Tag Archives: Afghanistan

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.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/world/asia/kidnappings-escalate-in-afghanistan.html?_r=1

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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.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/world/asia/afghan-fighters-loyal-to-isis-beheaded-7-hostages-officials-say.html?ref=world

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The Next Refugee Crisis: Afghanistan

October 21, 2015 | The New York Times

WASHINGTON — With the war in Afghanistan heating up, thousands of Afghan refugees are fleeing their country. But Iran and Pakistan, which house most of the Afghan refugees from previous cycles of violence, are increasingly unwelcoming. So the new exodus has begun to flow toward Europe, already inundated with Syria’s refugees.

Yet these Afghans have attracted little attention from Western policy makers; they do not seem to recognize the Afghans’ desperation, and the challenges their flight poses for Afghanistan, its neighbors and Europe. For Afghans, it is a recurring nightmare. Like previous exoduses going back to the 1970s, this one is stripping the country of precisely the professionals who are vital to its future as a modern state.

President Obama has an opportunity to change that on Thursday by putting the issue high on his agenda, and calling international attention to it, when he hosts Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in Washington.

The new surge of refugees began with the Taliban’s offensive this year, and intensified after fighting reached populated areas like Kunduz. Last month, employees at Afghanistan’s passport agency said they were issuing an average of 2,000 passports daily — triple the number of six months ago.

In recent decades, most Afghan refugees have wound up in Pakistan, which now hosts nearly three million. But refugees there complain that this year, officials have been forcing them to return home. The International Organization for Migration says 90,000 Pakistan-based Afghans did just that since January. Now the government refuses to extend identity cards for 1.5 million refugees, many of whom have been in Pakistan for decades, when their permits expire at year’s end.

Iran, too, has been deporting refugees. One reason is fear that Afghans with ties to the drug trade will compound Iran’s own drug-use problems.

Deportation can be a harsh sentence. Some returnees end up in United Nations camps near Jalalabad, a stronghold for former Taliban militants who joined the Islamic State. The danger may be worst for ethnic Hazaras; they are Shiite Muslims, and many fled slaughter by the Taliban.

Afghans cannot expect much help from their own government. One official American report says the State Department stopped funding a training program for Afghanistan’s refugee and repatriation ministry last year after finding the ministry corrupt and dysfunctional.

Helping Afghan refugees is not an easy issue for Pakistani officials, who already deal with a million internally displaced Pakistanis fleeing conflict in their own border areas.

So the Afghan exodus increasingly looks to Europe as its destination, after a perilous trek across Iran, Turkey and the Mediterranean.

According to United Nations and European estimates, more than 20 percent of the roughly 500,000 people who have arrived this year via the Mediterranean have been Afghans.

The flow poses a serious challenge for Europe, which is already experiencing its greatest refugee crisis since World War II and needs no further scapegoats for its anti-immigration demagogues to attack.

So the world must acknowledge the plain fact that Afghanistan’s refugees need help. Their own government, beleaguered by war and its own dysfunction, is not up for the task, and its two largest neighbors are increasingly indifferent to their plight.

It is unrealistic to expect Pakistan to voluntarily accept more Afghan refugees. Still, it should better help those already there. Mr. Obama should press Mr. Sharif to extend the identity cards about to expire. He should urge a more gradual and humane repatriation process. And he should assure Mr. Sharif that Americans remain committed to financial support for international aid programs that assist Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran — programs now under budgetary pressure.

Iran, which houses the second-largest Afghan refugee population, has extended the visas of 450,000 Afghans. Yet Afghans there also report forced deportations and other bad treatment. According to one recent report, Iranian border policemen shot and killed seven Afghans trying to enter the country. These policies must end.

As for the Western countries, the European nations whose troops took part in NATO’s mission in Afghanistan should ensure that Afghans are included in any European Union quotas that distribute refugees among member states. And Washington should expedite special visas for those Afghans who worked for the United States government or military and say that their lives are endangered. In September, at least 13,000 Afghans and Iraqis with that status were still waiting.

And, if security can be assured, international aid groups should accelerate the creation of safe zones within pacified areas in the country, where the United Nations says the total internally displaced population numbers nearly a million. These people need incentives to stay in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, some of Afghanistan’s other neighbors should band together to help. Bordering countries in Central Asia, along with Russia, China and Iran, all need more stability in Afghanistan and fear the specter of heavy refugee flows into their countries; they should pool funds to support the formation of permanent safe areas inside Afghanistan, in places like Bamian Province that still enjoy relative stability.

