Since the swift takeover of power by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the militant regime has been rapidly pushing the country towards disaster. At the forefront of the Taliban’s brutalities is their atrocities on people belonging to minority ethnic groups such as the Hazaras and Christians, and also women. As per a report released by Amnesty International yesterday, the Taliban murdered 13 people belonging to the Hazara community, including a teenage girl. The human rights watchdog said that it has found evidence of the victims being massacred in Daykundi province. The killings reportedly took place in the central Afghanistan province’s Kahor village on August 30, fifteen days after the insurgent group took control of Kabul.
In their report, Amnesty stated that among the 13 victims, nine were former Afghan soldiers who had surrendered to the Taliban. It added that the killings appeared to be a war crime.
This incident is reminiscent of the Taliban’s ideological commitments since the Hazaras are non-Muslims and hence, “Kafirs”. During the Taliban’s reign of terror from 1996 to 2001, the Hazaras, who constitute 10-12 percent of the Afghan population, faced uncountable atrocities. The Taliban, who majorly represent the dominant Pashtun group, have reportedly pursued the policy of ethnic cleansing by mercilessly massacring thousands of Hazaras in Bamyan, Yakawlang, and later in Mazār-i-Sharīf and rest of the Hazarajat throughout its barbaric rule.
Shortly after coming to power for the second time on August 15, the Taliban had announced that under their rule, ethnic minorities and women would not have to fear as they used to earlier. However, civil rights groups, both from the local and international community, did not pay much heed as their ideological and extremist commitments are unlikely to change. Since the takeover, there have been fears of ethnic minorities and women being more vulnerable than ever.
The brutal killings of the 13 Hazaras marks the second time the Taliban have been accused of killing people from the community since taking control. An Amnesty report released in August had said that the Taliban had “massacred” nine members of the Hazara minority in Ghazni province in July. The insurgent group has denied all allegations.
The Taliban’s interior ministry spokesman, Qari Saeed Khosti told the BBC, “This report is one sided and we call on all international organisations to come and conduct a proper investigation in the field… This is not an acceptable conclusion and is free of transparency.”
As per the report, on August 30, about 300 Taliban fighters travelled to an area near Dahani Qul village, where members of the former government forces were staying with their families. When the former security members attempted to flee along with their families, the Taliban reportedly caught up with them and opened fire.
Eleven of the victims were members of the Afghan national security forces and two were civilians, among whom was a 17-year old girl. The report also added that one former soldier fired back, killing a Taliban fighter and wounding another. The report states that the Taliban continued to shoot as the families fled, killing two soldiers. Moreover, after nine of the soldiers surrendered, the Taliban seemingly took them to a nearby river basin and executed them.
Referring to the killings in Daykundi, Amnesty’s secretary general, Dr Agnes Callamard said, “These cold-blooded executions (of the Hazaras) are further proof that the Taliban are committing the same horrific abuses they were notorious for during their previous rule of Afghanistan.”
The Taliban and the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP) have carried out brutal attacks against the ethnic group for years. Since the Taliban took over, forced evictions and violence against the Hazaras have become more common.
Residents of Daykundi have raised their concerns and said that the Taliban has told them to leave their houses, farms and lands as according to the militant organisation they are living there illegally. Reportedly, the people are sometimes given only a couple of days to pack up and leave. “It’s estimated that about 1,500 to 1,600 families have been forced to leave their villages,” says Saleem Javed, a human rights advocate based in Sweden.
A media report last month highlighted that the Hazaras have been ordered out of their homes by the Taliban, who are doing the bidding of Pashtun landlords wanting to seize their crops and stores. Nearly 800 families had been ordered out of their homes in a remote district straddling the provinces of Daykundi and Uruzgan, southwest of Kabul. With no recognised governance in Kabul, the war torn country now faces a huge economic and food crisis.
The plight of the Hazaras continues to loom in danger as the Taliban continues with their regressive policies of targeting minorities and women.