The United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday, formally ending its 20-year war in the country.
But Afghan-Canadians on Vancouver Island say the war isn’t over, and more needs to be done to protect vulnerable groups, including the Hazaras.
Madina Azizi has been watching the events unfold in Afghanistan, growing increasingly worried for her family back home.
She’s Hazara and Shia Muslim, minority groups that have long been targeted, tortured, and killed in Afghanistan.
“We’re feeling very scared. We’re living in fear right now just as our family members are living in fear back in Afghanistan,” she said. “Whatever has happened so far, the worst is yet to come.”
The war in Afghanistan was America’s longest war that is likely to be remembered for colossal failures, unfulfilled promises, and a frantic final exit that cost the lives of about 200 people.
With the Taliban tightening its grip on Afghanistan, Azizi fears what might happen to Hazaras, who she says aren’t being protected.
“Right now, the situation is very tense because for Hazara people, you can look at our face and you can tell we’re Hazara. Our face is a description enough for you to know that we’re Hazara and that is target enough for the Taliban to attack us,” she said.
She said she feels helpless and doesn’t know what to do. Her family back home is staying put and waiting anxiously.
“They don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t even know what the next hour will bring. They are telling us the Taliban have gone from home to home to mark down the names of the people who belong to different faiths, who are Hazaras,” she said.
Rabia Latif Khan, who studied Hazara ethnic consciousness at SOAS University of London, said it’s understandable why the group feels terrified for their future.
“There was a massacre in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Several thousand Hazara civilians were killed in a matter of days by the Taliban,” she explained.
“In 2001, there was a massacre in Bamyan province which is majority Hazara as well. And the United Nations found mass graves in Bamyan in 2002. So, this is very recent history and this was under Taliban rule so you can understand why people are very concerned about the future prospects of Hazaras in Afghanistan. And yet, there seems to be little part on the Taliban to reassure the Hazara community that they’ve changed,” she continued.
Khan explained that the discrimination Hazaras have faced in the country can be traced back to the 1800s when King Abdur Rahman Khan ordered the massacre of Hazara Shia Muslims, which led to thousands of Hazaras being killed and others being captured and sold as slaves.
“For a lot of Hazaras, there is a feeling that religion was used as a kind of scapegoat because it’s more to do with racism and discrimination coming from their ethnic identity as people who are seen as being of Turkic Mongol background,” Khan said.
She also explained that after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Hazaras were granted more freedom and thrived in academia.
She suspects their growing brainpower is another reason for being targeted.
“They don’t even have to do anything wrong. They can completely abide by the Taliban rule and still, they’ll be a target. Still, they’ll be killed for no reason — for just the way they look,” Azizi said.
Azizi said she remains hopeful and urges the federal government to protect vulnerable groups like the Hazaras, as well as help, resettle more Afghans and provide humanitarian aid.
With files from The Associated Press