allied Sunni fanatics. Like spiritual Sufis, they also suffer official discrimination by the Iranian Shia regime.

In 1998, Iranian forces killed more than 630 refugees, mainly Hazaras, in the Safed Sang detention center in northeast Iran. The 2009 Afghan film Neighbor, portraying that crime, was blocked from general distribution in Afghanistan because of Iranian pressure. Nevertheless, the propaganda networks of the Tehran clerical dictatorship exploit the dreadful condition of the Hazaras in Pakistan to promote an ostensible agenda of international Shia unity.

Highland peasants and livestock herders, Hazaras speak Persian although they are of northern Central Asian origin, and their Mongolian features make them an easy object of aggression. Local Hazaras in Iran, along with Hazara refugees from the Taliban, are hated as a reminder of the Mongol subjugation of the region in the 13th century.

On January 10, terrorists killed more than 90 people in a majority-Hazara neighborhood of Quetta. An additional 170 were injured. Late in the evening, a billiard parlor frequented by Hazaras was hit by two suicide bombers. The second blast at the billiard parlor was aimed at police, rescue personnel, and journalists, killing some of them. That day of horror involved three attacks in Quetta. Earlier that day, an explosion directed at a government vehicle by Baluch separatists killed 12.

Mourning the January bloodbath, the Hazaras refused to bury their dead—eventually totalling 96—within the period, usually no longer than 24 hours, required when possible in Islam. They left the corpses in their funeral caskets, on the streets, for three days. The Hazaras described this action as a challenge to Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, demanding security for all citizens.

The victims were interred after Islamabad agreed to suspend the civilian administration in Baluchistan. The province’s chief minister, Nawab Aslam Raisani, was out of power only two months, with his coalition restored to authority on March 14, anticipating elections when the current term of the Baluchistan Assembly is scheduled to expire on April 5.

During Raisani’s hiatus, a second spectacular terror operation struck Quetta’s Hazara Town market on February 16, killing 89 people and injuring 200. Once more, the Hazaras delayed burial of their murdered compatriots. Led by women—Hazaras emphasize female involvement in public affairs—about 4,000 Hazaras blocked traffic, repeating their appeal for protection by the government. That demonstration continued for four days, after which the dead were laid to rest in a mass funeral. In the second instance of burial boycott, the Hazaras demanded that Pakistan effect a “targeted operation” against the Sunni Muslim extremists that have slaughtered them.

Recent Blog Posts