Mar 1, 2015

How Do Other Afghan Ethnic Groups View Iran-Hazara Relations?

In my previous post, I explained that how certain historical events have shaped the future of Hazaras and also how those events have affected Hazaras relations with Iran. The 9/11 attacks and its aftermath, which ushered in a new phase of Hazara’s liberation with the opportunity to finally enjoy some freedom. I indicated that such achievement has not been possible without the support of the United States and the international community.

In this post, as promised earlier, I will address some opposing arguments, which have often made by some other Afghan ethnic groups against the Hazaras. From Pashtun and perhaps some Tajiks viewpoints, the Hazaras are still agents of Iran and spying for Iran, and they are not loyal to their country. Why? Here is one of the popular accusations that has always been made. I will discuss the scale of such accusations in historical context and will argue how such accusations have helped perpetuate persecution and discrimination against the Hazaras.

This is what they argue:
Iran and Hazaras have a strong bond and it comes from their common religion and language because they are both Shiite and speak the same language. Most of Afghan refugees living in Iran are Hazaras. Iran feels comfortable to work with them and use them not only against the United States, but also against Sunni Muslim in Afghanistan. Therefore, because of all these commonalities, the Hazaras are susceptible to Iran’s influence and it is not wrong to treat them as suspicious.

This kind of argument is nowhere near commons sense, nor based on evidence but built on allegations and prejudice. But, perhaps, one of the compelling evidences that would back up this argument is Iran’s involvement in the jihad war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. This was the beginning of Iran’s active engagement in Afghanistan’s affairs and as well as the beginning of Iran’s interaction with the Hazara people. Iran, like Pakistan played an active role by creating eight Shiite political parties, during the 1980s, to fight the Soviet troops.

Iran’s influence on Hazaras during the Soviet occupation is unquestionable. However, after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989, the game has changed because the regional and transregional players achieved their goals: rolling back the Soviet to its borders. But what followed the post-Soviet occupation, was a series of disastrous events in which some players still found themselves unable to stop hepling once they started.  What happened subsequently was quite predictable. Iran lost its interest in Hazaras and instead began working with Tajiks, and their famous commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud. Iran realized that the Hazaras did not have the ability nor the capacity to run a government. During this time, Iran prefered and wished to have Tajiks ruling the country, however, it never had a serious and consistent foreign policy on bringing the Farsi speakers to power in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Iran, continued to support the ruling political parties of Tajiks, Shura-e Nazar (supervisory council), and Jamiat-e Islami (Islamic society), until the fall of the Taliban regime.

On the contrary, the Hazara political parties which played an important role during the civil war between 1992-1995 and after losing the battle in Kabul, gradually marginalized and eventually became under the dominance of the Tajik parties, Shura-e Nazar, and Jamiat-e Islami, which later all of them made an alliance under compulsion to fight the Taliban regime. It is undeniably true that the Hazara parties kept close contact with Iran throughout the 1990s and up until the fall of the Taliban regime, because Iran did not want to have a brutal regime ruling Afghanistan, especially after 1998 murder of its diplomats and journalist at Iranian consulate, but the assistance was not direct and substantial because the Hazara parties relied on Northern Alliance logistic support. There were, however, other factions with direct support of Iran which they still receive Iran's support, namely, Harakat-e Islami Afghanistan (Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) that is led by its founder, Muhammad Asif Muhsini, who is ethnically a Pashtun from Kandahar, but religiously a Shia. He does not represent the Hazara people and the Hazaras hate him because of his racism attitudes against their late leader, Abdul Ali Mazari, also because of his notorious and misogynistic law allowing Afghan men to rape female.

To recapitulate, the Hazaras have changed as result of going through certain and decisive events, which took place during the 1990s and post-Taliban era. The detachment from the dominance and influence of Iran and its religious revolutionary ideology to becoming independent, and domesticating liberal and modern values, which heralded awakening of Hazaras, has not been a smooth transition. The Hazaras have paid a heavy price for their relations with Iran, but finally determined to liberate themselves from within and from without. They endured years of intense internal factional conflicts, and then suffered through dreadful years of mass atrocity against themselves by the Taliban. Therefore, it is not fair to build an accusation based on some matters which do not exist any longer. Speculation and accusation based on old and obsolete factors are not only helpful, but perpetuate prejudice and discrimination. Finally, those who still make these kind of allegations against Hazaras either being ignorant of Afghanistan’s history and the changes took place in recent decades, or for any reason, afraid to understand and acknowledge them.

In the upcoming posts, I will further discuss and analyze the opposing arguers’ points in different ways.


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