To: H.E. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
CC:H.E. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN and President of United Nations Security Council
H.E. Ambassador Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina and President of United Nations Human Rights Council
We are writing this letter to express our grave concern about the escalation of violence targeting the Hazara Shia communities in Afghanistan. We are writing to demand your immediate action to address these targeted attacks, which can amount to crime against humanity, and when taken together, constitute an act of genocide. We believe the persistent and deliberate campaign of violence against the Shia Hazara community in Afghanistan requires an urgent and coordinated response by the United Nations and the international community.
On April 19, 2022, a high school and an education center in a Hazara neighborhood in West of Kabul, Afghanistan were bombed, killing and maiming scores of school children. The next day, an attack on a Shia Hazara mosque in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif was bombed, killing thirty one and injuring eighty seven worshipers attending prayers during the holy month of Ramadan. Local reports, however, indicate a much higher level of casualties. Another mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif was also attacked on the same day and in the same manner, killing and injuring dozens. On April 28, two explosions targeting civilian mini-buses in Mazar-i-Sharif killed at least eleven and wounded at least eighteen Hazaras. On the same day, five Hazara miners traveling in a civilian passenger car were stopped and shot dead in Samangan province.
While terrorist attacks such as the last week’s horrific attacks on Sufi Mosques in Kunduz and Kabul provinces continue to affect civilians throughout Afghanistan, the attacks on Hazaras represent a pattern in recent years that target Hazara-Shia mosques, schools, education centers, public gatherings, sports clubs, public transports, and even maternity hospitals. In the first six months of 2021 UNAMA recorded 20 deliberate attacks against the Hazara ethnic group, resulting in around 500 civilian casualties. The Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate group of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), claimed responsibility for most attacks, including recent incidents in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, although perpetrators have not claimed responsibility for some attacks.
Residents, observers of Afghanistan, and international human rights groups have raised constant concern about such a growing trend of targeted violence against Hazaras. In October 2021, after a series of attacks on Shia Hazara mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar, that killed and wounded hundreds, Human Rights Watch characterized the attacks as “designed to spread terror and inflict maximum suffering, particularly on Afghanistan’s Hazara community.” The statement highlighted that “[t]he numerous attacks targeting Hazaras amount to crimes against humanity, and those responsible should be brought to justice.”
In May 2021, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) called on the Afghan government and the international community to consider the Hazaras as a “population at risk of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing or genocide”. In July 2021, Genocide Watch issued an emergency warning for Afghanistan, stating, “The Hazara religious minority is a portent of an approaching genocide.” In August 2021, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a similar statement underlining the risk of genocide against Hazaras in Afghanistan.
Hazaras have a long history of persecution in Afghanistan at the hands of state and non-state actors such as the Taliban and other extremist groups. This history and recent events align with the warning factors of mass atrocity crimes that the United Nations identified in the 2014 Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.
The return of the Taliban to power has made the Hazaras more vulnerable and subject to increased violence. On August 19, 2021, Amnesty International released a report documenting the Taliban’s targeted attacks against Hazaras and called the group responsible for the “brutal massacre of Hazara men” in Ghazni and Daykundi provinces. Since coming to power in August 2021, the Taliban forcibly removed hundreds of Hazara families from their homes and villages in Helmand, Uruzgan, Daykundi, and Balkh provinces. This is compounded by the Taliban history of brutality against the community, including massacring thousands of Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif (1998), Bamyan (2001), and Zabul (between 1996 and 2001).
In January 2022, following its report on Afghanistan, the UK Parliament’s House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations and Defence established a bi-cameral and cross-party inquiry team on the situation of Hazaras in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The report stated that “The Hazaras have a long history of suffering state persecution on both ethnic and sectarian grounds.”
Following these most recent attacks targeting Hazaras in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, human rights groups and officials in the international community, including The UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan Richard Bennett, expressed concerns about these “targeted attacks on Hazaras”, and called for “immediate investigation and accountability” to “end such human rights violations.” Similar statements of condemnation and calls for action have been made by special representatives and Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the EU, Sweden, Norway, and Canada. Afghanistan’s diplomatic missions to the UN and in many countries in Europe, North America, and South Asia also expressed concerns and demanded immediate international attention to attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructures in Afghanistan, particularly in Hazaras and Shia communities.
