Hazara refugees build new home in Kansas but need help for their loved ones in Afghanistan

Aziz Nadeem is a bank teller in Gardner, Kansas. He is among about 750 refugees who arrived in Kansas City after US troops left Afghanistan in 2021.

Since the Taliban came to power, Nadeem has been worried about the future of his friends and family, his fellow Hazara ethnic minority who have been subjected to long-term abuse.

“The Taliban have resumed a process of massacre of the Hazaras that began a century ago,” Nadeem said, “and they are trying to transfer the lands and property of the Hazaras to the individuals and groups they support.”

About 60 Hazara families live in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Mohammad Ibrahimi, who arrived in 1983, believes that his family was one of the first Hazara families to come to the area. They now live in Overland Park.

Mohammad Ibrahimi came to the United States from Afghanistan in 1983. He believes that his family was one of the first Hazara families to arrive in the Kansas City area.

“We left Afghanistan because of the genocide of the Hazaras,” Ibrahimi said, adding that the communist government at the time was against the Hazaras because of their religion and ethnicity. “They kidnapped and killed my brother after we decided to leave the land of our ancestors. First we went to Pakistan, (then) to Italy, and then in 1983 we came to the United States.”

Several other Hazara families arrived after the Taliban first came to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and during the two decades that the US-backed government ruled the country. Almost all of these families came on special immigrant visas because they worked for the US Army or on behalf of the US government in Afghanistan. Others were assisted by international immigrant organizations.

When about 60 young Hazara girls and teenagers died in a school bombing in Kabul in September 2022, I could easily imagine the scene. I used to live in the school area, my mother and two families of my sisters still live there. Initial reports said 53 people died, but I heard from sources in Kabul that five or six of the wounded girls died later, after several weeks in hospitals.

After that, I joined other Hazaras who demonstrated in front of the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City.

“Our goal was to draw the attention of American institutions and people to the dangerous situation facing the Hazaras in Afghanistan,” Nadeem said. “Here in Kansas City, our children can go to school and prepare for the future, but the Hazaras living in Afghanistan have no security, no food, no bright future.”

Aziz Nadeem, a member of Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic minority who came to the US as part of the 2021 evacuation, speaks at an event in Kansas City.

Nadeem wants international institutions to take over the massacre of the Hazaras and the violation of their human rights. Following the September explosion, a social media campaign began with the #StopHazaraGenocide hashtag. The Hazaras who have left Afghanistan hope that this will draw attention to the genocide of their people in their homeland and that the United Nations will take action to protect them.

Facing the genocide in Afghanistan

The Hazaras are Muslims and belong to the Shiite and Sony sects. They speak Persian, which is called Dari in Afghanistan. Hazaras face genocide in Afghanistan because of their religious beliefs and ethnic differences.

This ethnic cleansing began in 1882 when the Afghan ruler Abdul Rahman Khan first ordered the killing of the Hazaras and the seizure of their lands. More than 60 percent of the Hazaras were killed and their lands confiscated. Some then fled to parts of India that are now part of Pakistan, while others remained in remote areas of Afghanistan.

Since then, Hazaras have been discriminated against, cannot join or work in the army, and must pay double taxes.

Their culture and traditions were threatened when the Taliban first came to power and tried to expel all Hazaras from Afghanistan. Between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban government blocked the delivery of food, gas, and other essentials. The Taliban also destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha, a symbol of Afghan culture and history.

Hazaras in Kansas and Missouri

Gholam Rasool Rahimi (no relation to me) came to the US in 2020.

“I had to leave Afghanistan for two reasons: I was a warehouse manager at the US Embassy in Kabul, and also because of my religion and ethnicity,” Rahimi said. “No one wants to leave their home, but sometimes you see a bleak future for your children, requiring difficult decisions to be made.”

He and a few Hazaras who had come to Kansas City began building a community there.

“We are in contact with all Hazara families,” Nadeem said. “We want to honor our Hazara heritage. We try to preserve our culture and values ​​of identity. Let’s not forget our native language.

For the first time in Kansas City, on December 17, 2022, Hazaras celebrated Shab Yalda, an Afghan tradition celebrating the longest night of the year.

Hazara families in Kansas City celebrated Shab Yalda, an Afghan tradition celebrating the longest night of the year, on December 17, 2022.

Ali Mosawi, a young Hazara, coordinated this ceremony in northeastern Kansas City, Missouri, inviting Hazara families as far away as Wichita and Manhattan, Kansas. Bolani (flatbread stuffed with vegetables), ashak (vegetable dumplings) and ash (vegetable noodle soup) were celebrated.

“We brought traditional Hazara food, we wore our traditional clothes, we ate together and told our historical story to their children,” Mosawi said.

“We want to make sure our children don’t forget their mother tongue,” Rahimi said. “We have lost our country. For at least the last two decades, the Hazaras have been part of the new Afghanistan. We had our own self-government, regulating education, medicine, health care and sports. Hazara women also flourished. They had a good chance to make changes in their lives.”

He said that Hazara families want to teach their children to work hard to build their future in the United States and be true to the values ​​of this country, but not to forget that their families come from a country where their next generation is facing genocide.

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