Rallies condemn killing of Hazaras in Pakistan

Hazara-led rally in Melbourne, October 1. Photo: indymedia.org.au

More than 29 Hazaras traveling on a bus near Quetta, Pakistan, were separated from other passengers and executed by Islamic fundamentalists on September 20. This was the third time Hazaras have been attacked in a month.

After hearing the news, more than 400 Hazara asylum seekers in Curtin detention centre protested the killings near the centre’s administration building on September 21. The protest was to alert the immigration department of the situation Hazaras face in Pakistan.

The Hazara community in Australia and around the world held protests against the killings with an international day of protest on October 1. Protests were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and Brisbane in Australia, and Stockholm, London, New York, Karachi, Islamabad, and Toronto.

Speakers at the Melbourne rally, where 700 to 1000 Hazaras protested in pouring rain, highlighted the silence of the Australian government and the UN on the killing of Hazaras in Pakistan.

Quetta has a large community of Hazaras who have fled persecution in Afghanistan. But most Pakistani are Sunni Muslim and the Hazaras, who are Shia Muslims, are increasingly the target of fundamentalist killings. Many of the Hazara asylum seekers’ families have been left living illegally in Quetta.

Hazaras are a minority group in Afghanistan. Historically, they have been persecuted and driven off their lands. Many have fled to Iran and Pakistan. Most Afghans that come to Australia for protection are Hazaras.

Lashkar e Janghvi, a fundamentalist Sunni militant group, claimed responsibility for the September 20 killings.

In June, it issued this warning: “Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shia-Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia-Hazaras, from every city, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan.

“Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue [in the future]. We will make Pakistan their graveyard — their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers.”

On August 31, on Eid (the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan), Lashkar e Janghvi carried out its threat. It attempted a suicide bombing of a mosque in Quetta. They were stopped by Hazara community members, 11 of whom were killed, including a four-year-old girl and a 70-year-old man.

All Hazaras are targets — not just men, political activists or businessmen. Hazara women have been shot at on buses while going to the market and young boys are shot at on motorbikes by masked men.

The leader of Lashkar e Janghvi is free in Pakistan, making speeches against the Shia community, more assaults on Hazaras.

The Hazara community is deeply fearful that a genocide is approaching. Australian Hazaras are grieving for family members lost in the recent attacks and are asking their Australian friends to support them in condemning this violence against their people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney (RAC) says the Australian government deported a Hazara man from Villawood detention centre to Pakistan on September 20 — the same day that Hazaras were massacred in Quetta.

RAC spokesperson Ian Rintoul said: “The man is not a citizen of Pakistan. And the immigration department ignored the very real dangers that confront the Hazaras in Quetta. The deported man’s son had been injured in a Taliban attack in May this year.”