Hazaras: persecution denounced in the Italian Parliament

The Shiite minority is discriminated both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is time for governments that send humanitarian help to ask that it reaches the Hazaras as well.

By Marco Respinti


Bitter Winter (22.06.2022) – https://bit.ly/3bmbUTj – After its fifteen minutes of fame, following the hasty withdrawal of US troops decided by President Joe Biden, Afghanistan and its sorrows more or less disappeared from the radar of the media. And this helps explain why the violence of the Taliban against religions other than their version of Sunni Islam continues unchallenged after they returned to power on August 15, 2021.

In the mosaic of Afghan troubles, the tragedy of the Hazaras, which Bitter Winter constantly covers —occupies of course a prominent place, but most ignore it altogether.

On June 16, 2022, the case of Hazaras case was discussed by the Standing Committee on Human Rights of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian House of Representatives. It was an important step of international interest, because a government was called to action though a special interest body of its legislative assembly.

As is known, Hazaras are Shiites and are not faring well in Afghanistan, where the majority of the population is Sunni. From the mid-17th century, when their history began in the territories that are present-day Afghanistan, Sunnis have been tormenting them. Today, with the Taliban Sunnis again in power, life has become unbearable and the Hazaras experience a daily martyrdom.

In fact, the ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that is characteristic of the Taliban considers the Shiites to be worse than heretics. For the Taliban, the Shiites are not even Muslims and so, anyone who refuses to “convert”—as the Taliban ask Shiite Muslims to do by becoming Sunni—has to pay a very high price.

In Afghanistan, 397 Hazaras have been killed during attacks under the reign of the Taliban. Of 31 attacks, four are attributable to the Taliban, five to the Afghan branch of the Islamic State (IS-K), and 22 have not been attributed yet.

On June 16 in the Italian Parliament, Mr. Qorbanali Esmaeli, founder and spokesperson of ACAFI, the Cultural Association of Afghans in Italy, and a former political advisor to the Afghan ambassador in Italy, broke the silence on this hidden tragedy.

We ask,” Esmaeli told the House Committee, “a parliamentary resolution that may lead to proper research into the Hazara genocide.”

Important testimonies were given by Mr. Hussain Rezai, founder and director of the Najiba Foundation, a public library located in one of the poorest areas of Afghanistan, and by Ms. Delkha Fayazi, who fought for the rights of women in Aghanistan and left since the Taliban’s return to power, and now lives in Rome.

Amnesty International’s Mr. Zaman Sultani and Claudio Concas, a reseracher at Università Milano Bicocca and Nove Onlus-Caring Humans added relevant contributions.

But why Italy? Because if it does not want to become irrelevant in international politics, Italy cannot now turn a deaf ear to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is increasingly a crossroads of interests, trafficking, and strategies of global reach, constantly under the pressure of invasive regional players such as Pakistan (where Hazaras are also harassed) and global giants such as Communist China.

“Italy must use all the resources and diplomatic tools it has at its disposal to protect the Hazaras,” Mr. Esmaeli says. “Today its Foreign Minister, Mr. Luigi Di Maio, has the historic opportunity to propose himself both as a guarantor and as a spokesperson for the cause of the Hazaras.”

Cooperation is a crucial issue, and this is where local becomes global. “The foreign aid to Afghanistan is not distributed equally,” the ACAFI spokesperson denounced. “The reports we presented in Rome reveal that the Hazaras do not benefit from it because the Taliban government discriminates against them.”

Here is the right lever for the Italian Ministery of Foreign Affairs. It should start and lead a new international approach to the subject, one that would significantly contribute to the freedom and well-being of the Hazaras.

Photo: Hazaras in Central Afghanistan. Credits.


Marco Respinti is the Editor-in-Chief of International Family News. He is an Italian professional journalist, member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), essayist, translator, and lecturer. He has contributed and contributes to several journals and magazines both in print and online, both in Italy and abroad. Author of books, he has translated and/or edited works by, among others, Edmund Burke, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, Russell Kirk, J.R.R. Tolkien, Régine Pernoud and Gustave Thibon. A Senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, a non-partisan, non-profit U.S. educational organization based in Mecosta, Michigan, he is also a founding member as well as Board member of the Center for European Renewal, a non-profit, non-partisan pan-European educational organization based in The Hague, The Netherlands, and a member of the Advisory Council of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief. He serves as Director-in-Charge of the academic publication The Journal of CESNUR and Bitter Winter: A Magazine on Religious Liberty and Human Rights in China.

Further reading about FORB in Afghanistan on HRWF website