I spent the night outside the Donner Pass town of Truckee. After 12 days on the California coast, it was surprising to see there was still plenty of snow in late June. I took the sharp right north on I-80 into Nevada—past Reno, Fernley, and landed in God-forsaken Winnemucca, where I stayed in one of the hemisphere’s ugliest RV parks. After dinner at possibly the greasiest Mexican restaurant ever, I walked through downtown, which had the saddest little strip of casinos in the (...)
Officially sanctioned genocide in Afghanistan?
By Mohammad Amin Wahidi assisted by Kabulpress.org staff
Wednesday 13 August 2008, by
Several weeks ago, a horde of well-armed Kochie nomads, probably assisted by Afghan-government supported Taliban fighters secreted over the Pakistani border, wrecked farms, burned homes, murdered men, women and children, and killed livestock in the Hazara heartland of Beshood. This brazen attack and the profoundly distressing situation surrounding it have been virtually neglected by the English language press, perhaps overshadowed by the Olympics and Russia’s similarly grievous attack on the nation of Georgia.
Demonstrations in Kabul and various foreign capitals, have tried to focus international attention on this assault, which reveals some of the most negative aspects of the West-supported Afghan administration. Given the many billions of dollars and lives destroyed or interrupted in the West’s military and civilian efforts to assist in bringing peace and justice to Afghanistan, the history and facts in this case bear intense scrutiny by all nations concerned about the future of Afghanistan and its impact on world affairs.
The Drug Cartel and Ethnic Discrimination in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been drowning in different social and political crises for decades. It has been occupied for seven years by international armies and consultants, but Afghanistan’s structure is still very fragile, so even the slightest, unexpected event could destroy it.
Most of the unsolved problems are the product of issues like poverty, illiteracy, and instability. They have resulted from discrimination and injustice by Afghanistan’s various governments. However, deliberate actions and inadvertent mistakes by the current government have increased the problems.
There is substantial ethnic discrimination and corruption in Afghanistan’s administration, which is sanctioned by teams assembled by President Karzai, himself. There is no apparent effort to solve this problem. The government lacks accountability and responsibility. Efforts by the international community are met by official roadblocks, so their work is severely hampered.
Afghanistan’s Eastern and Southern provinces are becoming the exclusive domain of drug lords and their opium poppy plantations. This problem increases daily, because senior government officials, including provincial governors appointed by the president and the president’s family members, lead Afghanistan’s drug cartel. Therefore, there are few, if any, serious efforts made by the government to eradicate opium cultivation because the government does not cut its own hands.
Additionally, Taliban insurgents fortify themselves using drug money earned in their partnership with the government. The drug money finances the fight against the people of Afghanistan and the international community, which then increases the need for troops in our country, and enables a longer and larger disruptive military presence. This sucks up money that should be used to improve infrastructure, support education, grow an honest judiciary, create seed money for small businesses, and provide urgently needed medical care.
The anti-drug cartel Hazaras
Of all Afghan regions, the central highlands of the country, the Hazarajaat, has been the most peaceful, and therefore somewhat ignored by the soldiers and NGOs. Its people are primarily farmers and livestock herders and have cooperated with the government and international agencies in the democratizationof the country. Its current governor is the first woman governor in the history of Afghanistan.
These people, instead of cultivating opium to support terrorism and war, have been planting wheat, vegetables, and potatoes to develop products needed by Afghanistan to build an honest, democratic economy.
Because of its peaceful, cooperative attitude, Hazarajaat shows great potential for attracting reconstruction and re-development efforts and money. But unfortunately Karzai’s government has discriminated against Hazarajaat. For example, the reconstruction of the Kabul-Bamyan-Herat highway, promised by the Karzai government, which could improve tourism and shorten distances between the western provinces, the central highlands, and Kabul, has not been implemented after almost four years.
The ancient site of Bamyan with its abundance of cultural, historical and natural treasures is capable of luring travelers from all around the world, even though its famous Buddahs were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. However it has not been re-constructed, nor has its infrastructure been properly developed, which hinders tourism development in this comparatively peaceful part of the country.
Imposing war against the Hazaras; crisis brought to Hazarajaat
The Hazaras in Afghanistan are great supporters of democracy and social justice, because they are tools to help eliminate the discrimination they, as a people, have suffered for too many years. Among the Hazaras, education and freedom for women, involvement of women in social and political issues, and literacy for all, are being pursued more ambitiously than in any other part of Afghanistan.
This openness has marked them by autocratic fundamentalists throughout Central Asia and certain Arab countries as Afghanistan’s historic victims who have suffered discrimination, oppression, torture, obligatory displacements, and genocide for at least for one and half centuries.
The Taliban always considered the Hazaras to be one of their main enemies. Under Taliban rule, the Hazaras faced genocide for the second time in modern history. This genocide was a continuation of the same genocide they faced in 1880s and 90s by Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, the Pashtoon tyrant king who killed 62 % of the Hazara population and forced many to flee to neighboring countries.
The Hazaras have always opposed the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan’s political arena, but since the Karzai administration needs the Taliban’s ethnic support, the return of the Taliban is continually supported by the government. The vigorous opposition of the Hazaras to this policy explains the administration’s on-going anti-Hazara discrimination.
As the elections draw nearer, this discrimination has become distressingly bloody. The government wants to destroy the Hazara opposition to the Taliban and thereby cement its criminal management of Afghanistan. So the Taliban has received direct and indirect support of the government to weaken the Hazaras in political, social and economic arenas.
