Nationwide protests against the genocide of the Hazara people
Report by Yadullah Haidari & Marziya Mohammadi
On the morning of 1st October 2011, thousands of Australian Hazaras marched on the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, denouncing the systematic killings of the Hazara people in Quetta, Pakistan.
The protests across Australia were organised in conjunction with a global protest in opposition to the target killings of ordinary Hazaras, primarily motivated by the gruesome bloodshed of 31 Pilgrims with the banned anti-Shiite militant outfit, Lashkare Jhangavi, claiming responsibility. The incredibly violent attack, unearthing brutal history and envisioning the threatening future sparked a global demonstration against these systematic killings, at the request of Abdul Khaliq Hazara, the chairperson of Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) in Quetta.
In recent years, the Hazara residents of Quetta city’s religious beliefs and ethnicity have subjected them to increasing attacks from extremist groups. The 31 pilgrims in Mastung and the 13 vegetable sellers martyred in two consecutive weeks being amongst the most striking and current besieges. Statistics show that over the last three years, more than 700 innocent Hazaras have been killed and another 2000 injured. “The Hazaras we speak to regularly talk of rarely leaving their homes, rarely leaving their neighborhoods, because they know that they’re being targeted,” said Amnesty International’s Mustafa Qadri. He added that “Often they will get death threats over the phone; they will get letters saying that they will be killed. At the moment they’re particularly scared.”
The crowd involved every sector of society ranging from men, women, adolescents to children, all projecting one voice and one aim, that of Hazaras equal right to life.
The protests had two principal intentions: firstly to condemn the vicious attacks on Hazaras in Quetta, and secondly to plead for immediate help from the United Nations, Human Rights organizations, and the Australian government. In addition, for the purpose of public awareness, brochures containing a brief introduction to the history of the Hazara people and their constant abuse of basic rights were distributed.
In Sydney more than three thousand Hazaras marched from Sydney’s City Council building and eventually assembled at Hyde Park. Several Hazara university students and human rights activists presented the demonstrators with speeches. They include Farida Huissaindad, Habiba Roshan, Asif Mohseni, Karim Hekmat, Zobaida Taheri, Zaki Yavari, Gulnaz Beg and Shogofa Zahir. The theme throughout their speeches can be summarized in three parts: Showing empathy and condolences to those directly effected by the recent attacks, asking the world to recognize a genocide, an otherwise silent genocide followed by a condemnation of the Pakistani government for failing to protect its citizens. All the while, highlighting their presence in the global community and demanding their rights to a safe life. They asked the global community, Human Rights organizations and the Australian government to consider the situation of the Hazara people in Pakistan and Afghanistan very closely. At last, Mr Yavari, from the Australian Hazara Federation thanked everyone for their participation, and asked the Australian government to consider a humane and fair policy towards the Hazara asylum seekers who are receiving life threats in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“As a human being, today, I am here to raise my voice for the silent voices of Hazaras being slaughtered in Pakistan” said a protester.
The rainy weather of the day may have been a deterring factor for some, but Melbourne managed to pull more than a thousand Hazaras to their protest near the State Library of Victoria. Firstly, Sahema Saberi, from the Australian Hazara Student Association (SHUUA) spoke about the history of the Hazara people in Pakistan, particularly in Quetta Baluchistan. The second speech came from Zakir Hussain, from the central committee of the Shamama Association, about the systematic killings of the Hazara people in Pakistan dating back to 1999 followed by Farkhonda Akbar Toofan condemning the Pakistani government of failing to address the safety concerns of it’s citizens. Rahmat Yousofi, the next speaker and President of Shammama Association, talked about the political atmosphere in Pakistan, and particularly the state of Baluchistan, including the reasons behind the ongoing attacks on the Hazara minority.
Miss Pamela Curr, a human rights activist and refugee advocate, was the guest speaker acknowledging the widespread persecution of Hazaras in Afghanistan and Pakistan and denouncing the Australian government’s policies towards the Hazara refugees. She mentioned, “As we stand in solidarity, the politicians in Canberra must know that the community is suffering”.
Mr Rezai, the last speaker, firmly asked the crowd for a united and conscious stance against the inhumane and cowardice attacks of terrorists on Hazaras, and urged for sympathy and support toward the Hazaras of Quetta in terms of economic aid and also morale.
A speech by Danial Rezaee, the president of the Australian Hazara Association of Western Australia, initiated the protest in Perth with over a thousand Hazaras gathered in solidarity. Soon after, Ali khan, an active member of the association condemned the ineffectiveness and silence of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s government against the current massacres.
Two of Western Australia’s refugee rights advocate and guest speakers for the day, Victoria Martin and Greg Stitt, sympathized with the Hazaras of Quetta, some of the main victims of extremism and terrorism. They also criticized the Australian government and media for turning a blind eye towards the Hazara refugees who continuously receive life threats in their homeland, and called Australia’s policy towards Hazara refugees inhumane and simply wrong.
Around 200 people gathered at King George Square at Brisbane’s CBD to denounce the genocide of Hazaras in Quetta and ask the international community for a closer and deeper look into the sitiuation. Hassan Ghulam and Hassan Rezaee, executive members of the Hazara Community Association of Queensland, talked about the historical and continuing persecution and plight of the Hazara people in the region.
In addition, Ms. Sandra Bayley, a Green MP for Ashgrove, and Ms. Frederika Steen, a local social worker, criticised the Federal government’s approach towards asylum seekers, especially the mandatory detention policy.
Abdul Khaliq Hazara, the leader of the Hazara Democratic Party in Quetta, also addressed the crowd via telephone. He firmly asked the international community including human rights organizations and particularly the Hazara communities around the globe to raise awareness of the injustices and genocide of the Hazara people in Quetta. He also talked about how life for those in Quetta is narrowed down to absolute fear and blockade.
Victoria Square (Adelaide CBD) marked the starting point of Adelaide’s rally of over two and a half thousand South Australian Hazaras marching down to SA Parliament. Firstly, Mr Rezaee called upon the protestors to remain silent for two minutes in memories of those who were brutally killed in Pakistan. He then praised people’s enormous presence and told them their presence means is the sign of their consciousness for justice and portrays their solidarity with fellow Hazaras in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Then Hussain Rezayat, chairperson of the Australian Hazara Federation, talked about the history of Hazaras and their long-term sufferings. He expressed the Australian Hazaras’ sympathy and solidarity for those of Quetta, and appreciated the people’s widespread participation in the global protest. Furthermore, he pointed out the importance of help from the international community and human rights organizations.
An active member of the Association of Australian Tertiary Students from Afghanistan (AATSA), Marziya Mohammadi, made an emotional speech expressing the unpleasant and fearful position of the Hazara community in Quetta. When? She asked: “when is it ever going to be enough”?. Iqbal Safari, a fellow AATSA member, recited the resolution for the event. The following day, 2nd of October there was also a public funeral held for the martyrs of Quetta between 2-4pm at Wali Asr Centre where more than 300 people attended to pay their deepest condolences.
These series of peaceful protests across Australia was organised by the Australian Hazara Federation in negotiation with the local police for the purpose of security maintenance. At the end, participants from each state signed petitions asking the international community and human rights organisations to intervene and prevent the genocide of the Hazara people. It is painfully obvious that this is quite likely to become the next holocaust, considering the absence of action and subsequent ignorance of the international community. Similar protests were also held in the USA, Canada, most European Countries, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and Afghanistan.