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Too Soon To Forget: Support The Grieving Hazaras

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The Hazara Community, which lost 11 members to a brutal sectarian killing two months ago, needs continued support of the Pakistani people.

In 2013, a crowded snooker club in Quetta was blown up by a twin suicide attack, leaving 92 people dead and 121 wounded. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, claimed responsibility. Just a little over a month later, 70-80 kilograms of explosives planted inside a water tank and smuggled into Balochistan’s Hazara town blew up in a crowded market, leaving 90 people dead.

The victims were largely Hazaras, an ethnic Shia minority residing in Balochistan.

Amidst the shock and grief of the brutal attacks, thousands of Hazaras sat with their dead in sub-zero temperature, refusing to bury them until their demands were met. State authorities called for the burial with assurances of fulfilling the Hazara’s requests.

8 years later, in a heartbreakingly familiar image, thousands of Hazaras sat in bitter cold with the dead bodies of 11 murdered Hazara miners, refusing to bury them until the killers were apprehended. Breadwinners to several women and children, these miners were kidnapped on 3rd January 2021 from a coal mine outside Quetta and brutally murdered in an act of sectarian killing. The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Akin to 2013, protests and outcry followed the attacks, with throngs of people taking to the streets and demanding an end to the killing of Hazaras and the larger Shia community.

By now, most of the outpouring of support has subsided, but the suffering of the Hazaras has not.

A week after the killings, The Grief Directory, a non-profit organization supporting victims of terrorism, hosted a talk addressing ‘How to Approach and Support Terrorism Victims’. The panel comprised of Ms. Sabiha Ikhlaq, the mother of targeted ex-MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi and founder of Shaheed Syed Ali Raza Abidi (SSARA) Foundation; Dr. Asma Hamid Awan, the head of the Political Science department at Kinnaird College for Women; Umaima Ahmed, a freelance Journalist; Dr. Fatima Ali Haider, the founder of The Grief Directory and a survivor of terrorism; and Ms. Shazia Khan, a member of the Hazara community. The panelists discussed various aspects of terrorism in Pakistan and the means of individual and collective support, particularly for the Hazara Community.

Ms. Shazia explained that the constant threat to life of self and loved ones was a significant but singular element in a host of grievances. The Hazaras have been living in extremely surveiled and isolated circumstances due to both threat of violence as well as state security measures. As a result, their travel, ability to conduct business, and access to quality education is severely restricted. Hazara traders have been forced to shut down previously prospering businesses while the area’s existing educational institutes have limited facilities and quality staff, and non-residents are hesitant to work there. This means that generations of Hazaras are stuck in cycles of financial and literary poverty, isolation, and immense trauma with little recourse for betterment. Their suffering is aggravated by the complete lack of psychological and trauma support, an absence that has strongly affected their persecuted and bereaved youth, among whom cases of mental illness and suicide are prevalent.

How You Can Help

In spite of these unimaginably painful circumstances, the Hazaras are a very peaceful and hardworking community, with a history of significant contributions to our country. This includes one Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, General Muhammad Musa Khan, and one of Pakistan’s first female Fighter Pilots, Saira Batool. There are several ways we can support this incredible group of people and stand by them in their tremendous loss and suffering.

One such way is to offer logistical support. Ms. Shazia described one form of this as collaborations and partnerships in business; since the Hazaras face difficulties with transportation and travel, they are often unable to establish adequate supply chains for an operational business. People from all over Pakistan can aid them in this regard and help them restart their businesses. Additionally, supporters can take the example of the SSARA foundation, which has opened vocational centers in Jaffarabad and provided assets such as sewing machines and computers to the locals. These are sustainable solutions that avoid dependency in the recipients and achieve Ms. Shazia’s requested goal to “teach them to catch a fish, not eat a fish”.

Another way is to provide financial support, especially to the affected families. However, Ms. Shazia cautions any helpers to avoid making such donations through middle persons or individual members since often this support never reaches the affected families. Instead, it is better to reach out to the organizations she has identified (listed at the end of the article) and transfer money to their registered accounts. If people still decide to offer support through other channels, it is always prudent to follow-up, speak to the affected families and ensure transparency.

Other forms of support can involve psychological and educational support. The Hazara community is in dire need of Therapists (especially Trauma Therapists), Psychologists, Psychotherapists and Psychiatrists. Similarly, Teachers, Educators and Language Instructors can significantly impact their educational state and contribute towards paving a better future for their youth. Individuals and organizations from Pakistan and abroad can significantly assist this community through such services and they are encouraged to reach out to The Grief Directory or the listed organizations if they can offer such support.

The relentless persecution of the Hazara community is an indelible stain on our collective conscience and the history of this nation. The least fellow Pakistanis can do for this peaceful community is to extend their support in these various ways and enable some space for grieving, remembering and perhaps, ultimately, healing.

List of Organizations

1. Noor Welfare Society

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NOORWELFARE72/

Contact Head office: +92-81-2650469

Contact Noor Blood Bank & Diagnostic Lab: +92-812-666673

Contact Shaheed Shahid Abbas Branch Hazara Town: +92-812-856233

According to a community member, they work for education, distribute ration to affected families and provide ambulance services.

2. Shaheed Foundation Pakistan

Website: https://www.shaheedfoundation.org/contactus.asp

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ShaheedFoundationPakistan/

Contact Numbers: +92-21-36366335 ; +92-344-7424333 ; +92-344-2201111

Shaheed foundation works on a larger scale with affected families and carries out various welfare activities.

3. Abuturab Open Scouts Group

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/registered1976/

Contact Number: +92-300-3009309

According to a community member, they have made significant contributions in the community especially during tragic circumstances. They also stay in touch with martyrs’ families.

4. NIMSO

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NIMSOrganziation/

According to a community member, they work on education and monthly expenses of the martyrs’ families.

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