By Tameem Hekmat Herawi Moslih
Afghanistan is a land inhabited by numerous peoples from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The tapestry of this multi-ethnic land includes Uzbek, Pashtun, Hazara, Tajiks, Baluch, and various other groups. At an ideological level, the people of Afghanistan overwhelmingly share a single religion, namely Islam in its Sunni and Shia variations. There are, however, a very small minority of Hindus, as well. Indeed, the land now known as Afghanistan has been home to some of the world’s largest and long-lasting religions such as Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism. In short, Afghanistan, anciently known as Ariana and renowned as Khorasan in the Medieval period, has an old, rich, diverse and fascinating history of peoples, cultures, faiths, and struggles. However, the colorful tapestry of Afghanistan, an envy of any nation under normal circumstances, has had to stand the test of time by enduring foreign interference and invasions, meddling by neighboring countries, and the self-serving politics of its political elites through the ages.
Contemporary Western imperialism makes much by way of mischief about the multi-ethnic nature of Afghanistan. Much of what is written in the West is politically motivated, aimed at creating divisions. This is equally true of historical accounts provided by the country’s neighbors. Amongst all the untruth, outright lies and blatant fabrications is the slur made against the country’s most native of all ethnic groups, the Hazaras. This slur is also occasionally regurgitated by elites that purport to represent the interests of other ethnic groups within the country. At its core, it is the claim that the Hazaras of Afghanistan are the descendants of the invading armies of Genghis Khan, the Mongolian leader and warrior. This is a claim completely unfounded and without any evidence. It is anachronistic and fallacious. Yet, it speaks volumes about one of the reasons for the country’s lack of progress as a modern nation. Almost unique amongst the countries of the world, Afghanistan has, for complex reasons, a self-hating and degrading habit of attributing its cultural and historical heritage to others. The charlatanry of its so-called educated class bears much responsibility for this. The biggest victims of this complex is the alienated and demonized Hazara population.
The Hazaras of Afghanistan are an ancient people that inhabited this central Asian region for centuries before the arrival of the so-called ‘Aryan waves’. That wave included the ancestors of modern-day Tajiks, Pashtuns and Baluchis. In the rich and colorful tapestry of this land, the Hazaras form the very first patterns, shapes, colors and textures. Throughout the ages, they have made an enormous contribution to the history of the land. This contribution is not merely limited to the working ethos and resilience of the Hazaras but spans into such diverse fields as empire building, literature, and the preservation of cultural and religious heritage. Atrociously, though, their contribution, has often been denied or erased from official historical accounts. The 19th century witnessed the worst of these genocides against the Hazaras of Afghanistan. During the reign of Emir Abdur Rahman (1880-1901), tens of thousands of Hazaras were persecuted, slaughtered, imprisoned, tortured and enslaved, and just as many were driven out of their homes and their native land. Those who were driven eastward to India inhabit what is now known as Pakistan. In fact, the Hazaras of Pakistan are originally the very same indigenous Hazaras of Afghanistan. The 20th century saw little improvement in the plight of this persecuted people. Today, too, they continue to be neglected by successive Western puppet regimes, and targeted by foreign-backed groups aiming at civil unrest.
It is the opinion of this writer that Afghanistan will never be at peace with itself, nor prosper, for as long as it fails to right the wrongs committed against its Hazara population. It is true that the entire population of Afghanistan has been ravaged by invasions, war and the meddling of neighbors. Yet if time-span, depth of prejudice and breadth of atrocity are a measure, the Hazaras are without a doubt the most affected, oppressed and persecuted people of this war-ravaged country. Their plight must be addressed for any future progress. Yet doing so requires historical consciousness and social conscience, neither of which are exhibited by the current mob of so-called elites and representatives who parasitically feed off Western imperialist powers occupying the country. Hope lies in the emergence of a new wave of domestic, local, and independent leaders who set social justice as the basis for the unity of all the common masses across all ethnic groups. Here, leadership requires the deliberate and constant differentiation between the parasitical elites purporting to represent their ethnic people, and the people themselves. The new wave of leaders must expose the fraudulent elites without resorting to prejudice against or generalizations about any particular ethnic group.
The aim, ultimately, must be the creation of genuine national unity in an organic fashion, from bottom up, empowering the masses across the ethnic spectrum and hence isolating and making the self-interested elites redundant. The task of righting past wrongs against the indigenous people of the land is absolutely integral to such a path towards national unity.