Afghan po­lice fire shots as Hazara rally boils over

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KABUL: Afghan po­lice yes­ter­day fired into the air to dis­perse pro­test­ers who tried to scale the walls of a build­ing near the Pres­i­dent’s palace as anger boiled over at the mur­der of seven mem­bers of the Hazara eth­nic mi­nor­ity by Is­lamist mil­i­tants. Live tele­vi­sion pic­tures from a protest march by thou­sands of Hazara showed mem­bers of the crowd scat­ter as po­lice fired warn­ing shots. The im­ages showed one young woman be­ing car­ried away, but it was un­clear if she had been hit by gun­fire.

In one of the big­gest demon­stra­tions in Kabul in years, thou­sands of pro­test­ers marched through the Afghan cap­i­tal to de­mand gov­ern­ment ac­tion af­ter the killers dumped the par­tially be­headed bod­ies of their vic­tims. The Hazara are a Per­sian-speak­ing, mainly Shia mi­nor­ity who have long faced per­se­cu­tion in Afghanistan, with thou­sands mas­sa­cred by the Tale­ban and al Qaeda in the 1990s, but a se­ries of mur­ders and kid­nap­pings this year has stoked a mood of grow­ing de­spair.

“The only way to pre­vent such crimes in the fu­ture is to take over all gov­ern­ment of­fices un­til they wake up and make a de­ci­sion, said demon­stra­tor Sayed Karim, 40, one of thou­sands who filled the whole of Mazari Square in western Kabul. Be­sides swelling the daily toll of killings, the deaths of the seven Hazara, who in­cluded three women and two chil­dren, have height­ened the risk that sec­tar­ian ha­tred will fur­ther poi­son the cli­mate in a coun­try made up of a mix of dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties. Bear­ing the green­draped coffins of the dead and car­ry­ing ban­ners with slogans such as “The Tale­ban are com­mit­ting crimes and the gov­ern­ment is sup­port­ing them”, the crowd marched more than 10 km (six miles) to the pres­i­den­tial palace.

“We have come here to ask the gov­ern­ment to give us the per­pe­tra­tors, so we can take re­venge,” said Tara­nom Sayedi, an­other pro­tester. Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani has con­demned the killings and promised an in­ves­ti­ga­tion but they have fu­elled a grow­ing sense of in­se­cu­rity since the Tal­iban briefly seized con­trol of the key north­ern city of Kun­duz in late Septem­ber.

Ghani’s na­tional unity gov­ern­ment has come un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to ad­dress par­lia­ment on the wors­en­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion. “This sends a very dan­ger­ous mes­sage to the peo­ple of Afghanistan, its gov­ern­ment and its in­ter­na­tional al­lies,” said Ab­dul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the lower house of par­lia­ment. “This is­sue doesn’t be­long to a fam­ily, a tribe or an eth­nic group, but it be­longs to all Afghans.”

The killings in the southern prov­ince of Zabul occurred amid fight­ing be­tween ri­val Tale­ban fac­tions and Is­lamic State mil­i­tants that has un­der­lined the risk of fur­ther frag­men­ta­tion, com­pli­cat­ing any re­open­ing of the peace process and cre­at­ing the risk of more gen­er­al­ized an­ar­chy. Demon­stra­tors said Hazara peo­ple were be­ing killed ev­ery day on the roads be­tween Ghazni, Bamyan and War­dak prov­inces to the west of Kabul, where the Tale­ban con­trol much of the coun­try­side af­ter in­ter­na­tional forces stopped most com­bat oper­a­tions last year. Be­sides the Tale­ban and Is­lamic State, many Hazara have di­rected their anger against the Pash­tun, the largest eth­nic group, from which the Is­lamist move­ments re­cruit most of their fol­low­ers. “We’re from this coun­try,” said a demon­stra­tor who gave her name only as So­haila. “We have to have the same rights as other cit­i­zens.” — Reuters

KABUL: Afghan pro­test­ers carry a cof­fin con­tain­ing a de­cap­i­tated body of one of seven Shi­ite Mus­lim Hazaras, in­clud­ing four men, two women and one child, dur­ing a demonstration in Kabul yes­ter­day. — AFP

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