The armed group has a history of targeting the ethnic group using brutal methods of torture, abductions and executions.

When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan after 20 years on August 16, Hazaras, a minority group in the country, trembled with fear.

The largest minority group of Afghanistan, Hazaras, have faced decade-long violent persecution under the Taliban regime between 1991 and 2001, the armed group's first governing stint in the country. 

The Taliban is now trying to illustrate a more moderate picture of itself, saying an Afghan is simply an Afghan regardless of their cultural and religious differences. But for Hazaras, it is not easy to either forget the century-long memory of ethnic cleansing or take the Taliban on their word, as uncertainty looms large, creating conditions for further massacres of the community. 

In a recent report, Amnesty International said nine Hazara men were killed by the Taliban after taking control in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. 

“The cold-blooded brutality of these killings is a reminder of the Taliban’s past record, and a horrifying indicator of what Taliban rule may bring,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, said.

A marginalised minority

The Hazaras are one of the largest ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan making up an estimated 9 percent of 39.9 million inhabitants of the country. Around three million in present-day Afghanistan, the group is said to have descended from the soldiers of Genghis Khan, a Mongol emperor who invaded Afghanistan in the 13th century.

Their cultural and linguistic differences, mainly subscribing to Shia Islam, and speaking Hazagari, a dialect of Persian, set them apart from pre-dominantly ethnic Pashtun and Sunni Afghans. The group has been an open target for hardline Sunni groups, including Daesh and Taliban as they’re noticeable by their Asiatic features.

But the history of Hazara persecution goes back to the 1880s, when the Pashtun leader Amir Abdul Rahman ordered a bloody crackdown on the community. 

Then, they were forced into slavery and denied public services as regular citizens until recent decades.

About 60 percent of their population was eliminated in the country by land confiscation, slavery ethnic cleansing, and persecution under Pashtun and Tajik groups.

In the mid-90s, Maulawi Mohammed Hanif, a Taliban commander, ruled that they could be killed, causing many Hazaras to flee the country.

In 1998, one of the most brutal massacres took place as the Taliban killed as many as 2,000 civilians in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

There are more than 900,000 Afghan refugees in Iran, many of them Hazaras, and 1.56 million in Pakistan, according to 2015 data of the United Nations. There are large Hazara communities in Canada, the US, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and New Zealand.

Discrimination continued under US-backed government

In 2001, the US invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime and three years later in 2004, the new Afghan Constitution officially granted Hazaras equal rights as regular Afghan citizens. The community has some representation under the rule of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Yet the discrimination and violent attacks on the minority continued.

Under the US-backed government, the community had some prospect of thriving and feared a strengthened Taliban would result in a further massacre, but also complained that the government didn’t give them what they hoped for.

Activists said the government didn’t protect the interests of the community as the areas where the community lives have remained the poorest of the poor, lacking basic public services. They say ethnic discrimination was never addressed by the government as they’ve not been completely accepted in high-ranking governing or bureaucratic positions.

Despite the reassurances and constitutional rights given by the former US-backed Afghan governments, the Hazara people lived in a climate of insecurity as they faced abductions, extortions, and killings carried out by the global terrorist group, Daesh.

The UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says Hazaras’ well-rounded fear was provoked when the US-backed National Unity Government “blatantly sidelined them from national economic, education, security and political decision making in various levels.”

Source: TRT World