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IS Targets and Kills 11 Hazara Shia Muslims in Pakistan

Since Saturday’s attack on the Hazara coal miners, the families of the victims have taken to the streets to protest at the lack of government action and protection, and are demanding a judicial commission to look into the continued attacks that are specifically targetting the Hazara community in Balochistan. 

In a horrifying attack, IS has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of 11 coal miners in the Pakistani province of Balochistan. These coal miners were from the Hazara ethnic minority, a mainly Shia Muslim group long targetted by both IS and the Taliban for what they deem to be “heretical” Shia Muslim beliefs.

The IS militants reportedly kidnapped at least 11 of these coal miners, where they were forcibly taken to nearby mountains. By the time the kidnapped were found, six were already dead – five more were found critically wounded and died on their way to the hospital, according to local officials.

A leaked and horrendous video from the site where the coal miners were found shows the victim’s bodies spread across the floor of a small hut, their hands and feet crudely bound together, according to the BBC. Photos that accompanied IS’s claim of responsibility for the attack show IS militants standing over the bodies of three victims, with the ISIL flag hung up in the background.

The attack on Saturday night took place near the small town of Mach, close to the border with Afghanistan, where the Hazara are originally from – many have migrated to and now live in the Balochistan province of neighboring Pakistan, where this most recent gruesome attack happened.

This attack is only the newest in a long history of persecution – Hazaras are not only targetted for their ethnicity but, as many government officials refuse to acknowledge, for their Shia Islam beliefs as well.

The Hazaras, who are predominantly Shia Muslim and a Persian speaking ethnic group native to the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, are said to originally be of Mongolian and Central Asian descent. A mixture of historical evidence and legend say that the Hazaras are descendants of Genghis Khan himself, who with his army invaded Afghanistan in the 13th century.

The Hazaras are the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, where many have immigrated to, they make up one of the largest minority groups in the country. Roughly half a million Hazara live in Quetta, in the Balochistan province of Pakistan.

Worryingly, however, since 2013 more than 500 Harazas have been targeted and killed in Balochistan alone, although many Hazara rights activists are claiming that number is easily in the thousands. In 2013 alone, more than 200 Hazaras were killed in a series of bombs, and in April of 2018, a series of targeted shootings killed Hazara members indiscriminately in the region.

The city of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, is highly divided and segregated, with the ethnic Baloch, Pashtun, and Hazara communities living in distinctly separated corners of the city. Many have also pointed to a complete lack of protection from Pakistani authorities, as the Hazara community continues to face targeted killings and prosecution by armed sectarian groups.

Why are we ignoring the persecution of the Hazaras?

Outside of Pakistan, the Hazara Muslims are also targetted in their country of Afghanistan by extremists such as IS and the Taliban – most recently in May at a maternity ward at a hospital in a Hazara neighborhood that left 24 mothers, children, and nurses murdered in broad daylight and in November when 17 people were killed from two explosions in the city of Bamiyan near a popular marketplace, with at least 50 people were also severely wounded in addition to the death toll.

Since Saturday’s attack on the Hazara coal miners, the families of the victims have taken to the streets to protest at the lack of government action and protection, and are demanding a judicial commission to look into the continued attacks that are specifically targetting the Hazara community in Balochistan.

Many of the protestors, now numbering in the hundreds, are demanding government action and justice – and many are claiming that they will refuse to bury the bodies of the victims until justice is served.

Masooma Bibi, who lost a brother and a cousin in the attack, told reporters:

Turn his killers over to us. We are exhausted from having carried so many bodies, why do you people not understand? For God’s sake, give us justice. Give us justice!”

Worryingly, the persecution of the Hazara Shia minority has remained largely unheard of and ignored by most of the world. Not only do they remain a minority within their own country ethnically, but because of the large majority of Hazaras being Shia Muslim, it becomes worrying when larger, Sunni-dominated Muslim countries turn a blind eye to the indiscriminate killings of the Hazaras.

It remains to be seen how the Pakistani government will respond and serve justice for this most recent atrocity.

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