Human Rights

Taliban evict Hazara farmers, give land to powerful Pashtun leaders

By Salaam Times and AFP

image

A Hazara farmer ploughs a field with oxen near the ruins of the historic city of Shahr-e Zuhak on the outskirts of Bamiyan city March 15. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- Residents of a Hazara-dominated farming community in central Afghanistan say they have been ordered out of their homes by Taliban fighters doing the bidding of Pashtun landlords who want to seize their crops and stores.

Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Hazara political leader exiled since the Taliban takeover last month, raised the alarm earlier this week in a letter published on social media.

More than 800 families had been ordered out of their homes in a remote district straddling the provinces of Daikundi and Uruzgan, southwest of Kabul, he said.

Locals contacted by AFP have confirmed the report, and pleaded with authorities to help them.

Discrimination and terror

Comprising roughly 10–20% of Afghanistan's 38-million-person population, the Hazaras are a mostly Shia ethnic minority that has for centuries been persecuted in Sunni majority Afghanistan.

In the last two decades, they have been targeted in particular by the Taliban and "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) militants, who consider them heretics.

Shortly after coming to power again, the Taliban blew up the statue of a Hazara leader whom they killed in 1996.

In May, a terrorist bombing killed more than 80 Hazara schoolgirls in Kabul, one of many such atrocities targeting Hazaras in recent years. Such atrocities ranged from slaughtering mothers in a Kabul maternity ward to murdering passengers on buses that the Taliban halted at checkpoints.

After the Taliban announced their government lineup earlier this month -- which glaringly excluded representatives of Afghanistan's sizeable Shia and Hazara communities -- concern has grown that the group will deepen the social divides in the country.

One local elder told AFP that Taliban fighters in pick-up trucks descended on Gizab district and ordered people out, saying they were living there illegally.

Residents were struggling to find anyone to help them, he said.

"Telecommunications are not working in the village," he added.

Exiled Hazara leader Mohaqiq shared a letter signed by Aminullah Zubair, the Taliban's new Daikundi provincial governor, saying the land belonged to an elder named Haji Zaher.

It said those who disputed this should go to court.

Summary eviction

The Taliban eviction order was effectively a verdict without a trial, said Mohaqiq.

Local villagers say the root of the issue is an attempt by powerful landlords to deprive them of their homes and crops.

One villager -- who asked not to be named -- said they had moved to barren land 40 years ago and turned it into productive farms, growing wheat and almonds.

The Taliban and land claimants arrived earlier this week and ordered them to slaughter a cow in their honour before announcing their eviction, he said.

Earlier this month, thousands of protesters from a neighbourhood populated by former Afghan National Army servicemen marched in Kandahar against plans by the Taliban to expel them from their homes.

Residents of Zara Ferqa, a suburb made up of government housing and ramshackle huts, said they had been ordered to leave by the Taliban, but had nowhere else to go.

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