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Hazara Killings: Silence Is An Act Of Oppression Itself

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The tragic news circulated the other day with headline, “11 coal miners killed in Balochistan’s Mach area after being kidnapped”. I went through the article with a heavy heart and a quiet prayer. Scrolling down, I found another article with a similar headline. There’s a growing feeling of dread in my heart, a realization that something is not quite being told fully, that something is missing from the articles and I am too afraid to find out what that might be. Steeling myself against what I was about to see, I finally ran a Google search. Sure enough, the same news is reported by Reuters and Al Jazeera, but without the omission.

The murdered coal miners belonged to the minority, Hazara community. This was a sectarian attack. The brutal, cowardly terrorists had abducted and tied the hands of their victims before slaughtering them.

A lot of people have suffered loss at the hands of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan but none have paid a higher price than the Hazaras. According to the Hazara Report by the NHCR, nearly 2,000 Hazaras have been killed by armed assailants, suicide bombers and target killers. The Hazaras have been a target of persecution and violence for over two decades.

No one, be it businessmen, tea- sellers, pilgrims, students, civil servants, police cadets, an Olympian boxer, miners or worshippers in a mosque – none have been spared by these terror attacks. Doctors, engineers and state functionaries are all equal targets of this violence. Since 2001, hundreds of members of the community have died in bomb blasts including one of the biggest bomb attacks in the country in January 2013 which killed over 170 people and injured 200 others.

I don’t think words can ever be enough to describe the plight of the Hazara community. Hundreds of mothers have lost their sons, daughters their fathers, wives their husbands, sisters their brothers and families their breadwinners. The graveyards are running out of space to bury the abysmally large number of dead. Every grave tells its own story. It is hard to find a single household in the Hazara community in Quetta which has not been a victim of targeted killings. g

Governments, the incumbent and the previous, have been promising reforms, but that are nowhere to be seen. And what is extremely shocking is the lack of empathy from the people in general. We can clearly see that; over the years, many of us have become quite hardened to terrorist attacks. We tend to easily get over them. But the families who have lost their loved ones, who continue to keep vacant seats at their dinner tables, who spend years waiting for their loved ones to return home, unable to accept that they might not be returning ever – these families have the hardest time letting go. They will grieve over their losses for life.

However, even more than having become hardened against news of terrorism, what’s downright appalling is the people’s denial of the persecution that the Hazara community suffers. I have met a number of people who are very active against the genocide in Gaza and of the Uighurs, but somehow, they choose to remain silent on the Hazara community’s genocide. How can one show outrage against atrocities while deeming them kosher in one’s own country? Selective activism is hypocritical; its biases can oftentimes make it worse than silence itself.

We have to realise that remaining silent when others are oppressed is an act of oppression itself. It is the same as giving our permission for the oppression to continue and that is exactly what is happening in our country. By being silent, we diminish ourselves and our selfhood. Do we have to suffer, to go through the same ordeal and pain in order for a cause to matter to us? Are we going to keep ignoring the atrocities until they reach our own houses? What will it take for us to stand up with the oppressed and to fight against injustices? The ball truly lies in our own court.

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Naya Daur