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Advocating Hazara Cause and Recognition of Hazara Genocide: The lessons we could learn from Armenian US community

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On 24th of April, 2021 the US president Joe Biden called Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, and informed him that US government would formally recognize and acknowledge the Armenian killings of 1915 – 23 by Ottoman Empire as genocide. The announcement came more than a century after the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman troops. According to the analysts, this declaration might open a new rift between the new US administration and Ankara, but for those thousands of souls who lost their lives 106 years ago and for their relatives, hopefully this will bring some sort of closure and redemption. But very few people might know about the driving force that persuaded the US administration to reach this decision. The answer is Armenian American community living in United States who over the past many decades, vigorously and tirelessly advocated and ran a campaign that persuaded the US government to finally acknowledge the killings of innocent Armenians and genocide. This community of Armenian diaspora live in and around California will surely be very proud of their efforts and successful campaigning.

Before elaborating further, we need to understand the meaning of genocide. The word “genocide” is a very specific term coined by a Polish Jew lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who coined this word by combining genos – Greek for race or tribe – with “cide”, derived from Latin word for killing, to describe the Nazi brutal policies for systematic murder and destruction of European Jews during the Holocaust.

There is quite a lot of information available online about the long list of genocides committed over the last two hundred years with the number of lives lost from a few hundred to thousands. It is such a pity that the Hazara Genocide of (1890 – 1893), during the reign of Amir Abdur Rehman of Afghanistan, wherein hundreds of thousands of innocent people lost their lives is not mentioned anywhere.

Hazara genocide of 1888 – 1893 by Afghan Amir Abdur Rehman Khan, incited by racial and sectarian hatred was one of the most gruesome and heinous crimes ever committed against humanity, which resulted in loss of millions of innocent and precious lives, while thousands were forced to either leave their native land or sold as slaves in major cities in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. After the war, Hazara land, women, children and belongings were distributed as spoils of war amongst the Pashtoon nomads and soldiers who participated in this “holy war” against native Hazaras. Killing of hundreds of thousands of Hazara people, forced migration, and selling of Hazaras as slaves were documented by all major newspapers of the world at that time, yet there is no conscious recognition or remembrance of such a despicable act in modern history of mankind. This indifference and disregard to human dignity has caused Hazaras to suffer during the past 130 years or so. They are still hunted and being killed like sitting ducks in Afghanistan and Pakistan due to the same reasons even after all this time and yet there is no ending in sight, making this the longest and most brutal genocide in past couple of hundred years.

There are some respected individuals and groups of Hazara intellectuals who are working tirelessly to highlight Hazara genocide by documenting the historical record and data. Different events are being organized every year to commemorate the Hazara Genocide of 1890s. Their efforts and dedication to educate Hazara youth about their history is worthy of praise and appreciation, but if they want to take their cause further, they need to make the rest of the world aware of the atrocities and human right abuses that Hazaras suffered. They can set a goal for a future campaign, like Armenian US diaspora to persuade the civilized world to officially recognize the Hazara genocide. The UN Human Rights Council can be requested/approached to include the Hazara genocide in their official record. They may not be able to achieve all their goals but the process would ultimately help in highlighting the current deteriorating security situation and plight of Hazara people in Afghanistan and Pakistan in general. In the aftermath of US Military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the rise of Taliban, there would be a disastrous impact on human rights and the third largest minority group Hazaras who are already a target of some brutal attacks and mass killings in recent days.

The following multi-dimensional steps if taken, may be of great help in advocating this cause:

1st Stage:  Initiating a mass campaign to persuade Hazaras living all over the world to email a pre-drafted letter on the same subject to UN Human Rights Council and its sister organizations requesting them to include the Hazara genocide in their official record during the yearly commemoration events regarding Hazara Genocide.

2nd Stage:  In the 2nd stage of their campaign, they should engage and appeal Hazara diaspora living in their countries of residence to send or email a pre-drafted letter to their MP on the same subject requesting them to debate the Hazara Genocide in Parliament and lobbying for the official recognition of the same by their governments.

Below is an excerpt taken from “UN Office on Genocide prevention and the responsibility to protect” for reference purposes. Thanks

“Genocide was first recognized as a crime under international law in 1946 by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/96-I). It was codified as an independent crime in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention). The Convention has been ratified by 149 States (as of January 2018). The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has repeatedly stated that the Convention embodies principles that are part of general customary international law. This means that whether or not States have ratified the Genocide Convention, they are all bound as a matter of law by the principle that genocide is a crime prohibited under international law. The ICJ has also stated that the prohibition of genocide is a peremptory norm of international law (or ius cogens) and consequently, no derogation from it is allowed.

The definition of the crime of genocide as contained in Article II of the Génocide Convention was the result of a negotiating process and reflects the compromise reached among United Nations Member States in 1948 at the time of drafting the Convention. Genocide is defined in the same terms as in the Genocide Convention in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Article 6), as well as in the statutes of other international and hybrid jurisdictions. Many States have also criminalized genocide in their domestic law; others have yet to do so.

 

Definition

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: 

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

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