However, more must be done to protect the Hazaras in Afghanistan, especially by the United Nations. Thus, we, the undersigned group of intellectuals, academics, human rights, media, and civil society activists from Afghanistan and around the world, urge the United Nations to take immediate actions addressing human rights situation of the Hazaras in Afghanistan, and adopt appropriate measures to protect the community against risks of genocide and crimes against humanity. We urge you to:
- Call a special session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss, as matter of urgency, the situation of the Hazaras and adopt a resolution ensuring that the community will be protected against such heinous targeted attacks;
- Call for a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to discuss and address the ongoing genocidal attacks on Hazaras, and work to prevent such atrocities and bring the perpetrators to justice;
- Launch an immediate investigation into the targeted killing of the Hazara and Shias in Afghanistan, and use instruments under the international law to address and put an end to the perpetual killings of Hazaras;
- Request the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Afghanistan to collect and publicize substantiated information relating to grave violations of international human rights law, including breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide committed against the Hazaras;
- Request UNAMA and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Afghanistan to submit a special report on the situation of Hazaras identifying urgent and practical measures to protect the community against targeted attacks and mass atrocities.
- Dr. Sima Samar, Former Chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
- Shaharzad Akbar, Former Chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
- Dr. Nasir A. Andesha, Ambassador, Afghanistan Mission, Geneva,
- Naseer A. Faiq, Charge d’Affaires, Afghanistan Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York
- Dr. Abbas Farasoo, University of Melbourne, Australia
- Dr. Ali Karimi, University of Pennsylvania, USA
- Dr. Arif Sahar, Sheffield University, UK
- Dr. Dawood Rezai, Legal Scholar, Canada
- Dr. Elham Gharji, University of Coimbra, Portugal
- Dr. Farkhondeh Akbari, Monash University, Australia
- Dr. Hadi Hosainy, Texas Christian University, USA
- Dr. Hasan Faryaar, Carleton University, Canada
- Dr. Humaira May Rizayee, Hazara rights activist, UK
- Dr. Kambaiz Rafi, University College London, UK
- Dr. Mejgan Massoumi, Lecturer & Fellow, Stanford University, USA
- Dr. Melissa Chiovenda, Zayed University, UAE.
- Dr. Niamatullah Ibrahimi, La Trobe University, Australia
- Dr. Omar Sadr, University of Pittsburgh, USA
- Dr. Omar Sharifi, American University of Afghanistan/University of Minnesota, USA
- Dr. QasimWafayezada, Kanazawa University, Japan
- Dr. Rabia Latif Khan, SOAS University of London, UK
- Dr. Sardar Hosseini, University of Ottawa, Canada
- Dr. Timor Sharan, Associate Fellow, London School of Economics, UK
- Harun Najafizada, Journalist, UK
- Jalil Benish, PhD Candidate, Ryerson University, Canada
- Jawad Raha, Former Diplomat, USA
- Kawa Jobran, University Lecturer, Canada
- Metra Mehran, Fellow, New York University, USA
- Mohammad Asif Ehsan, Attorney, USA
- Mohamad Musa Mahmodi, Fellow, Yale University, USA
- Munazza Ebtikar, PhD Candidate, Oxford University, UK
- Musa Zafar, PhD Candidate, Fiji National University, Fiji
- Ofran Badakhshani, Chairman of Gilgamesh Foundation, Brussels
- Said Sabir Ibrahimi, Non-resident Fellow, New York University
- Sameer Bedrud, former diplomat, Canada
- Sanjar Suhail, Publisher and Founder, Hasht-e-Subh Daily, Afghanistan
- Sayed Madadi, Reagan-Fascell Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy, USA
- Shoaib Rahim, American University of Afghanistan/The New School, New York
- Tabish Forugh, Democracy Activist and Contributing Editor at Fair Observer, USA
- Wadood Pedram, Human Rights Activist, Canada
- Zaki Daryabi, Publisher and Founder, Daily Etilaat-e- Roz, Afghanistan
- Zuhal Salim, Former Diplomat of Afghanistan to the UN, USA.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.