The July 23rd, 2016 attack on peaceful Hazara protesters was the deadliest attack since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. 107 Hazaras, the majority of whom were university students, were killed and over 500 others were wounded in a double suicide attack followed by a volley of gunfire by unknown gunmen.
Although the national as well as the international media initially reported 84 were killed and over 230 wounded, as time passed it became clear that the number of casualties was significantly higher than indicated by these initial reports.
Reasons behind the protests by Hazaras:
Over the past three centuries, Hazaras have been massacred, their lands have been grabbed by numerous Afghan governments and they have been forcefully displaced. Deprived of their citizenship rights, they have been living in their homeland as if they are aliens.
Over 62 percent of Hazaras were massacred by the Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan between the years 1890-1892, and much of their lands were seized by the Afghan government during that historical period. Currently, Hazaras live in remote, mountainous areas of central Afghanistan. They almost always, in subsequent years, have been deprived of their due rights.
During the Taliban regime, Hazaras were massacred inhumanely in different cities such as the Kanda Pusht area of Zabul, Baghlan, Mazar-e Sharif and Bamiyan.
Based on reports by human rights organizations, the Taliban systematically massacred over 8,000 Hazaras including women and children in August 1998 during two days in Mazar-e-Sharif. In addition to several mass killings of Hazaras in Bamiyan, the Taliban also demolished the two Buddha statues of Bamiyan, which had been the most important historical and cultural symbol for Hazaras.
After the fall of the Taliban, Hazaras took part in all political and democratic procedures of the new Afghanistan state. However, systematic discrimination against them continued.
Despite the presence of the global community in Afghanistan and billions of dollars in foreign aid to the country, very few development projects were considered for Hazaristan, the Hazara-inhabited areas of the country. There are few paved roads in Hazaristan, schools of these areas are often working without buildings and students have to attend schools in open areas.
The government has not built any hospital or health center of the place where Hazaras live and the few hospitals present in Bamiyan have been built by international organizations such as the Agha Khan Foundation.
In Bamiyan, the heartland of place, currently thousands of Hazaras live in caves where they are deprived of any services by the government.
All routes ending in this area are considered insecure as dozens of Hazara passengers are abducted and then murdered by terrorist groups on a daily basis.
Due to the existence of such a situation, Hazaras have often staged peaceful protests against systematic discrimination over the past 14 years.
Their protests have often focused on becoming beneficiaries of the basic services which should be provided by the government to every citizen. Hazaras have repeatedly come to the streets to protest against their deprivation of security, poor roads and health and education services. However, their protests have not received adequate attention from the Afghan government and the global community.
Over the past 2 years, thousands of Hazaras were forced to leave Afghanistan, seeking asylum in western countries, as they had suffered from insecurity and the continuation of systematic discrimination in their homeland. Between the years 2014-2015 over 140,000 Hazaras had to flee from Afghanistan. They do not have any hope to live their life in Afghanistan where their lives are in constant danger.
As discrimination against Hazaras became more widespread in 2016, a significant number of Hazara activists, especially students and academics, decided not to remain silent about discrimination anymore. In order to fight systematic discrimination, they formed small groups inside and outside Afghanistan that observed the important issues of the country and acted against discrimination and injustice.
In April of the current year, Afghan media reported a sudden change to the route of a 500 kV power transmission line originating in Turkmenistan through Salang, rather than Hazara-inhabited Bamiyan.
Based on the 20-year electricity master plan of Afghanistan prepared by a German firm named Fichtner, the line was expected to pass via Bamiyan after routing through the northern Afghan provinces. However, the Afghan government, in a hidden session on April 30, 2016, decided to route the line through Salang, rather than the impoverished Hazara-inhabited Bamiyan. While the government cited cost and length of time for construction as reasons for the change, because the Salang route incudes considerable drawbacks, it can only be supposed that the real reason for the change was discriminatory policies against Hazaras.
Following the change in the route of the line, Hazaras inside and outside Afghanistan quickly protested against the Afghan government’s decision and a blatant discrimination against Hazaras. Just a few days after the government’s decision, and following many protests which started in Bamiyan and then carried on in many cites throughout the country, thousands of educated Hazaras gathered in western Kabul in the area called Mosala of Shahid Mazari (Mosala).
In the wake of the protests which had started in Bamiyan these Hazaras formed a civil movement called the Enlightenment Movement to show their protest against the government’s decision.