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The murder of Hazaras and the rise of Daesh in Afghanistan
23 November 2015. A World to Win News Service. The biggest political protests Afghanistan has seen in years took place over several days in early November. A large crowd (10,000 people according to the New York Times) marched across the capital to the presidential palace, where they chanted “Death to Taliban, Death to Daesh” (Islamic State) and called on the government to resign.
The protesters included relatives of seven Hazara civilians kidnapped by Daesh when they were travelling through Zabul province in south-west Afghanistan last March. Recently they were found beheaded. Among them were three women and two children.
People of Afghanistan were shocked. A protest convoy carried the bodies from Zabul to Ghazni, in central Afghanistan, a city where many Hazaras live. Thousands of people rallied. Then, despite the opposition of the authorities, the bodies were brought to the capital. After an all-night vigil in the rain, protesters bearing the coffins marched to the presidential palace. Many were young, and they included thousands of women. Women carried a banner declaring, “It is a crime to see a crime and stay silent” and blaming the government for complicity in a recent wave of kidnappings and murders of Hazara people.
As they approached the presidential palace, they were met with by special guards and military. The guards shot and injured five demonstrators, according to the health ministry. Many protesters found their way into a court building.
The U.S. occupation and its appointed governments promised security for the people. Since the occupiers stepped in to make Ashraf Ghani president last year, one of the most important issues concerning most people has been security – the right not to be killed or abused by any of the armed gangs running amok, including the Taliban and now Daesh, and government thugs as well. There have been numerous reports of jihadi commanders brought into the government who have kidnapped young women and teenage girls, raped them and then demanded ransom. In many cases the result has been the disappearance of the victim.
This kind of kidnapping has not diminished throughout the years but has escalated. And various groups and forces with different motives now have become part of that. The emergence of Daesh has added tremendously to this problem. People feel that it is not safe to go outside their towns, or even walk on the streets in town. Some 146,000 Afghan refugees arriving in Europe have been registered so far in 2015.
The existence of Daesh in Afghanistan became clear earlier this year. Although they avoided fighting with the government and U.S. and other Nato occupation troops, they often clashed with the Taliban. In Achin and Pachiragam districts in Nangarhar province, they reportedly set fire to 106 homes whose residents they accused of cooperating with the Taliban.
Finally, in April, Daesh claimed the responsibility for a suicide attack that killed only innocent people in Jalalabad, under the name of “the Khorasan Islamic State”. At the present time there is no province named Khorasan in Afghanistan. There are North and South Khorasan provinces in eastern Iran. Historically Khorasan is the name of a region that covers most of today’s Afghanistan, Tajikistan, most of north-eastern Iran and nearly half of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Naming themselves the Islamic State of Khorasan proclaims Daesh’s ambition to extend their operations and rule into Iran and the rest of Central Asia.
A recent report by a UN committee indicates Daesh is now active in 24 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. This report also says that at least 10 percent of Taliban members support Daesh. This adds more complication and misery for the people in the region.
There are clear indications that Afghan government and U.S. forces in Afghanistan have observed Daesh’s growing influence in Afghanistan but have either done nothing or have not been able to prevent its influence. Some people think that the Afghan government and its American backers deliberately allowed Daesh to grow so that a force hostile to Taliban could undermine its ability to fight the government and the occupation. Others think that the authorities genuinely could not predict that Daesh would be capable of finding a base in Afghanistan, given the existence of Taliban and the presence of U.S. troops, and have simply proved incapable of stopping Daesh. There is a very widespread feeling that, one way or another, the U.S. and its current Afghan government are at fault for the rise of Daesh.
However, the people who went to the presidential palace seeking justice took their righteous outrage to the wrong place. The president and the whole government cannot help because they are part of the problem. Not only have they failed to protect people, but even more fundamentally, they and their imperialist backers, who invaded the country and occupy it still, are the biggest factor in the people’s insecurity, both directly and in terms of the consequences of the situation they have perpetuated in the country, the immediate region and more broadly. All this has given birth to wave after wave of religious fundamentalists.
For instance, Daesh’s strongest base in Afghanistan is in Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan. U.S drone attacks and Pakistani military campaigns have driven Pakistani Taliban from Waziristan into Afghanistan, especially Nangarhar. Daesh has been able to attract people from the Pakistani Taliban, such as a top-ranking Pakistani Taliban who went over to Daesh in January.
It seems that Daesh is counting on using the momentum (and arms and cash) it has acquired in its wider conflict with imperialism to take advantage of discontents rising within the Taliban ranks over the last few years. Daesh’s rapid advancement in Iraq and Syria and its influence in Libya and Egypt and elsewhere have impressed some Taliban elements who are frustrated by the prolongation of the war with the government and the U.S. Some are discontented with the negotiations between the Taliban and the government.
The seven people beheaded in Zabul were poor. Like many others, they were travelling in search of a temporary job when they were grabbed by Daesh, imprisoned for seven or eight months and then murdered because they were Shia.
This turn of events poses a serious threat that might give rise to the kind of sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni that has been going on in Iraq and Pakistan for years. Hazaras are both Afghanistan’s most oppressed ethnic minority and also, since most are Shia, a religious minority. The Taliban have not chosen to emphasize Sunni-Shia conflict, whereas for Daesh hatred for Shia Islam and its practitioners is central to its ideological and political identity and aims.
Clearly Daesh’s advance in Afghanistan is impelled by the situation in the broader Middle East. Daesh has enjoyed the neutrality or some support of Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, but it could not have gained control of a third of Iraq if it had not been able to win over Iraqi youth outraged by the U.S. invasion and fed up with the Shia regime installed under the occupation. At the same time they took advantage of the power vacuum in the civil war in Syria that the imperialist and regional powers stoked. This has enabled it to position itself as the main opponent of imperialist domination of a whole swath of the Earth, and to set its religious claims as the only alternative.
If it is true that Daesh, like other varieties of Islamic fundamentalism, could not exist as they do without imperialism, its crimes and all that it does to other countries, then the inescapable conclusion is that the people cannot be freed of this scourge without opposing, rather than supporting, the imperialist powers, their global system and their political allies and local stooges. After all, when people protested the murder of Hazaras, they were fired on by the Afghan government backed up by the U.S. and thousands of American troops.