Given the lack of quick fixes for Afghanistan’s violence, corruption and economic distress, safe areas may be the best possible incentive for Afghans to remain in their country. It is only a stopgap, but one that might help keep a dangerous crisis in check.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/opinion/the-next-refugee-crisis-afghanistan.html?_r=0

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Afghan asylum seeker feared dead after self-immolation during video call

October 19, 2015 | the guardian

Khodayar Amini, who is feared dead, told refugee advocates he feared he would be returned to detention because police and immigration department staff wanted to interview him. Photograph: Refugee Rights Action Network

Khodayar Amini, who is feared dead, told refugee advocates he feared he would be returned to detention because police and immigration department staff wanted to interview him. Photograph: Refugee Rights Action Network

An Afghan asylum seeker living in Australia on a bridging visa is feared dead after he self-immolated during a video call with refugee advocates.

Khodayar Amini, a Hazara Afghan aged 30, told staff at the Refugee Rights Action Network his fear of being sent back to detention, combined with his uncertain visa status and the threat of being returned to Afghanistan, was “killing him”.

At about 11.30am on Sunday, Amini made a video call to advocates Sarah Ross and Michelle Bui, and told them he feared he would be returned to detention because police and immigration department staff wanted to interview him.
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Amini, who was believed to be living in the eastern states, then threatened to take his own life before self-immolating on camera. During the call, he urged Ross and Bui to go to the media to share his plight.

“We tried to talk him out of it, I have received suicide intervention training so I used that,” Ross told Guardian Australia.

“He had been released from the Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia on a bridging visa, but he said immigration and police were looking for him, so he had been living out of his car and hiding in bushland.

“He had previously told us that most of his family had been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and he was uncertain about his future and scared of going back to detention or being sent to Afghanistan.

“He told us it was killing him.”

Ross said she immediately called emergency services, and that the phone call with Amini cut-out. She and Bui later received a call from police, who told them a body that seemed to match Amini’s description had been found in Victorian bushland in Dandenong.

Police told them they could not confirm the body was Amini’s, and a coronial inquest would be carried out.

A spokesman from Victoria police confirmed to Guardian Australia emergency services had responded to a grass fire in Dandenong on Sunday. Once the fire was extinguished, a body was found, the spokesman said.
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“The death is not being treated as suspicious,” he said.

The night before receiving Amini’s call, Bui received a message from him that read: “My crime was that I was a refugee.”

“They [immigration] tortured me for 37 months and during all these times, they treated me in the most cruel and inhumane way, they violated my basic human right and took away my human dignity,” Amini wrote.

“I ask you to stand up for the rights of refugees and stop people being killed just because they have become refugees.”

Amini had no known family members in Australia.

Guardian Australia has contacted the office of the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, for comment.

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In a statement, the Refugee Rights Action Network said Amini had been traumatised by the deaths of his friends including Nasim Najafi, who died at the Yongah Hill detention centre in July, and Ahmad Ali Jaffari, who died in the Villawood detention centre in 2013.

“We believe Khodayar’s experience and length of detention directly contributed to the deterioration of his mental health,” the statement said.

“The Refugee Rights Action Network further believes that Khodayar’s state of mind was symptomatic of the conditions surrounding his visa, which kept him in a constant state of limbo and fear of re-detainment and deportation.”

The Hazaras are mostly from the Shiite Muslim minority in Afghanistan and several thousand members of the community now live in Australia. Last October, the Australian government began forcibly deporting Hazara asylum seekers who had been living in the community, a controversial decision given violence against the ethnic minority in Afghanistan is escalating.
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It led the Refugee Council of Australia to write to the immigration department to plea for a moratorium on all returns of Afghan asylum seekers.

According to a report from the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, many asylum-seekers living in the community on bridging visas are unable to work as a condition of their visa, and as a result can find themselves living in a state of destitution.

“With limited options available for volunteering, asylum-seekers are increasingly socially isolated,” the report said.

“While residing in the community is thought to be better than being in held detention, the mental health impacts of living in such uncertainty over a prolonged period and in a state of destitution presented as detrimental and debilitating.”

Last year, Tamil asylum seeker Leo Seemanpillai, who had been living in Geelong on a bridging visa, died after self-immolating.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/19/afghan-asylum-seeker-feared-dead-after-self-immolation-during-video-call

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Militants behead kidnapped civilians in Ghazni

April 18, 2015 

GHAZNI CITY (Pajhwok): Militants with links to little known Daish group on Friday beheaded the four civilians who were kidnapped by gunmen the other day from Ghazni City, the provincial capital of southern Ghazni province, officials said.

On Thursday, unidentified gunmen kidnapped four civilians from the Arjistan district. The abducted individuals were the residents of Malistan district who were on their way to their hometown.

