(Note to the reader: GIRoA is the acronym that means the “Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” which is Afghanistan’s proper name.)
Sometimes, I am amazed at the sheer audacity of the current regime running Afghanistan. Evidently, they really believe they can get away with anything they want. It is my estimation that the Pashtun-dominated government is hedging its bets on a post-2014 Civil War by engineering conflicts among non-Pashtun ethnic groups within Afghanistan.
The Afshar massif from Kabul
On “Massoud Day” this year (9 September), which is the day when most Afghans observe the assassination of the “Lion of Panjshir”, the Government of Afghanistan announced the renaming of Talim-e Tarbia University to Rabbani University.
Seems like an innocent, reasonable thing, right? After all, many Afghans see Ahmad Shah Massoud as a heroic figure. And Burhanuddin Rabbani was, when he was assassinated last year, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, a former president of Afghanistan, and therefore certainly worthy of having a university named after him.
The residents of Afshar know exactly who they are
The problem, of course, is that of context. Talim-e Tarbia University is located in an ethnic minority neighborhood known as “Afshar” in Kabul. The minority that lives here is known as “Hazara”, is ethnically Chinese or Mongolian and have been treated poorly by Pashtuns and Tajiks throughout Afghan history. Up to and including state-sanctioned genocide against Hazara.
The view from Afshar looking down into Kabul
On 10-11 February 1993, then-Afghan president Rabbani ordered Minister of War Massoud and a fellow military commander Sayyaf to attack the Afshar neighborhood in order to defeat the largely Hazara Hazb-e Wahdat military group and to capture their leader, Abdul Ali Mazari.
One of the few photographs showing the actual massacre. Note the age and ethnicity of those being killed
During those two days, Rabbani/Massoud/Sayyaf’s forces went far beyond the military defeat of Hezb-e Wahdat forces, and their actions that followed became known among certain circles as the “Afshar Massacre” with up to 1000 men, women and children being murdered in cold blood, with many reports of rape and burning of houses.
So, the naming of a University in this neighborhood after a man that many Hazara see as a war criminal is at best, insensitive. But I don’t think this is insensitivity at all. I think this is a message of warning by the current regime, aimed directly at Hazara, who are gaining power, in that they are growing rapidly in population and in power, as they are becoming the most educated and employed demographic in Afghanistan. It also again pits the Tajiks against the Hazara, as Rabbani was Tajik.
The view from the base of Afshar looking up.
This is not the first time the government of Afghanistan has pulled something like this; In 2010, after some nomadic “Kuchi” desecrated Hazara graves and fired on Hazara who confronted them in the Southwest of Kabul, the government of Afghanistan dispatched police to “respond” to the problem. When the police arrived on the scene, they responded to the armed Kuchi versus unarmed Hazara protesters by shooting on and killing several Hazara. Luckily for the Hazara, the commander of the local Afghan National Army base rolled out his soldiers, who arrested the police who had fired on the unarmed protesters.
In June 2012, an “Ethnographic Atlas of Non-Pashtun Ethnic Groups of Afghanistan,” was published by the government-appointed Afghanistan Academy of Science.
In that government-produced tome, many interesting statements were made, including: “The Hazaras are liars, dishonest, and unreliable people… Bodies of their women are hairless except on the head. The Hazaras are the sons of Mongol Khans living in the mountains of Afghanistan. These people [know] nothing except fighting.” The book also described the Hazaras as “rafizi” — worse than infidels.
After a public outcry, the government dismissed the person responsible, but it still remains; people in high positions of power within Afghan government circles still see Hazara in this way. And many people believe that the government does these things purposefully, and only responds with firings and apologies when caught.
This is less about the Hazara people and more about what will happen once ISAF leaves in 2014.
Friend Nawab sent me the following two YouTube video clips. They are a good recounting of what is behind most of these things.
This video was produced in 2007 and is very well done.