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Hazara Asylum Seekers from Afghanistan: the increasing dangers they would face if they return

The escalation of violence experienced in Afghanistan throughout 2017 has continued through 2018, both (a) the territorial war between insurgents (“Anti Government Elements”) and the Afghanistan Security Forces (supported by the remaining Coalition forces) and (b) locally targeted violence.

Sectarian violence, in particular targeting the Shia population, made up almost exclusively of ethnic Hazaras, has risen even further than before. In particular the October and November 2018 coordinated Taleban attack on the Hazara population of the Hazarajat, the mountainous central region previously erroneously designated as a “safe Hazara stronghold”, has cost many lives and sent thousands fleeing in search of safety. Meanwhile Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented the worsening situation and called for a moratorium on forced return of Afghanistan asylum seekers who have reached Europe.  This reality is documented in the recent (February 2019) update on the danger facing Hazaras if they return to Afghanistan. The report adds to the chorus of voices appealing for repeal of the current cruel and internationally illegal policies.

The deterioration of the situation over the past 7 years has been documented in a series of more than a dozen papers by Dr Graeme Swincer OAM, beginning with a comprehensive overview in September 2012. Recent updates have highlighted the humanitarian catastrophe occurring as a direct result of the flawed policies of European and Australian governments to deport thousands of Afghan Asylum Seekers to the danger from which they fled – adding to the social crisis already existing as a result of a combination of a burgeoning flood of internal displacements, now more than a million people, and unprecedented numbers of forced deportations from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. The April 2018 update cites high quality BBC research showing that the Taleban are now openly active in 70% of the country. In addition the Afghanistan affiliate of Islamic State is expanding its presence and playing an increasing role in high profile violence. That report highlights the marked upsurge in attacks on gatherings of Hazaras in Kabul and other cities.

A related paper, “Mazar-e Sharif as a Relocation Venue for Deported Asylum Seekers” published in March 2017 challenges the Australian government’s contention that this city would be safe and viable for forced returnees.

The  following is a list all papers:

Hazaras in the Crosshairs under the microscope


A recent paper published by the Afghan Analysts Network: “Hazaras in the Crosshairs? A scrutiny of recent incidents” [1] by Qayoom Suroush has stirred up a great deal of discussion in Afghanistan. The detailed analysis is prefaced by a summary:

“Eight abductions of groups of people have been reported since late February by officials, activists or media as having targeted ethnic Hazaras. The first was also the biggest: the abduction of 31 bus passengers in Zabul on 23 February 2015. Other crimes ‘against Hazaras’ have been reported from Ghazni, Farah, Daikundi and Balkh. AAN’s Qayoom Suroush has been examining the incidents in detail to see if there is a new trend of targeting this ethnic group. He finds much of the reporting has been full of mistakes with assumptions relayed as fact. With the possible exception of the Zabul mass abduction, he finds little to back up a notion of a new trend of ethnic targeting, but does say the reporting points to how vulnerable many Hazaras feel. [emphasis added]

It is known that the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is using this paper as a source of “adverse information” to present to Hazara asylum seekers as possible justification for denying them Australian protection. A recent DIBP communication states:

“This article indicates that in spite of the fears of Hazaras, there is no current evidence Hazaras are being systematically targeted in Afghanistan. The exception appears to be the recent Zabul abduction, but those taken have been kidnapped rather than killed, and the goal of the kidnappers remains unclear.” 

Click here to read or download this paper.

Tajiks and their security in Afghanistan

The plight of Tajiks in Afghanistan should be understood against the situation of the Hazaras. The Hazaras of Afghanistan are justifiably famous as the most persecuted people group in the world. The Taliban and their fellow travellers such as the Laskar-e-Janghvi are extremist Sunni Muslims and they regard the Hazaras, who are generally Shia Muslims, as infidels and therefore worthy of death. In Afghanistan the Taliban are derived from members of the majority Pashtun ethnic group.
Hazaras are also hated because of their participation in the so called Northern Alliance which resisted the Taliban from 1996 to 2001. They are especially vulnerable to targeted violence because of (a) their mongoloid features which make them easily identifiable on sight and (b) their traditional commitment to gathering for Shia ceremonies such as the annual celebration of Ashura Day.

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