Zamin Ali Hidayat, the town’s administrative chief, had said security forces had arrested Taliban Commander Mullah Abdullah along with his six of his associates during a clearing operation in Jaghori district. But in retaliation, the rebels kidnapped the civilians and were demanding prisoners swap.

Zamin Ali, the Malistan district chief, told Pajhwok Afghan News that insurgents beheaded the kidnapped men. He said militants wanted prisoners swap for the release of detained rebels.

He said that tribal elders were sent to the area to collect dead bodies of the slain persons. Ali Mohammad, a resident of the district, confirmed the abducted persons were killed today.

Source: http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2015/04/17/militants-behead-kidnapped-civilians-ghazni?hootPostID=3c03ba00a362e94ac8f275d0619652d8#sthash.5Ex2d161.dpuf

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After suffering under the Taliban, an Afghan minority faces new threats

April 10, 2015 | washingtonpost

Esmail Kayhan, 20, an ethnic Hazara holds the portrait of his father, Mohammad Jomah Amini, at their family home in Kabul. (Sudarsan Raghavan/The Washington Post)

Inside the two seized buses, terrified passengers prayed to remain in their seats. The masked gunmen had collected their identification cards and snatched their cellphones, survivors would later recall. Next, they separated males from females and Sunni Muslims from Shiite Muslims. Finally, they ordered the Shiite males — all ethnic Hazaras — off the buses.

The kidnappers then vanished into the harsh terrain of southern Zabul province with 31 men and boys, sparking concerns of a potential fresh wave of sectarian tensions in Afghanistan.

Six weeks later, their families remain in an emotional limbo.

“We don’t know what our sin is,” said Namatullah Noori, 40, after recounting what his mother, one of the surviving passengers, had told him. “From one side, they are targeting us. And from the other side, the government is not helping us.”

His 65-year-old father is among the abducted men.

In recent weeks, concerns have mounted across the nation overthe emergence of the Islamic State, the Iraq- and Syria-based Sunni movement that has violently targeted Shiites and other religious and ethnic groups. Now the events that unfolded on the buses, corroborated by Afghan officials and victims’ relatives, are fanning those fears. In interviews, Afghan officials and Hazara leaders said they suspect that a rogue Taliban faction that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State is behind the abductions in Zabul.

For the nation’s minority Hazaras, the kidnappings, along with other recent attacks, are grim reminders of the persecution they endured under the rule of the mainly ethnic Pashtun and Sunni Taliban, which viewed Shiites as apostates. Since the abductions in late February, there have been at least three more mass kidnappings of Hazaras in three other provinces, according to Afghan officials and Hazara.net, a nonprofit Web site focused on the community’s rights and culture.

“Historically, we have struggled a lot to be accepted as normal citizens,” said Hayatullah Meheryar, 30, a Hazara activist. “But now these assaults show they want to restrict our development that we’ve achieved in the past 13 years.”

Opportunity to attack

Throughout the 20th century, successive Pashtun-led regimes in Afghanistan targeted the Hazaras, the country’s third-largest ethnic group, making up about 20 percent of the population. Also a religious minority, they were massacred and tortured. Uprisings were viciously crushed. Their religious leaders were jailed; women were abducted. Most Hazaras languished in poverty and humiliation, forced to take menial jobs.

The Taliban carried out mass executions of Hazaras and drove them from their lands and meager livelihoods. Tens of thousands of Hazaras sought refuge in frigid mountain hideouts. In the Hazara ethnic homeland of Bamian province in early 2001, the Taliban methodically destroyed two giant Buddha statues that had survived for centuries, drawing an international outcry.

Since the Taliban regime collapsed in late 2001, however, the Hazaras have experienced a communal rebirth. Many returned from exile in Iran and other countries to forge a future here. A new generation entered universities and later found jobs with the United Nations and international firms and aid agencies. Economically, many flourished. Politically, theygained more clout.

Attacks against them had grown rare. In 2011, a suicide bomber in Kabul killed 56 Shiite worshipers, mostly Hazaras, on the holy day of Ashura in the bloodiest sectarian attack of the war. Last year, gunmen in central Ghowr province executed 15 Hazara civilians traveling in a minibus.

Now, a familiar anxiety is boiling up again within the community.

Most of the Hazaras in the two buses attacked in February were returning from Iran. Some had gone there for construction or other blue-collar jobs, and others to visit relatives.

Noori’s father and mother were inside with his 17-year-old son. They had taken him for medical treatment in Iran. When the teenager saw the gunmen, he fainted. That saved his life. The gunmen left him in the vehicle after Noori’s mother pleaded for mercy. But her pleas couldn’t save her husband.