Given the basic ethnic tribal structure of Afghanistan, it is essential for the government to assist and unite every ethnic group to create a strong, just nation.
The Karzai administration, has failed in this unification effort. However, to fortify its power, it has adopted a policy of impunity for the Taliban, in support of the Pashtoons. This occurs, despite five years of crimes against humanity the Taliban have committed since the arrival of coalition forces.
The Taliban, who should have been prosecuted and tried for war crimes, are shielded by the current Afghan government. It encourages the international military in Afghanistan to fight Taliban insurgents. On the other hand, it allocates large sums of money to the “forgiveness commission,” which releases Taliban from prison and pays them large amounts of money as compensation. The released Taliban misuse these favors, then return to the front lines to battle against the government, Afghan civilians, and coalition soldiers.
This is not the end of the traitorous deals. The government also supports the Taliban’s opium production with drug-related deals involving senior governmental officials including family members of the president in Kandahar. These people get rich off the drug trade, and when it finally blows up in their face, will escape to their villas in the Mediterranean, California, New York, and the Washington, D.C. suburbs, protected by big bank accounts in Switzerland, the US and Dubai.
Next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections are forcing the Karzai administration to seek Taliban support, while encouraging ethnic conflict to distract normally peaceful, democratic regions from the electoral process.
Taliban attacks on Hazaras in the name of the Kochies (nomads)
Within last two to three years, using the name of The Kochies (Nomads) the Taliban have begin their attacks on Hazarajaat by the support of specific senior governmental officials within the Karzai administration team as a result they have killed people and livestock, burnt many houses, schools, and forced thousands of people including the women, the elderly and children to obligatory displacement in Behsood district Maidan Wardak province.
Who are the Kochies (nomads)?
The Kochies or the “nomads” are the poor and misfortunate people who have been kept illiterate and vagabond for years and years by Pashtoon politicians and are often misused for political purposes by them, even if these purposes harm the identity and the reputation of the Kochies.
During 1880s and 90s when the Hazaras faced genocide and obligatory displacement by Abdul Rahman Khan the tyrant king, he used the Kochies to pressure the Hazaras and issued a decree that permitted Kochies to be armed with guns and pistols. He also granted them the right to use Hazara land for summer grazing their animals.
This has caused the Hazaras substantial agricultural and economic loss every year since. During the Taliban’s rule, these nomads, using the power and influence of the Taliban even received taxes from Hazarajaat.
This agricultural land had been the only livelihood of the Hazaras for hundreds of years. And it had been taken without compensation by an armed group—as a genocidal tool, against all international human rights conventions.
Thinly covered Hazara lands cannot sustain nomadic over-grazing.
Disadvantages of nomadic life style for modern Afghanistan
We live in the twenty-first century, in 2008 when the world is rapidly advancing. Nomadic life that descends upon settled communities with armed violence, disrespect of law, and abuse of resources only hinders the improvement in the quality of life sought by productive, settled communities seeking the rule of law, not the AK-47.
Afghanistan currently suffers from the empowerment of religious extremists fueled by waves of violent insurgents over Pakistan’s weak border. The Kochis are supported and encouraged by these foreign insurgents to attack the more progressive Hazaras, adding to the already unstable situation in Afghanistan. The uncontrolled ravaging of the Hazara grazing lands also creates major environmental problems of erosion and loss of an important natural resource to Afghanistan.
It is time for the disarmament of the Kochies, which is the law for other Afghan ethnic groups. Article no. 22 of the Afghan constitution prohibits any discrimination and distinction among Afghan citizens, and says that all share the same rights and responsibilities according to law.
It is time to seek a permanent solution to the nomads’ issue by settling them in appropriate locations provided by the government based on article no. 14 of the Afghan Constitution that obliges the government to assist the Kochies to settle in a permanent location. The Kochis have been assigned permanent, productive lands, but they are also happy to graze their herds on the lands of others, if they can get away with it.
Kochis should not be settled in a land that has been populated by another ethnic group for many hundreds of years, especially lands held by an ethnic group in opposition to certain government policies. This must not be a political decision favoring the current ruling powers. The evergreen land of Mashriqi the eastern provinces and the tropical southern provinces which have a lot of forests and greenery is a suitable place for the permanent location of the Kochies.
Additionally, all discriminating decrees and documents that were issued more than a century ago for the purpose of genocide and obligatory displacement of the Hazaras in Afghanistan should be immediately rescinded.
A call to action against Genocide in Afghanistan
The Society of Afghans in Italy is forming a “committee to protest genocide and obligatory displacement in Afghanistan”, condemn the discriminating attitude of president of Afghanistan with this issue which was rooted from wrong counseling of his surrounding team.
This committee requests that the government of Afghanistan, the UNAMA office in Afghanistan and the other delegation offices of international community member states in Afghanistan not ignore this genocide and to seek a solution of this issue with clarity, transparency, and justice.
We ask these governments to firmly petition the Afghan government for the absolute annulment of the discriminating decrees from more than a century back that causes violence and extends ethnic enmity, bloodshed, genocide and obligatory displacement of people in certain parts of Afghanistan.
We hope this committee would continue its struggles and efforts for the realization of social justice in Afghanistan. We welcome the cooperation of all nations in expressing outrage and the violence supported and enabled by greedy drug cartel which has no desire to improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan and have them take a rightful place in the modern world.
Hazara filmmaker and blogger in exile (Milan – Italy)