A closer look at Howard’s 2001 election meal ticket

6 02 2008

I’ve added a new entry to my blogroll: HaZaRa NaTiOn, authored by a Hazara living in Australia.

The Hazaras are the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and for centuries have been the targets of violence, persecution and discrimination at the hands of their neighbours, in no small part because of their Shia affiliation (but also because of their physical and linguistic differences). The Taliban governor of Mazar-i-Sharif declared in 1997:

Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shi’a. They are kofr [infidels]. The Hazaras killed our force here, and now we have to kill Hazaras. [. . .] If you do not show your loyalty, we will burn your houses, and we will kill you. You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan. [. . .] wherever you go we will catch you. If you go up, we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below, we will pull you up by your hair.

In August 1998 the Taliban massacred 8,000 Hazara in Mazar-i-Sharif. Taliban aircraft bombed civilians fleeing the city. Many women were abducted and raped. According to eyewitness accounts, Taliban soldiers went from door-to-door, shooting civilians, or slaughtering them the “halal” way–by slitting their throats. They even went into an army hospital and killed all the patients and their relatives. Between 1998 and 2001 they slaughtered hundreds of people in the Bamyan area. (Bamyan, incidentally, is the largest Hazara city in Afghanistan, and the home of the Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.) The Taliban, however, were continuing a tradition of anti-Hazara violence: in 1993, forces loyal to Abdul Sayyaf and Ahmad Shah Massoud killed or abducted over 1,000 people in a Hazara suburb of Kabul. (Massoud was assassinated by al-Qaeda agents in 2001, and was later named a national hero by President Karzai; Sayyaf is currently an influential member of the Loya Jirga, and has rebirthed the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice as the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs.)

Hazaras comprised the bulk of the 438 people rescued by the MV Tampa in 2001, only to be deemed a threat to national sovereignty by the Federal Government and the wingnutocracy of the day. Said government, as we know, sailed into victory on a wave of xenophobia, the likes of which had not been seen since, well, a few years earlier when it was all about the yellow peril. It seems so long ago now, doesn’t it? Lest we forget.

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