August 23, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC -- As our nation and the world watch the unfolding events in Afghanistan, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is deeply concerned about grave threats facing many segments of Afghan society, including women and girls. In particular, we are concerned about ethnic and religious minorities, specifically the Shi’a minority who belong predominantly to the Hazara ethnic group, which faces a risk of crimes against humanity or even genocide. Other minority communities also face a precarious future.
Genocide is a rare crime, but this threat is not new. As both an ethnic and religious minority, the Hazaras have long faced discrimination and violence. The group has suffered social and economic marginalization and waves of physical attacks. The group faced targeted violence when the Taliban was last in power and many fled as refugees to neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Since its emergence in 2015, ISIS - Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) has also attacked the community and has stated its goal to exterminate Shi’a, including the Hazara.
The longstanding persecution of the Hazara continues today, as there has been a recent resurgence of attacks on the community. Hazara schools and religious sites have been bombed, medical clinics targeted, and Hazara civilians murdered by the Taliban or ISIS-K. On May 8, 2021, a suicide bombing of a high school killed 85 Hazara civilians, mostly schoolgirls, and wounded more than 240. One year earlier ISIS-K claimed responsibility for an attack on a maternity hospital in the predominantly Hazara Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of Kabul that killed 24 people, including mothers and newborns. Now that the Taliban has retaken control of the country, the Hazara face an even greater risk of attack.
“Even before recent events, Afghanistan ranked second highest in the world for risk of a new onset of mass killing of civilians, according to the Museum and Dartmouth College’s Early Warning Project. The recent developments have heightened that risk exponentially,” said Naomi Kikoler, the director of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
Kikoler continued, “The international community can work together to protect key civilian infrastructure and vulnerable people, secure locations and corridors for humanitarian assistance and freedom of movement, document crimes, and provide refuge to those at risk. Additionally, the Taliban must protect civilians and allow freedom of movement for those seeking to leave the country.”
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.
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