'She has nightmares': Hazara persecution in Afghanistan looms under Taliban rule

The Taliban gave Gulsom two days to leave her home with her husband and three young daughters.

The 25-year-old and her family were one of hundreds of Hazara families who were forcibly evicted from their homes late last month.

“It was very difficult,” Gulsom said in a WhatsApp voice message on Thursday, adding that the Taliban had stolen everything from them.

Both Gulsom and her husband Mohammad, 35, were born and raised in a small village in Daykundi Province, where they grew up as neighbors before they married and raised their families.

The couple, who refused to give their last name or the name of their village for fear of persecution, said they previously relied on subsistence farming to support themselves. With no access to their crops, they said they did not know how they would survive.

“I’m so confused. I can’t sleep,” said Mohammad. “My wife says she has nightmares every night.”

A photo taken by Mohammad allegedly shows Hazara families in Afghanistan’s Daykundi province leaving their homes after being ordered to vacate their homes by the Taliban earlier this month.Obtained from NBC News

The family has temporarily found shelter in the vacant apartment of a relative in the capital, Kabul. They also borrowed a small amount of money from a friend to pay for food.

But her relative plans to sell the property, and after that, Mohammad said, he “cannot predict the future”.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi told NBC News that there had been a dispute over the land where Golsum, Mohammad and other Hazara families lived and that a Sharia or Islamic law court had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. As a result, they left, he said.

But the human rights activist Dr. Saleem Javed said the Taliban used Sharia law to justify taking over the long-held Hazara land.

“These people lived on their ancestral land,” said Javed, a Hazara who lives in Sweden. “Everyone knows that these areas are Hazaras,” he added.

Javed, who has followed Taliban actions in Hazara villages with other activists, estimates that at least 1,500 families have been evicted from their homes in Afghanistan’s Daykundi and Urugzan provinces, although he said the number could be double.

Since many of them are dependent on subsistence agriculture, the situation could be “catastrophic”.

“These people are simple farmers, villagers. You have no way of making money, ”he said. “These countries and villages, they belong to them … But the Taliban ignore that.”

Amnesty International’s Daniel Balson said he also knew hundreds of Hazara families had been evicted from their homes but had no way of knowing how many were evicted.

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He also warned that Hazara families would not only lose their livelihoods, but would also have to contend with falling temperatures in winter.

“It’s going to be very cold soon,” he said. “Many of these people who are being driven from their homes, their lands, their villages, will be cut off from their only livelihood, and they will be exposed to the elements in a very real life-or-death path.”

The evictions come after weeks of warnings from the United Nations and rights groups that Hazaras and other minority groups could be persecuted by the Taliban.

The Hazaras are a predominantly Shiite Muslim ethnic minority and make up about 9 percent of the country’s total population of 40 million people. corresponding the non-governmental organization Minority Rights Group International.

Hazara men are traveling in a three-wheeled vehicle on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan earlier this month. Aamir Qureshi / AFP – Getty Images

The majority of Afghans are ethnic Pashtuns and Sunni Muslims who do not consider the Shiites to be true members of the Islamic faith.

As a result, the Hazara community was brutally suppressed by the Taliban before the hardline regime was overthrown by the US-led invasion in 2001. Hazaras are also frequently attacked by the Islamic State terrorist group, which they consider heretics, and other Sunni Muslim militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The Taliban massacred thousands of Hazara in the 1990s,” said Azra Jafari, a Hazara activist and politician who made history in 2008 after becoming Afghanistan’s first woman mayor. She added that Hazaras had remained “the main target of the Taliban” for the past 20 years.

After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, Amnesty International said in a report that 13 members of the Hazara community, including a teenage girl, were killed by the group. Nine are said to have been government soldiers who surrendered, the report said.

Karimi denied that the Taliban were behind the killings, but said they were investigating the allegations. Other Taliban members have been “punished for violating the general amnesty” offered by the leadership of the group when it came to power, he said.

However, Javed said he feared the evictions are part of the Taliban’s method of “testing” how much they can get through before the international community intervenes.

If the group were not sanctioned, he said, they would go back to their old ways.

Gulsom and Mohammad also said they were disappointed with the silence of the international community amid their suffering.

“I am stunned that big nations, big media companies and even our neighboring countries have kept silent,” said Mohammad. “No country has even taken a stand or exerted pressure on the Taliban.”

“Why should we be so oppressed?” he said. “Aren’t we the people of Afghanistan?”

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