Afghan Kidnappers Prey on Hazaras | New York Times

November 23, 2015 | New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — A campaign of kidnappings against the Hazara ethnic group intensified on Saturday as gunmen stopped a number of buses along Afghanistan’s main highway and separated out the Hazara passengers, officials said.

By morning, between 14 and 30 Hazara passengers had been seized along a stretch of Highway 1 in Zabul Province, in the south of the country, and taken away, three security officials said, each citing a different number of kidnapped people.

There have been numerous episodes this year involving Hazara motorists and bus passengers. While some of those kidnapped have been released after negotiations, others have been killed: This month, militants affiliated with the Islamic State are believed to have beheaded seven Hazara captives, among them a 9-year-old girl.

The government’s powerlessness to stop kidnappings along the country’s main highway — or to return the captives to safety — presents a growing political crisis to the presidency of Ashraf Ghani, just over a year old. After the seven captives were killed this month, thousands of mostly Hazara protesters carried the coffins to the presidential palace, in what was the largest political demonstration in Kabul in years. Guards shot and wounded as many as 10 protesters as some of them scaled walls to enter a palace parking lot.

It was not known whether the Islamic State or the Taliban were behind the kidnappings on Saturday. Both organizations have targeted Hazaras in the past.

“Security forces are investigating the case and will find out who kidnapped them,” Assadullah Kakar, a member of Zabul’s provincial council, said on Saturday.

A driver of one of the buses that were stopped, who gave his name as Shawali, said that six or seven militants climbed aboard and began pulling Hazara passengers out of their seats.

“They were very angry and treating passengers like animals,” he said. “They were telling passengers not to talk as they eagerly looked for Hazara people.”

Just last month, the top American general in Afghanistan, John F. Campbell, testified to a House committee about the state of security in Afghanistan and claimed that Afghans “continue to have, as I said, freedom of movement on Highway 1.”

But for Hazaras, bus trips down that highway are a source of dread. This year alone, as many as 31 Hazaras were abducted in a single episode, said Hassan Raza Yusufi, a Hazara member of the provincial council in Ghazni, which sits along Highway 1. Mr. Yusufi said there had been at least five other kidnappings of Hazaras along the portion of Highway 1 between Kabul and Kandahar this year.

“We blame the government for not taking enough security measures on the highways to protect its people,” Mr. Yusufi said.

The government’s poor record of securing the release of kidnapped Hazaras is another sign of its limited — and receding — authority in parts of the country. This month, the fate of the seven beheaded Hazara victims was discovered not by government forces but by the Taliban fighters who were advancing into a part of Zabul Province held by militants loyal to the Islamic State. Taliban fighters arranged for a truck driver to take the bodies to a government hospital.

Hazaras, historically Afghanistan’s most persecuted ethnic group, account for perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the country’s population, although statistics on demographics here are often based on estimates or guesswork. Hazaras are mostly Shiite in an overwhelmingly Sunni country, and Afghans of other ethnicities have long pilloried them as outsiders, possibly descendants of the Mongol invaders who once swept through the region. They faced persecution and campaigns of murder during years of Taliban rule.

This latest wave of violence against them comes after a decade of upward mobility. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Hazaras have become well represented in the country’s universities and have obtained a degree of political power that has historically eluded them.

But the rise in kidnappings may be leading many Hazaras to question their future in Afghanistan. As Afghans have joined the migrant trail to Europe, Hazaras are said to be leaving at a disproportionate rate, although statistical evidence is nonexistent.


Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution, Uncategorized

Asylum seeker boat reaches Christmas Island

November 20, 2015 | Sky News

An asylum seeker boat has reportedly reached Christmas Island in the early hours of this morning.

There are reports an asylum seeker boat has reached Christmas Island.

SBS are reporting that the boat made it near Flying Fish Cove before being intercepted by the Australian Navy.

Locals told SBS it is the first time a boat has been that close since January 2013.

It is believed the boat arrived within 200 metres of the cove in the early hours of Friday morning.

It is unclear if the boat was taken to the mainland or whether it would be towed back to its origin.


Leave a comment

Filed under Boat Intercepted, Uncategorized

As millions march in Kabul, Australian Hazaras take action

November 12, 2015 | Media Release

Australian Hazaras will hold a peaceful demonstration in Sydney (November 14) and candlelight vigils in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide (Friday November 13) in solidarity with a million Afghans who marched in Kabul on November 11, demanding justice for seven innocent Hazaras, beheaded in Zabul, Afghanistan.

