On the tragic incident in Kabul on Saturday 23rd July 2016 at least 80 people have been killed and hundreds injured after two suicide bombers struck a peaceful demonstration, in which the people of Afghanistan were exercising their democratic rights and peacefully protesting in thousands. What was meant to be a peaceful protest, turned into one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan’s modern history.
The victims of the protest were from the Hazara ethnic group. The Ethnic Hazaras are a distinct ethno-religious group residing in Afghanistan, who have faced systematic discrimination in the country because of their religious belief and physical appearance.
The demonstration took place as a result of the most recent and noticeable discrimination against Hazaras. This is the government’s decision to reroute the 500kV transmission power line through Salang instead of Bamiyan, as initially agreed. This clearly indicates a policy of deprivation towards the central parts of Afghanistan from national projects.
The decision in May has led to unprecedented waves of discontent and demonstrations in/out of Afghanistan in the last three months. The first demonstration in Kabul on 16 May 2016 was one of the biggest civic protests in recent Afghan history. It led to an unparalleled level of public debate around social justice, equitable development and rights of communities, a great indication of Afghanistan’s democratic transformation in the past fifteen years. Unfortunately, the Afghan government has insisted on its decision to re-route the grid through Salang pass and not Bamiyan as initially proposed.
The Hazara communities around the world believe that the National Unity Government of Afghanistan (NUG) neglected its responsibility to provide the necessary security during the demonstration and should take full responsibility for its shortcomings. There is a strong speculation amongst the Hazara community that the NUG government or certain groups within the government are directly or indirectly involved in the twin suicide bombings in Kabul in order to stop further demonstrations and civil right movements.
In the last 15 years, the Hazaras have overwhelmingly supported the international community in Afghanistan and they have been more actively involved in the democratic process when compared to other ethnic groups. Despite such positives it seems as if the Afghan government and the international community have ignored the Hazaras and are not willing to listen to their legitimate demands off being treated equally, not as a second-class citizens. In the last 3 months, the Hazara community has attempted to appeal to the international community by sending letters and organizing demonstrations in Afghanistan and across the globe in more than 20 countries in order to put pressure on the Afghan government to change its discrimination policy towards Hazarars. The government’s refusal to change their decision, despite national discontent, has led to the tragic incident on Saturday 23rd July.
Genarally the Hazaras support the continuation of the National Unity Government despite its shortcomings and considers the country’s democratic stability in the interest of the Afghan people and the international community. However, this support does not mean that the Hazaras would compromise their legitimate demands and rights; the Hazaras will not be silenced in the face of government’s active discrimination and prejudice against the community.
The World Hazara Council urges the international community to put pressure on the Afghan government to respond to the civic demands of the Hazara community regarding the electricity grid before the situation further deteriorates. Responding to the legitimate demands of the people will increase public trust in the government, ensure long-term stability, and shrink the space for spoilers. The Council, based on its understanding of the community and its extensive network around the world, believes that ethnic-Hazaras would not follow their politions when they compromise their collective interests and citizen rights.
The Hazara community does not trust the Afghan government in light of recent events. The suspicion of our community builds further since the post-incident reaction of the government was only symbolic. For instance, in the past where smaller incidents took place the government had discharged high-ranking officials. However, the security service, which was responsible for the security of the demonstration, have not been criticized or discharged by the government. In light of this, the World Hazara Council requests for an independent committee consisting of national and international experts to investigate the tragic incident that took place on 23rd of July 2016.
World Hazara Council
28 July 2016