A Message From GIRoA

(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxlhetdtMKY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcSB6KuXSMk

This video was produced in 2007 and is very well done.

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About hotmilkforbreakfast

I am a researcher, a writer, a former soldier, an academic and a lifelong learner. All text and pictures are copyrighted and are not to be used without express permission of the author.
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5 Responses to A Message From GIRoA

  1. Pingback: A Message From GIRoA | hotmilkforbreakfast

  2. Zok says:

    How appropriate. Pajhwok just reported today the following:

    Badakhshan University students boycott classes
    by Pajhwok ReportonOct 15, 2012 – 17:56

    KUNDUZ CITY (PAN): About 500 students of Badakhshan University, supporting the renaming of the Kabul Education University after Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, boycott classes on Monday.

    In response to a Cabinet recommendation, President Hamid Karzai issued a decree last month, renaming the university after Rabbani, the Jamiat-i-Islami party head and the government’s chief negotiator who was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on Sept. 20, 2011

    Students removed education, agriculture and literature faculties’ plaques and vowed to continue their boycott till their demand was met.

    The rest at
    http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2012/10/15/badakhshan-university-students-boycott-classes

    • If I were really, really cynical I might point out that Pajhwok is a Pashtun-owned, controlled and the very least, a Pashtun-“sympathetic” outlet. And that their reporting of this might be indicative of ethnic politics in action. But that would be only if I were really cynical.

  3. Karl says:

    A true joy to read through your posts. Too many don’t care or even try to “get it.” It seems to me you are doing a hell of a good job grasping the local dynamics and thus implications of what is done. The care-free “it doesn’t matter” attitude of the systemic presence is what gets me angry every time I have been in Afghanistan. Nothing matters and if it turns out it does, it can be white-washed in meaningless reports that show how great the report-writer is “impacting” Afghanistan in less than a year. So tired of the lack of accountability in ISAF as well as aid and development. The Italian officer you describe in relation to “no ethnic politics” being one golden standard. Other examples of course being equally reductionist explanations such as “it is all about money” or “it is all about ethnicity” or “it is all about [insert sweeping statement here]”.

    Anyway, sorry for the semi-rant. Thanks and keep up the interesting observations.

    • Thanks, Karl. I have some extremely talented folks with me that help develop those observations.

      As for caring, there I times I wish that I didn’t care as much as I do. There is lots of personal pain and anguish involved with caring for Afghanistan and Afghans in particular.

      Again, thanks.

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