The Hazara community in Australia stands in solidarity with tens of thousands of Afghans who protested at the presidential palace in Kabul and calls on the world leaders, including Australia, to protect Hazaras from the onslaught of the Taliban and Daesh and to pressure Afghan government to bring those perpetrators to face justice.

“Our community is in mourning today as those beheaded by terrorists were known to many of us here in Australia,” event organizer in Sydney Abdul Alizada said “A community member lost his brother and another lost his mother in this vicious and coward atrocity”

“We condemn the beheading of innocent Hazara women and children in Afghanistan and we want the murderers brought to justice, and I echo the words of the UN’s special representative, Nickolas Hayson who labelled the Zabul massacre a ‘war crime’.” said Mr Ali Khan, another organizer of the event in Perth.

“It is clear Hazaras are being targeted attacked in Afghanistan solely because of their ethnicity. The world knows it. Yet, our government in Australia has not acted to recognize the suffering of Hazaras in this country. Hundreds of Hazaras languish in camps and survive in the community with no certainty, and our people are constantly under pressure to be returned. The situation in Afghanistan is very volatile and especially for Hazaras and that is why our people seek safety and protection in Australia.”

“The protestors also call on the world leaders, the United Nations and human rights groups to stop the Taliban and Daesh slaughtering Hazaras in Afghanistan. The world should not witness another atrocity like Yazidi’s or Kobani to act, they should act immediately,’ another organizer, Rohullah Rahimi, said.

Many of the people taking part in the demonstration have fled the Taliban atrocity and some are still going through their refugee determination process.

[Editor’s edit: There are at least two Australian Hazaras whose immediate family member and relative are amongst those beheaded in Zabul, Afghanistan].

We urge the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to acknowledge the dangers Hazaras face in Afghanistan and speed up processing asylum claims of Hazara asylum seekers

Relatives of those beheaded in this latest attack that spurred the million strong protest, are available for interview.

Media contact persons: Abdul Alizada 0425350144 and Mohammad Veja 0457000566

Details of protest and candlelight vigils;


The protest will be held on Saturday, November 14, 12pm to 2 pm at Town Hall Station, Sydney. For more information, please contact details contact Ali Ali 0403675327


Candlelight vigil will be held on Friday November 13 from 7 pm at Elders Park, Adelaide. For more information about this event contact Dave Gulzari on or Rahimi 0425229391


Candlelight vigil in Langley Park, Riverside Drive, Perth from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. For more information, please contact, Ali Khan on 0432241555


Candlelight vigil on November 14, 5pm at Federation Square. For more information, please contact Rohullah Rahimi on 0422559117 or Ali Rahimi 0409530140

Leave a comment

Filed under HAS Exclusive, Hazara Persecution

Afghan Fighters Loyal to ISIS Beheaded 7 Hostages, Officials Say

November 09, 2015 | New York Times

The bodies of Hazara civilians, reportedly killed by Islamic State militants in Zabul, Afghanistan, were brought to their hometown in Ghazni. CreditSayed Mustafa/European Pressphoto Agency 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan militants claiming loyalty to the Islamic State were found to have beheaded seven ethnic Hazara civilians who had been abducted in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, officials said on Monday, as infighting among Taliban splinter factions intensified.

The Taliban had sent hundreds of extra fighters to the area to battle the Islamic State breakaways and another splinter group there, according to local and security officials. They said the bodies of the Hazaras were found on Saturday after the Taliban had pushed back the Islamic State militants and a group of allied former Taliban dissidents.

Rather than illustrating any major weakening of the Taliban, however, security officials say the splinter groups’ expansion has mostly raised the danger for Afghan civilians and pointed out the increased weakness of the Afghan government and its security forces. Even as the insurgent infighting has intensified, the main Taliban group has seized new territory from the government, particularly in the country’s north and south.

The beheaded Hazara hostages belonged to one of several groups of travelers captured by Islamic State militants more than a month ago and were being held in the Arghandab district in Zabul Province. After their bodies were discovered by the Taliban, local elders helped mediate their transfer to a hospital in government territory on Sunday, the officials said.

Two children were among the seven beheaded hostages, local officials said.

“Their throats had been cut with metal wire,” said Hajji Atta Jan, the head of the Zabul provincial council.

Afghanistan’s Hazara minority has long faced persecution, especially by the Taliban, and there has been an upswing in abductions and violence against them this year. At least 19 more Hazaras are thought to still be held by militants in Zabul, said Abdul Qayoum Sajjadi, a lawmaker who recently traveled to the province to try to broker the Hazaras’ release.

