Hazara womend protest in Quetta on April 19.
Life as a Hazara in art
Women protest in Hazaras, Quetta
"There are extremists all around us. In the end, we begin to suspect every person we cross in the street"
Hazaras were first targeted by extremists in Quetta in 1999. Since then, there have been periods more violent than others, and certain incidents such as the July 4, 2003 suicide attack on the city’s Hazara mosque, which were deadlier than others [the attack left a total of 53 dead and 150 injured, according to figures provided by organisations defending Hazara rights], but there has never really been a moment over the past 20 years when there was no unrest.From the very beginning, extremists groups have tired to force us out of the area because they view us as ‘infidels’ [in June, 2011, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group distributed leaflets explaining that all Shiite Muslims were infidels and that Pakistan would become an enormous burial ground for Hazaras if they didn’t flee the country before 2012].We are forced to live in seclusion. After the recent attacks, during which terrorists actually sought out salespeople by going to the stores where they were employed, some people simply decided to stop working. Children have stopped going to school because there’s no guarantee that they will be safe in a Hazara institution. Women have also stopped going to the market.We’ve lost our liberty. There are no traces of the police in our neighbourhoods. We’ve had to organise amongst ourselves a way of keeping our community safe. We have a group of volunteers, some of whom are armed, that we place at regular checkpoints throughout our neighbourhoods, but it’s complicated because we don’t want to shut other residents out of the area.I don’t feel safe anywhere. I know that Hazaras are easily identified by our physical traits [Hazaras are thought to have ethnic Mongolian roots]. I have personally survived several attacks, ones that many of my close friends did not. There are extremists all around us, they live in the same city as we do, which means that the threat of being attacked is always there. In the end, after all the violence we’ve lived through, we begin to suspect every person we cross in the street.No one understands why the government is completely resigned to the ordeal our community is faced with. We live on good terms with the non-extremist Muslims in our city. We want the right to Shiite and Pakistani. Unfortunately, in Balochistan it’s the extremists who make the law.