UK dispatch: Parliament holds special debate on atrocities against Afghan Hazaras Dispatches
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UK dispatch: Parliament holds special debate on atrocities against Afghan Hazaras

Last Wednesday the UK Parliament held its first-ever debate dedicated to genocide against the Hazaras, a mainly Shia Muslim community in Afghanistan and Pakistan often targeted for their Asiatic features and Mongolian heritage. In the session, held in the Grand Committee Room of Westminster Hall, Paul Bristow, MP for Peterborough and Chair of the All-Party Group, emphasized the significance of the issue and the need for international efforts to bring the ruling Taliban to account for actions taken against Hazaras.

The Hazaras have endured systemic persecution, discrimination, and targeted violence for many years, and constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan, primarily concentrated in the central Hazarajat region of the country. Over the past hundred years, the Hazaras have faced marginalisation, exclusion, and discrimination based on their religious and ethnic identity, all of which increased dramatically under the Taliban after the takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

The Hazaras have been subjected to sustained discrimination in various aspects of life, including education, employment, and political representation. They face prejudice and hostility due to their distinctive physical features, cultural practices, and Shia religious beliefs. Under the Taliban regime, Hazaras are completely marginalised from any political inclusion in Afghanistan. Experts believe that Hazaras have been going through ‘slow-burn genocide’ but under the Taliban regime, there is a high chance there will be a ‘full-blown genocide’ (Oral evidence, Dr Gregory Stanton, 23 May 2022 to the Hazara Inquiry Page 28).

Paul Bristow opened the debate, saying:

For over a century, the Hazara community has suffered from targeted discrimination, persecution and massacres because of their ethnicity and religious sect […] Hazaras cannot hide their ethnicity from aggressors[…] To this day, Hazara areas in Afghanistan remain some of the poorest parts of the country.”

Commenting on the impunity enjoyed by the Taliban, he said:

“To date, not a single perpetrator has ever been brought to justice, and the attacks against the Hazaras have gone without punishment. Enough is enough…”.

Bristow further referred to the constant attacks targeting the Hazara community including in April and May 2021 and September 2022, and said these attacks were “the tip of the iceberg, and it is something that the Hazara community have to live with each and every day in Afghanistan”. 

Also speaking was Mohammed Yasin MP(Labour MP Bedford) who said:

‘The Taliban leadership may have moderated its rhetoric to please the international community […] but it has done nothing to stem the growing number of crimes being committed by its fighters.”, Mr Yassin emphasised the UK must give adequate resources and humanitarian aid.

Jim Shannon MP for Strangford in Ireland and DUP spokesperson for Human Rights said:

Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab) said

“The Hazara community has long faced persecution and attacks in Afghanistan. I represent a large Hazara community in Coventry North West, and I understand how the group has been overlooked and forgotten in the broader understanding of Afghanistan and the wider region.”

The debate also saw a representative from the Foreign Office speak, with the Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office standing.  Andrew Mitchell MP also spoke at the debate, a welcome sign that the Foreign Office were listening and heeding the worrying trend reported on by the All-Party Group of MPs, Peers, NGOs and International Governments who said that the Taliban, as de-facto authorities “have a duty to protect the whole population of Afghanistan for as long as they are in power, and yet” (he said) “they are often the greatest source of the repression”.

Mitchel said the UK Government was taking urgent actions to address the situation and was closely monitor[ing] the human rights situation in Afghanistan and working to press the Taliban to protect Hazaras and other minority groups from terrorist attacks.

He urged the Taliban to engage in a constructive dialogue with all parts of Afghan society and to establish inclusive governance, whilst emphasising that the British Government will continue to work closely with international partners to press the Taliban on our human rights concerns, including the treatment of the Hazara people.

As Paul Bristow finished the session, he said:  “We cannot be silent as this genocide takes place. This is only the start of the campaign.” Assemblies have been set up in the Parliaments of Canada, Sweden and Australia to address the atrocities which are continuing.