President Ashraf Ghani, describing the beheadings as “heartless killing of innocent individuals,” ordered his security officials to pursue the attackers. But it was clear that the order meant little on the ground; Afghan forces were nowhere in the vicinity of the district where the beheadings happened, officials said.

Family members of the victims, who were all from neighboring Ghazni Province and were abducted while they were traveling, said they planned to bring the bodies to Kabul to protest what they saw as the government’s lack of response to a problem that was becoming chronic.

Officials in Zabul Province said the local cell of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had recently allied with another breakaway Taliban faction that is challenging the Taliban’s new supreme leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour.

Just last week, the breakaway Taliban faction formally announced in a gathering in Farah Province that it did not accept Mullah Mansour as the successor to Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose death two years ago was revealed in July.

The group said it was rallying around a new leader, Mullah Muhammad Rasool, a former member of the Taliban movement’s ruling council. His deputy, Mullah Mansour Dadullah, has been operating out of the Khak-e-Afghan district in Zabul.

“The reason we split from Mansour’s self-proclaimed kingdom was that he is the real murderer of Mullah Omar and some high-ranking Taliban during the 14 years of struggle,” Mullah Rasool said in a phone interview. His faction believes that Mullah Omar did not die a natural death, as the group announced, but was killed by Mullah Mansour. “We will bring Mansour before justice soon.”

In response, Mullah Mansour sent as many as 450 fighters to crush the dissident Mullah Dadullah as well as the Islamic State elements in Zabul, according to Afghan security officials and local officials.

“Fighting between Mullah Mansour and Mullah Dadullah is ongoing in three districts of Zabul,” said Hajji Momand Nasratyar, the district governor of Arghandab. “Mansour is beating Dadullah and I.S. very hard — around 86 of I.S. and Dadullah’s men have been killed, and 26 of Mansour’s.”

The Taliban were also reported to have killed several of the Islamic State militants said to be responsible for the beheadings, according to a local official, though that account could not be confirmed more broadly.

Hajji Atta Jan, the Zabul provincial council chief, said the offensive by Mullah Mansour’s fighters was so intense that by late Monday at least three Islamic State commanders, all of them ethnic Uzbeks, had surrendered and were asking their fighters to do the same. The condition the Uzbek commanders had agreed on with Mullah Mansour, according to Mr. Jan, was that they would not be handed over to Pakistan, where they had been based before Pakistani military operations pushed them into Afghan territory.

Despite Mullah Mansour’s swift action against dissent, the announcement of the breakaway faction seems to have rekindled doubts over his leadership that most thought had been quelled by his delivering the Taliban their biggest victory in 14 years, the capture of the northern city of Kunduz in September.

Still, the dissent has not deterred Taliban fighters from making deep inroads against the government in the south as well, where intense fighting has continued in Helmand Province. The Taliban have made gains in the districts of Nad Ali and Greshk, according to Muhammad Karim Attal, the head of the Helmand provincial council.

The Taliban have also overrun police and army bases in the Marja district, one of the centers of President Obama’s 2010 troop surge, and were closing in on the district governor’s compound. Airstrikes had to be called in on Saturday to break the siege of security forces there, officials said.


Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution

Two Hazaras shot dead in Quetta

November 08, 2015 | DAWN

QUETTA: Armed assailants on Saturday evening killed two members of the Hazara community in the provincial capital.

“Armed assailants opened fire at a vehicle on Spini road and killed two members of the Hazara community,” said a police official.

The police official added that one person died at the spot of the attack while the other succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment.

“The two individuals belonged to the Hazara community and were residents of Hazara Town,” stated the police official.

The unknown assailants managed to flee the spot of the incident.

A contingent of police and Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the site of the incident and commenced initial investigation.

“It was act of target killing,” stated the police official.

There was no claim of responsibility for the incident.

In a separate incident, two bodies were recovered from Khuzdar district in the province.

“The dead bodies were found in Naal tehsil of Khuzdar district,” said a Levies official.

He added that the identity of the victims could not be immediately ascertained and both had received multiple bullet injuries.

Balochistan has been experiencing incident violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. The largest province of the country by area, is home to a low-level insurgency by ethnic Baloch separatists. Al Qaeda-linked militants also operate in the region.

The province shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.


Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution

One killed in shooting incident in Quetta

November 03, 2015  | Dunya News

QUETTA (Dunya News) –  At least one person was killed in recent firing incident  in Balochistan s Quetta today (Tuesday).

