'Please help:' Hazara in Halifax fear for families in Afghanistan

·3 min read
A protest in Ottawa against the Taliban's swift takeover over of Afghanistan on Aug. 14, 2021. The Hazara community in Halifax are planning a similar protest to raise awareness at the Peace and Friendship park on Aug. 25. (Celeste Decaire/CBC - image credit)
A protest in Ottawa against the Taliban's swift takeover over of Afghanistan on Aug. 14, 2021. The Hazara community in Halifax are planning a similar protest to raise awareness at the Peace and Friendship park on Aug. 25. (Celeste Decaire/CBC - image credit)

The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking for many Afghan-Canadians living in Halifax, but for minority groups like the Hazara, a Taliban takeover could be a death sentence.

For the protection of the Hazara community members interviewed for this story and that of their families in Afghanistan, CBC News has agreed not to publish one of the people's names and is only providing first names for the others.

A man who lived under the Taliban's 1996 to 2001 regime told CBC's Information Morning that after speaking to his family earlier this week, he fears they are in danger.

He said the Taliban have said in the past that the Hazara people must leave Afghanistan because they "do not belong."

"They are searching the houses now, especially for Hazara people and who were [working] for the international community, to hunt them," he said Wednesday.

He said a few days ago, a statue of Abdul Ali Mazari, who was killed by Taliban in 1995, was toppled in Bamiyan.

Mazari was the head of the Hazara resistance against the Taliban, which could be a reflection of their intentions moving forward.

A protest to show support and raise awareness is being planned by Halifax's Hazara community for Aug. 25 in Peace and Friendship Park.

The Hazara community was once the largest ethnic and mostly Shia Muslim minority group in Afghanistan, until the massacre in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, which saw the Taliban regime driving through the streets shooting civilians indiscriminantly.

Hazara of all ages and occupations were specifically targeted.

At least 2,000 people died, and the event forced many Hazara to flee Afghanistan to seek refuge in countries like Canada, the United States, India and Pakistan.

People from the community die every year attempting to escape. Several community members in Halifax are asking governments to give more preventative assistance.

Children are not safe

Razia, who has been in Canada for 8 years, said her brother's two daughters were killed by Taliban 18 year ago.

Members of Razia's family still live there and are in hiding. They are terrified to leave their homes, she said.

"Please help," she told CBC Radio's Information Morning. "We are really worried about our family and the Hazara community."

Sheyda is a young teenager who lives in Halifax and is part of the Hazara community. She said being in Canada and feeling helpless to do anything has been hard, especially when girls her age are in danger.

"Girls younger than me, they're hiding and they are planning suicide," said Sheyda.

She said she's grateful to be here, but she feels a lot of guilt because girls in Afghanistan are having their lives and opportunities taken away from them.

"If it were a possibility for any Afghans or any young ladies there to see this, I don't want them to give up hope," she said.

'Calm before the storm'

Ateka, a Hazara woman in Halifax who's family remains in Afghanistan, sais she feels helpless and unable to do much except contact her family and try to get the government of Canada to take in more Afghans.

After Herat fell to the Taliban, her family said it became extremely quiet, and she feels this is the "calm before the storm," given what has happened in the past.

She said that Hazara are often "abandoned by others," but she and others in her community are dedicated to raising awareness about her people.

She said the Canadian government should bring more Hazara here because they are one of the most at-risk groups.

"They are in danger. They're going to kill us first," she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Ali, a man who has been in Halifax for 20 years. His family is currently in hiding.

Ali said his brother tried to flee by plane, but like thousands of other Afghans, he was not able to leave.

Ali told CBC's Information Morning he feels history will soon repeat itself if people are unable to escape in time.

"They will kill one by one," he said.

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