Subsequently, because of their support for democracy in Afghanistan, Hazaras were regularly targeted by the Taliban insurgency. Taliban perceptions that Hazaras had stepped out of their historical role as a subordinate and inferior group led the violent extremists to push back in an increasingly targeted and violent manner. Now, with the Taliban back in power, Hazaras face direct threats and systematic discrimination in Afghanistan. With nearly complete collapse of independent media and civil society, the Hazara diaspora have also lost their “eyes and ears” to report on the community’s vulnerable situation and advocate for their plight. Hazara advocates for human rights have relied on civil society efforts inside the country, and with the Taliban in power the community’s agency has been lost. Addressing access issues to monitor the plight of Hazaras under the Taliban rule will be critical for identifying and preventing crimes against the community.
In the Taliban’s totalitarian Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, there is no meaningful political inclusivity or representation for Hazaras at any level. Since regaining control of Afghanistan last year, the Taliban have implemented overtly discriminatory policies. While parts of the international community have voiced concerns about the plight of Hazaras, the Taliban have rejected the international community’s call for inclusivity by arguing that people who worked for the governments of the last twenty years will not be accepted. In their understanding, inclusivity is limited to Sunni religious groups, as well as factions and fronts that fought under the banner of the Taliban and attended religious schools in Pakistan and certain parts of Afghanistan.
When the Taliban announced their caretaker government in September 2021, it was revealed that several members of the Taliban’s Haqqani network, the faction considered closest to Pakistan and led by designated global terrorists, were appointed to key positions in the cabinet. Hazaras are represented neither in the Taliban interim cabinet (33 members), nor as provincial and district governors (34 provinces, 387 districts), mayors, or police chiefs. In the three largely Hazara-populated provinces of Bamiyan, Daikundi, and Ghazni, Hazaras do not occupy any senior government position. For example, in Bamiyan, the new governor, Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi, is an extremist from Zabul province with links to the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, who were involved in the massacres of Hazaras in Bamiyan and the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
Overall, the cabinet’s makeup and policies show that it is serving the Taliban movement rather than an ethnically and culturally diverse population of 38 million people. The Taliban are occupied with maintaining the movement’s internal cohesion and demonstrate little concern for the average Afghan, let alone despised minorities like the Hazaras. The exclusion of Hazaras at all levels is largely due to their history of opposition to the Taliban. Consequently, the Taliban have often appeared to be driven by revenge against Hazaras. George Packer in an article quoted a Hazara woman who stated that “Talibs had told the imam of the Shiite mosque in her family’s Kabul neighborhood that they would kill any local Hazara soldiers they might later find if he didn’t give up their names now.”
Facing international pressure for political inclusivity as a condition for recognition, the new Taliban regime appointed two Hazara men to mostly symbolic positions. The first is the appointment of a 33-year-old criminal-turned-commander known as Mawlawi Mahdi. He joined the Taliban in recent years as a low-level commander in Sari-Pul province before rising to the position of intelligence chief for Bamiyan province for a few months until he was recently dismissed and shifted to another role in Kabul. Reportedly, Mawlawi Mahdi’s dismissal from Bamiyan is also believed to be influenced by the perception, according to an analyst interviewed from Bamiyan province, that “Mehdi can be biased towards his ethnic group and not share critical intelligence information the Taliban may face from the Hazaras.” The second is Abdul Latif Nazari, who was appointed as Deputy Minister of Economy.
The symbolic appointments of Hazaras mentioned above do not promise any genuine representation, security, or protection for the Hazara community in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. Ethnic Hazaras are also being dismissed from the government’s bureaucracy under the pretext of reform to make an “Islamic” system designed by and for the Taliban. A lecturer from Bamiyan University, whose name is withheld for security reasons, emphasized that Hazaras are “removed from all layers of civil services in Bamiyan under the pretext of reform and reshuffling.” According to the lecturer, eight people were recently dismissed from the education department without reason. Similarly, in a recent move the Taliban have reshuffled the judiciary and cleansed Hazaras from all layers of Afghanistan’s judicial bodies—including removing 100 judges—stating that the “Hazaras cannot be a judge.”