As police sources, some unidentified armed bikers opened fire at Hazara Town’s resident Muhammad Sadiq when he arrived at a garage at Jan Muhammad Road, killing him on the spot.

The officers told that attackers fled the scene however, directives have been issued to nab the culprits as early as possible.

According to doctors, eight bullets were found from deceased’s head and back whereas the security personnel stated that 9 mm pistol was used in the incident.


Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution

A Refugee Committed Suicide At Brisbane Airport An Barely Anyone Noticed

November 02, 2015 | Buzfeed Australia

Reza Alizadeh. Supplied

At around 4 a.m. last Tuesday morning, Reza Alizadeh, a 26-year-old Iranian man who had been living in Australia on a bridging visa since 2013, walked to the entrance of Brisbane International Airport.

He had been troubled for some time. Suffering from depression, he fled the Iranian city of Ahwaz by boat in 2013 and headed for Australia. He spent around three months in various detention centres before he was released into the community on a bridging visa and moved to Melbourne.

It was at this point that his already fragile mental health rapidly declined. Two troubled years, dotted with incidents of self-harm, emotional breakdowns, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts finally ended, alone at Brisbane airport when AFP officers found him hanging from a bag strap attached to a railing at around 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

How did it come to this? BuzzFeed News has spoken to Reza’s friends who tried desperately to get him the help he needed, as well as medical professionals who say Australia’s immigration system is giving birth to a crisis in the refugee community.

“At the end he got worse and worse. On a number of occasions he tried to harm himself and he had scars all over his body, and none of the authorities cared,” a friend of Reza’s says.

This is part of the new normal for Australia’s immigration system. For over a decade now – ever since former prime minister John Howard declared that “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” – “boat people” have become a political football.

“We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” John Howard launching his successful election campaign in 2001. Den Lewins / AAPIMAGE

When Labor relaxed Australia’s border protection laws in 2007, a tide of refugees attempted to reach the country by boat. Tens of thousands were intercepted and put in detention centres to be processed.

Eventually the sea of humanity making its way to our shores became too much and in 2013 a new policy was formed: no one who tried to reach Australia by boat would be settled here.

As a result, there are around 30,000 refugees currently living in Australia on bridging visas, which allow a person to live – with conditions – in the community while their refugee claims are being processed or until a more permanent home can be found for them.

The bridging visas have an upside: they’ve helped to get many refugees out of detention and into the community, where they’ve got the freedom to form friendships and communities which in theory should make life in Australia a little easier.

But advocates say the visas leave refugees in a state of abject poverty. Asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia by boat on or after August 13 2012 and are granted bridging visas are not permitted to work, meaning many rely on charity just to survive.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd announcing that anyone who attempted to reach Australia by boat would have no chance of being settled here. AAP

People on bridging visas have no right to family reunion and cannot leave the country. They are given access to temporary accommodation but are ultimately responsible for their own lodgings. In an emergency, asylum-seekers are given access to the Community Assistance Support program which helps people to meet their basic health and welfare needs. But first there has to be an emergency.

The system is deliberately and transparently punitive. The government’s stated objective is to deter asylum-seekers from ever wanting to come to Australia by boat.

It’s these conditions which have led to many asylum-seekers suffering from severe mental health issues, advocates say.

“We lock them up and drive them crazy, then we set them free and expect them to be OK,” says Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Zachary Steele is the professorial chair of trauma and mental health at St John of God Hospital and a professor of psychology at UNSW. He tells BuzzFeed News asylum-seekers and refugees are among the most vulnerable people in our society and need our protection.

“Every survey that’s been done shows that they do have a very high rate of exposure to torture and trauma backgrounds that places them in a very high risk category for mental health problems,” he says.

“The stresses of insecure residency and the post-migration difficulties associated with the restrictions of bridging visas create a harsh environment that in turn is associated with poorer mental health trajectories.”

For Reza, this manifested in severe paranoia, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. And while tragic, Reza’s story is not unique.

“We lock them up and drive them crazy, then we set them free and expect them to be OK.”

In February 2014 Rezene Mebrahta Engeda drowned himself in the Maribyrnong River upon notice of a failed asylum application.

In June 2014 a 29-year-old Sri Lankan man died as a result of self-immolation, suffering burns to 90% of his body. He had been living in community detention on a bridging visa awaiting the outcome of his refugee claim.

In March, Omid Ali Avaz, a 29-year-old Iranian man on a Humanitarian Stay (Temporary) visa, killed himself in Brisbane.

Earlier this month, Hazara man Khodayar Amini set himself alight while on a video call to two refugee workers.

