Solidarity With Hazara: Silent Vigil Held In Boston
Even as media attention focused on the goings-on at America’s capital where protestors shocked the world by storming the Capitol Building (nothing shocking for Pakistanis used to such attempts to subvert democracy) another drama — tragedy rather — unfolded in Quetta, Pakistan.
This too is not new. The target killings. The silent, and the not-so-silent protests. Standing in front of the Boston Public Library at Copley Square in the freezing cold, in solidarity with the Hazara protestors who are also out there in below-freezing temperatures of Quetta
This time, Covid-19 forced the Boston demonstrators to wear masks and stand six feet apart.
Meanwhile, in Quetta, dozens of demonstrators are sitting it out as they have many times before for days at a time, round the clock, keeping vigil over the coffins of Hazaras killed in cold blood. Refusing to bury them until justice is assured. For the killers to be brought to book. That never happens, as signs in Boston carried by more than demonstrator proclaimed.
The demonstrators in Quetta want Prime Minister Imran Khan go to Quetta to meet them before they’ll bury their dead. His speech terming their demand as “blackmail” catalysed activists in Quetta to go on hunger strike.
“IMRAN KHAN TAKE ACTION” read one handmade placard in Boston.
“PAKISTANI GOVT HAS TO ANSWER FOR HAZARA GENOCIDE” read another.
While he was in opposition, before coming to power in 2018, Imran Khan was critical of incumbent prime ministers for not rushing to Quetta to offer condolences after attacks on the Hazara community. With hashtags like #PMShouldApologise trending, the Prime Minister late Friday agreed to the protestors’ demands, including going to Quetta. The martyrs’ committee has called off its six-day sit-in.
Hazaras in Pakistan, living mostly in the Quetta area, are ghettoised, abducted and murdered. In the most recent grisly target killing, 11 coal miners in Balochistan were dragged out of their shared residence and killed in cold blood.
What will a silent vigil in Boston accomplish?
“We just want to share their pain”, says Mehnaz who is there with three sisters and a brother, all students. They are from a Hazara family in Quetta that moved to the Boston area three years ago to escape persecution back home. They stand in a line, holding their placards. “We are far away but at least we can be together in solidarity”.
Not all the demonstrators are Hazara. Two young men, one Pakistani and one Asian-American, a real-estate broker and an accountant, also stand in solidarity. So does a young Egyptian.
“Our participation in the upcoming silent protest is the bare minimum of what we can do for the Hazara community”, urged email by Nudrat Kazmi, one of the organisers, sent out the day earlier.
“Your presence can shed light onto a passerby, media and/or those in power who can continue this chain reaction of raising their voices to bring about positive change and justice”.
Beena Sarwar is a Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and artist focusing on human rights, gender, media and peace. Beena can be reached on Twitter @beenasarwar – Her works are archived at www.beenasarwar.com