Afghanistan: A Month of Questions and No Clear Replies.
Featured Image: A street in Kabul, Afghanistan. By Christopher Killalea, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
By Rene Wadlow.
It is a month that the Taliban forces have taken control of Kabul, a symbol that they now control the state. In addition to the Taliban, there are an estimated 10,000 foreign fighters in some 20 Islamist groups. Among these are fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) who had been active in Iraq and Syria. Until now, these foreign fighters had operated independently from the Taliban.
An interim government of largely hard-line Taliban members has been created. However public services of education, health, transportation are poorly served if at all. The economy is at a standstill. Many persons who had worked for the U.S. or NATO troops as well as employees of Western non-governmental organizations have been given refuge abroad, but many had to be left behind. There is a flow of refugees to Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian Republics of the former USSR. Many other persons are also looking at the possibilities of leaving, and few consider returning from abroad.
Authorities in the regional states – Pakistan, Iran, China, India and the Central Asian Republics – are all asking questions as to what policies will the Taliban government put into place. General Faiz Hameed, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has already gone to Kabul to find answers, and, no doubt, to try to influence the policies. The ISI has been deeply involved in Afghan politics, especially since 1980 and the start of the Soviet intervention. At the start of August, one of the leading Taliban, Mullah Baradar met with the Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi in China.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. By Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
When the Taliban last ruled (1996-2001), they enforced a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, banning girls and women from schools and public life. The media was closely under control, and minorities marginalized. While it is still too early to know what the policies and practices of the Taliban toward minorities will be now, during the past Taliban rule, there was systematic discrimination against the Hazara. Thus on September first, the Association of World Citizens issued a Hazara Appeal.
Hazara people in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan 2020. By Shaah-Sultaan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
The are some three million Hazara whose home area is in the central mountainous core of Afghanistan, but a good number have migrated to Kabul, most holding unskilled labor positions in the city. The Hazara are largely Shi’a in religion but are considered as non-Muslim heretics or infidels by the Taliban. In the past, there was a genocidal period under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. During the 1891 – 1893 period, it is estimated that 60 percent of the Hazara were killed and many others put into slavery-like conditions.
To understand fully the concern of the Association of World Citizens for the Hazara, it is important to note that for the 1948 Convention against Genocide, the criteria for mass killings to be considered genocide does not depend on the number of persons killed or the percentage of the group destroyed but on the possibility of the destruction of the identity of a group. It is the identity of the Hazara and their religious base which is the key issue.
There have been repeated appeals to make the 1948 Genocide Convention operative as world law. The 1948 Convention has an action article, Article VIII which states:
“Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.”
Despite factual evidence of mass killings in Cambodia, former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has ever called for any action under Article VIII. (1)
Thus the World Citizen Appeal that events need to be watched closely and non-governmental organizations be prepared to take appropriate action to alert government.
1. For a detailed study of the 1948 Convention and subsequent normative development see William A. Schabas. Genocide in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2000, 624 pp.)
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.