“Who else but the Taliban can be behind this?” Noori said.

The Taliban’s central command has denied responsibility for the abductions. But the insurgency has become increasingly disjointed, with many Taliban factions acting on their own. Some have become so disgruntled that they have aligned themselves with the Islamic State to gain funds and prominence, according to U.S. military commanders who view the group as a potential threat but still at an embryonic stage in Afghanistan.

Survivors of the Zabul kidnappings told authorities that the gunmen spoke local languages and appeared to be ethnic Pashtuns from their accents. That’s a reason why officials say they think that the assailants were home­grown disciples of the Islamic State, also known as Daesh.

“These are Taliban who have changed their colors,” said Ali Akbar Qaseemi, an influential ethnic Hazara parliamentarian. “Daesh’s goal is to disintegrate the nation by creating problems among ethnic groups in Afghanistan.”

For many Hazaras, the fresh threats against them reflect the vanishing U.S. and international military presence. The abductions unfolded on major highways in areas once patrolled by foreign forces. With far fewer international troops, Afghanistan’s security forces­ are straining to fill the gap. Growing portions of the country are unpoliced.

“With the foreign troops gone, the Taliban see an opportunity to attack us again,” Meheryar said.

Since the abductions in Zabul, Afghan police and security forces­ have mounted unsuccessful operations to rescue the 31 men and boys. So far, there have been no public demands from the kidnappers.

Afghan government officials have declined to provide details of the incident or the efforts to free the victims, beyond vowing to use all means necessary to find them.

“The government is working hard on this matter,” said Ajmal Obaid Abidy, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

‘We can’t do anything’

In the meantime, the families of the 31 men and boys have embarked on a frustrating daily quest to learn the fate of their loved ones. Some have traveled to Kabul from other cities — even from Pakistan. Each morning, they visit the offices­ of Hazara leaders and government officials. Each evening, they return home disappointed.

“No one is giving us any answers,” said Hussein Ali, 67, whose son is among the abducted. “We can’t do anything.”

“We are poor, working-class people,” Noori said. “We don’t know the influential people. We don’t have power.”

Esmail Kayhan’s family is struggling as much from the lack of knowledge as finances­. For the past year, his father had been working construction in Iran, sending money home every month. Now, he’s among the kidnapped. Kayhan’s older brother, who works in a bakery in Saudi Arabia, was forced to take a loan to help the family.

Kayhan said he is most worried about his mother, who has heart problems, and his grandmother, who is frail. He fears the shock of learning the truth could harm them. So he keeps telling them that his father is still in Iran, dealing with some last-minute business.

The other day, he said, his mother asked him: “Why does your father keep calling you? Why doesn’t he call me?”

He shrugged and said he didn’t know.

As each day passes, the Hazara community is growing angrier — and more organized. Small protests have been launched in Kabul and other parts of the country. There have also been demonstrations in Australia and Europe. On Twitter, activists have created the hashtag #Free31Hazaras, as well as a Web site: http://www.bringback31hazaras.com.au.

This week, they set up tents near the presidential palace in protest. Ali, who has been in the capital for five weeks, said he has no plans to return to his home in Quetta, Pakistan.

“I will remain in Kabul until I learn whether my son is alive or dead,” he said.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/after-suffering-under-the-taliban-an-afghan-minority-faces-new-threats/2015/04/08/035e1c4a-d71b-11e4-bf0b-f648b95a6488_story.html

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30 Hazaras abducted in Afghanistan: officials

February 24, 2015 | AFP

— AFP/File

AFP/File

KANDAHAR: Masked gunmen have abducted 30 Shia Muslim men who were travelling by bus through central Afghanistan, officials said on Tuesday.

The men, members of the minority Hazara ethnic group, were taken on Monday evening in Zabul province, on the road between the western city of Herat and the capital Kabul.

Hazara Shia Muslims are often the target of sectarian violence at the hands of Sunni Muslim extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Our driver saw a group of masked men in Afghan army uniform signalling him and he thought they were soldiers so he stopped,” said Nasir Ahmad, an official with the Ghazni Paima bus company, told AFP.

“The gunmen took 30 Hazaras away with them.” Ahmad said the kidnappers took only the men on the two buses and released the women and children travelling with them.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction, but kidnappings for ransom by bandits, local militias and the Taliban are common in Afghanistan.

There have been fears recently that the influence of the Islamic State group, which has a strongly anti-Shia agenda, could be growing in Afghanistan.

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the police were “doing everything to ensure their safe release”.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1165619/30-hazaras-abducted-in-afghanistan-officials

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