August 17, 2013 | Hazara Netizens Watch
“Who are the Hazaras?” came a question in a subtly taunting tone by an Australian man walking by as we lit candles in the memory of more than 130 Hazara victims, killed in two bomb blasts targeting the Hazara-Shia-dominated neighbourhood, Alamdar Road. The two bomb blasts in Quetta, Pakistan killed at least 130 people including two Australian Hazaras. Over 200 still lie in different hospitals; with many permanently maimed, and a number of them burnt beyond recognition.
While the rest of the world slept peacefully, some because they were unaware and others because they might well be indifferent, 87 of the dead bodies lay on Alamdar Road as their families and community sat awake in a sit-in protest for justice. Thousands of protesters who were joined by women and children sat there; braving the frigid cold worsened by severe rain. Nothing could shake their resolve as nothing would ever lessen their anguish and grief unless justice was served.
Even though the protest was initially met by inattention and unconcern, their fortitude and perseverance eventually started attracting attention. It was not long before Pakistanis of all backgrounds joined the protest; outnumbering even the Hazaras and Shias. It was for the first time in the history of Pakistan that everyone participated in a protest, which was for a racially and religiously distinct group. Here was a new history in the making. Here was a protest which was history’s most nonviolent and peaceful one with dead bodies lying un-buried unless justice was dispensed.
The Hazaras are one of the most targeted communities in Pakistan mainly because they carry distinct Mongolian racial features and religious belief: Shia Islam. They have been shot in cold blood, have been slaughtered, their skilled and professionals workers slain, students killed on their way to universities, pilgrims lined up and murdered. Not even their women are spared now just because a religiously extremist group, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, which wants to drive every single one of them out of Quetta and Pakistan, detests them.
Not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan the Hazaras have long suffered racial and religious based discriminations.
Despite the brutal violence they have been subject to, the Hazaras have never reacted violently. They have adopted peace and nonviolence as their response to the murderous onslaught. They have lost thousands of their people throughout these years, but they have always come with nonviolent means: This historic sit-in protest in Quetta for four days was its infallible proof acknowledged and appreciated by people throughout the world.
While we sat and watched our heroic community beside the dead bodies for 80+ hours protesting peacefully for their basic right; that is the right to live, tears flowed down my mother’s cheek as she confided something into me. She started by “ how will her mother explain to the little child that her father is no longer alive?” The seven-year-old girl, whose father decided on that night that they should quickly eat and maybe watch TV together?
He had not started eating yet as he heard the first explosion. He got up from dastarkhan (table–cloth) and said in panic, “The explosion sounded very close” and just like many others, he too ran to the scene to help. As he got there to help the victims of the blast, second blast ripped through the crowd, and you guessed it right: It took his life. Ghulam Rasool is no more. Who knew his family would never see him again, they would not share the table again, and they would never be able to watch TV together. Like the cold weather, her blood froze in her veins.
But the story does not end here. “The painful part is not his death alone,” explained my mother to me. “It is rather the fact that, because of the dangerous proximity to the blast, Ghulam Rasool’s body has disappeared like 16 other bodies. No one has been able to find them. Like Ghulam’s family who sits there and looking heavenwards for help, I am devoid of all emotion too. I just think of that seven-year old girl who anxiously awaits her father’s return.” Tears continued to fall from mum’s eyes as she says, the seven-year-old asks her mother, “ Mum its too cold outside, do you want me to go and ask dad to close his shop and come eat with us now”.
But I am still thinking about the question that stranger asked. Who are the Hazaras? I really wanted to answer him but I was busy lighting candle for the vigil.
I wanted to answer his question that continued bothering me. Who are the Hazaras? Hazaras are the ones who, after witnessing history’s worst violence in Quetta sat in protest with dead bodies lying for four days in chilling cold and unstoppable rain. They kept the bodies un-buried even though it is religiously sanctioned to bury the dead as quickly as possible. Hazaras are the ones who despite all the persecution continue to practice nonviolence, remaining peaceful that is acknowledged by everyone in Pakistan and world. Hazaras are the ones whose innocent children sit among the protesters; desperately waiting for their father to be seen. Yet Hazaras are the ones whose response to all violence is nonviolence, and all brutality reciprocated by humanity. That is what the Hazaras actually are.
But I thought just like many others, this person might not care about the genocide of a community. But he, like the comity of nations, must reassess his priorities if genocide is taking place right before his naked eye in 21st century. The century that promises humanity its pinnacle in every aspect of life, from justice to prosperity.
That he asked this question so casually explains why Hazaras keep suffering. And a community facing genocide is perhaps the most bone-chillingly straightforward answer to his question.
The article was originally published here: http://hnwonline.net/2013/08/who-are-the-hazaras-the-man-asked/