Before his death, Khodayar reportedly told the refugee workers, “Red Cross killing me. Immigration killing me. I want to kill my life. I don’t have any option. They don’t give me chance. I can’t stay in detention centre.”

Khodayar Amini. Supplied.

One of the major problems, Pamela Curr says, is that many asylum-seekers suffering from mental health issues are afraid to reveal their troubles to the people who are supposed to help them.

“The asylum-seekers are really cursed. If they have an agency that’s looking after them and they go to that agency and say, ‘I’m feeling suicidal, I want to jump in front of a train, I can’t sleep, I’ve got voices in my head’ – all the marks of mental ill health – those agencies will notify the immigration department, and the next thing you know, the department will rock up and cart them off to detention. They’re in a real bind.”

Without any family in Australia, it was Reza’s friends who tried the hardest to get him help.

Reza took himself, or was taken to, at least three Melbourne hospitals or medical centres in the weeks before his death. Ten days before he died, Reza broke a mobile phone in half and attempted to slash his throat while in hospital. A short time later he was released to look after himself, friends say.

The hospitals contacted by BuzzFeed News were unable to comment, citing privacy concerns.

In Reza’s final weeks, friends say they contacted the immigration department, police, and Reza’s caseworker with AMES Australia, a government-contracted nonprofit which helps recently arrived refugees settle into Victoria.

A spokesperson for AMES told BuzzFeed News the organisation did all it could for Reza, but that his erratic behaviour in the period before his death made it very difficult to provide the care he needed:

“[Reza] was provided with the full range of services all of our asylum-seeker clients are afforded. As a person with a range of health issues he was given close case management and referred several times to healthcare providers.”

“It’s all black and white… on a number of occasions [Reza’s friend] has taken Reza to hospital, to police, to AMES, to his case worker, to immigration, and they basically said ‘he’s alright’.”

Shortly after Reza was released from the third hospital, he decided to fly to Brisbane. He felt this was the only place he was safe from the people he believed were following him. His friends helped him fly to Brisbane while informing anyone they could of their concerns for his wellbeing.

“He [Reza] got in touch with his cousin and he sent text messages that he was going to take his life. Then his cousin, on a number of occasions, contacted his case worker,” Reza’s friend says.

Melbourne police were informed of Reza’s situation, and Queensland police were subsequently informed.

It’s believed Queensland police officers contacted Reza after he arrived in Brisbane, meeting with him in a hotel room in Fortitude Valley to assess his mental health. After a conversation, Reza’s friends say, the officers left him alone, deciding he was not a danger to himself or others.

Following the meeting, Reza’s friend, also named Reza, says he contacted the department of immigration and AMES to warn them that Reza planned to end his life, but was told that nothing could be done.

“It’s all black and white… on a number of occasions [Reza’s friend] has taken Reza to hospital, to police, to AMES, to his case worker, to immigration, and they basically said ‘he’s alright’,” another friend says.

The two Rezas texted constantly over the weekend before final contact was made on Sunday evening. It’s not clear what happened between Sunday evening and Tuesday morning, but we may learn more when Queensland police hand over a report for the coroner.

It’s too late for Reza, but mental health experts say the system needs to be changed to look after people on temporary visas.

Reza in Melbourne before his death. Supplied.

“Your life is permanently on hold and you have a subjective fear that you may be returned to a situation where you fear for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your family,” Prof Steele says.

“People do have to have their claims assessed and that does put enormous stress on them. There’s no way to solve that problem but there is a way to recognise it and to put a health and welfare framework around it that recognises that this is a vulnerable population.”

Michael Dudley, the chair of Suicide Prevention Australia, believes “torture” is not too strong a word for Australia’s current immigration system.

“The way in which the policy is giving rise to harm that the government and the department are aware of – it’s collateral damage of which they are fully informed. It’s a direct aim of the policy. It aims to cause suffering to make people leave the country.”

Dudley says the solution is at once complex and simple: time and money. He believes refugees have a sword of Damocles hanging over their head which could be resolved if more funding was dedicated to processing refugee claims as fast as possible.

“The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] needs proper funding by governments like Australia. We don’t actually have a system that is designed to do that. It’s not properly resourced,” he says.

“Mental health support could help people in these situations. Whatever support we can offer, whether mental or practical, in these dire situations, should be offered.”

Queensland police declined to comment for this story, saying it would be inappropriate as they prepare a report for the coroner.

The Department of Immigration declined several requests for comment, citing the Queensland police investigation.


Leave a comment

Filed under Life after detention, Torturing and Health Issues