International Imam Hussain Council organised a conference and interactive debate on the genocide of Hazaras in Al Khoei Foundation, Chevening Road, London on 12-11-2011 from 3-30 PM to 7:00 PM.
The guests included Lord Eric Avebury (well-known human rights activist), Dr. Ali Alawi, professor Harvard University (ex-minister for trade, defence and finance in Iraq’s interim government), Murtaza Poya and Yousuf Al Khoei.
The programme was divided into three parts which supplemented speeches, debate and question and answer session. The speakers were Sadiq Noyan, Rubab Mehdi Rizvi, Haji Marzooq Ali, Dr. Ali Alawi, Murtaza Poya, Liaquat Ali Hazara and Lord Avebury.
The programme started with the recitation of the Holy Quran followed by the speech of Sadiq Noyan who thanked IIHC for organising such an event to highlight the plights of Hazaras. He briefly mentioned about the History of Hazaras, focusing on the historic persecution, compelling them to migrate to the neighbouring countries. He said, “A local bus carrying Hazaras was stopped near Mastung, the ID cards were checked and the Hazaras were taken off the bus, lined up and sprayed bullet over 10 minutes until they are dead. This act killed over 29 innocent Hazaras”.
Liaquat Ali Hazara – a human rights activist – commenced his speech to give kudos to Rubab Mehdi Rizvi and her for organising the conference to voice against atrocities being perpetrated against the Hazaras in Pakistan. He said, “About 2000 years, the central Afghanistan was an independent state which was known as Ghurgistan, being inhabited by the Hazaras and then it was forcibly included in today’s Afghanistan. As the wave of extremism and terrorism has moved to the south-western city of Pakistan, I would like to draw your attention towards the religious, racial and ethnic persecution of the Hazaras which has engulfed over 700 innocent lives till this date. There are over 0.7 million Hazaras in Quetta, Pakistan with over 90% literary rate and most of them are educated to degree level. He emphatically said, “With special context to human rights, the politicians, human rights activists and other distinguished guests present here, should raise their voice against atrocities and cruelties being perpetrated against the Hazaras in the name of religion, ethnicity and faith. There is not sectarian violence in Quetta, Balochistan as one extremist group known as Lashker-e-Jhangvi has been single-handedly targeting the Hazaras with sheer impunity. The history of Pakistan is the witness that the Hazaras are the most oppressed and repressed citizens of the country whose plights mostly go unnoticed”. He also pinpointed, “The provincial government has imposed arbitrary sanctions of the Hazaras to obtain a no objection certificate (NCO) for their inter-city movements which is against the injunctions of constitution of Pakistan. We have sacrificed our lives for the country. We have indeed contributed enormously in the development and progress of the country”.
Rubab Mehdi Rizvi, the Chairperson International Imam Hussain Council, said, “The IIHC, over the last 33 years, has been promoting inter-faith dialogue, sectarian harmony and community cohesion. This conference has been arranged in response to the on-going onslaught and a recent escalation of the cowardly attack on the Hazara tribe. The Hazaras’ persecution is borne out of a largely unresolved centuries’ old religious and ethnic animosity towards them which has resulted in massacre, institutionalised discrimination and disposition of their lands which has ignited and even moved Afghanistan towards an uncertain position and with unscathed ethnic violence in the Hazara population, it is likely that the Hazaras will continue to have grounds in the UK under the 1951 refugees’ convention to persecution. She also mentioned the persecution of the Pashtun despotic and cruel leaders against the Hazaras in Afghanistan.
She then turned to Pakistan and mentioning, “The Hazaras in Balochistan, particularly Quetta, have been targeted for over a decade now. The patriotic Hazara community have contributed many of its fronts to the Pakistan army. The extremists have decided to target Hazara community as a way of retaliating against Pakistan army. Anti-state elements are doing it in the name of religion and ethnicity, trying to create an Afghan-style scenario in Pakistan. The situation has got worse since they have killed vegetable vendors, police cadets, government officials, lawyers and politicians. This includes the murder of an international renowned boxer, Ibrar Hazara who represented Pakistan in Olympics three times. However, for his killers, the only way to find and kill him was that he was the member of the Hazara Shi’ite community. Only 21 days after the brutal Mastung massacre, fresh attacks have taken place where rockets were fired at a bus carrying pilgrims including women and children. These murderous attacks have now become so frequent that they no longer qualify as the news in national or international media. The onslaught of the targeted killings continues unabated with half a dozen more from the Hazaras were injured last night.
The aim of the conference this year is to reflect on the plights of Hazara Shi’ite ad their future as a minority in the context of their rights to religious freedom, citizenship and more importantly life without fear. She also demanded that the Government of Pakistan must extend the representation of Hazaras to the Senate and the National Assembly in the same way as the former Prime Minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto extended it in FATA areas. We need to see more Hazaras in the top level of the society.
Dr. Ali Alawi, a professor at Harvard University and minister for trade, defence and finance in 2003-2004 in Iraq said, “The history of Hazaras is not known to the world, it is known to you and us, of course because we share the common faith and we are co-religious. You are facing the crises in Pakistan, there is no doubt about it, the targeting is faced by your community in there and I really urge to put your strength together, to see what resources you have got to be used so that you voice must be heard at international arena, your voice must reach international institutions, the UN, international human rights groups including Amnesty International and all other NGOs concerned. You are the citizens of Pakistan and it should provide your protection. You have to mobilize yourselves with the pen, in strength in parliament”.
Lord Eric Avebury, a veteran political and human rights activist briefly mentioned the history of persecution of tyrant and autocrat Pashtun leaders towards Hazaras in Afghanistan. He said, “The Hazaras in Afghanistan have faced abject persecution by a handful of Pashtun there since the 1800s and in 1850s Amir Abdul Rehman Khan attached the independent state of Hazarajat to bring it under his control and used the Sunni Muslims to subjugate the Hazaras, control their territory and confiscate their agricultural lands and hand them over to the Pashtun nomads for grazing. It is estimated that over 60% of the Hazara population was massacred by this campaign of Abdur Rehman and some 75,000 people were compelled to leave to Mashad, Iran, Pakistan and in parts of Central Asia but sadly they didn’t escape from persecution in their new homes and today we are witnessing the different ways of killings as mentioned this afternoon. You also remember that the Taliban murdered several thousand Hazaras in Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998 and Mullah Niazi was the main criminal responsible for that crime against humanity who became the governor of the region when it was controlled by the Taliban, announced the Hazaras as infidels and declared to kill them because of the religious belief they hold. Thousands fled to Iran, Pakistan, North America, Northern and western Europe including the UK and Australia who form the third largest population after Pakistani and Indian community there. The situation in Pakistan is getting worse which is becoming a failed state where the rights of the minority are being exploited and hundreds of people are killed. In the last three months, there have been three separate incidents of mass murder of Hazaras in Quetta. The anti-Shia Jundullah group is having hands in killings in Balochistan despite its focus on Iran.
Lord Avebury also assured that he will make a report very soon and send it to the European Union through the Foreign and commonwealth office to exert meaningful pressure on the government of Pakistan to stop the massacre of Hazaras.
Later, the session commenced an interactive debate including the members of media, civil society and Hazara representatives, followed by questions and answer session.