With the fall of the Taliban regime, a golden opportunity was provided to all Afghan people and, above all, for the Hazaras. In fact, they were reborn and rescued from the massacres and genocides of the Taliban, a group of ethnic-religious fanatics and anti-Hazaras. With the Taliban’s dominance in Afghanistan, the Hazaras either have been forced to abandon Afghanistan or have been killed in hundreds and thousands across Afghanistan. But soon after the toppling of Taliban regime by the US in 2001, thousands of Hazara families who had migrated from Afghanistan during the Taliban rule to neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan returned to Afghanistan.Hazaras who had migrated to neighboring countries gained opportunities for obtaining education and economic development. So, they returned to Afghanistan in hopes of building a new life and taking an active role in the political and reconstruction process.
Historically, Hazara communities have for centuries been sidelined in Afghanistan. They have been viewed as the dregs of society and have always been suppressed by the Afghan rulers. They have been bought and sold as slaves among other communities. They were subject to genocide during King Abdul Rahman tenure (1880-1901) and later during the Taliban rule (1996-2001). But the situation has changed fundamentally since the fall of the Talibanson September 11, 2001. Upon the collapse of Taliban regime, Hazara communities were the first communities who put down their arms and instead picked up the pens.As Hazaras were deprived of gaining education for centuries, they chose to school their progenies as a priority. The families and communities’ elders understood that the only way to bring sustainable and dynamic changes in their communities wasto educate their children.
Since then around hundreds of schools have been built in Hazara communities without the support of the state and the global community but the by the financial support of communities themselves. The same story applies with the establishment of English Language and Kankor Examination (Kankor is a national university entrance test in Afghanistan) preparation centers in Hazara communities. Most of these centers are set up solely for the development of education. The founders of these centers rarely greet for financial purposes. Often, they work to serve the people and save children from ignorance and illiteracy because they know that gaining education opens the way to a better life and brighter future for the entire communities. This is how girls, boys, men, and women – all rushed toward schools and education centers in Hazara communities upon the collapse of the Taliban’s government.
Hazara communities began their path to cultural and social transformation while the Pashtun Taliban were burning and have been still burning schools in the Pashtun areas.On the contrary, in Bamiyan where mainly Hazaras are living, girls’ enrollment in schools increased up to 22 percent only within two years (2008-2010). The number of students in Daikundi, another province where mainly Hazaras are residing, grew by almost 40 percent during the same years with girls accounting for 43 percent of the students. A large number of Hazara girls from Bamyan and Daikundi provinces could enter Afghanistan’s higher education institutions via participating in Kankor Examination in 2008 which was more than 10 provinces of Pashtun areas. Education was the most important arena that gradually led to the formation of structural transformation in Hazara families.
Indeed, the sweetest fruit of the transformation of Hazara communities is women’s freedom. Nowadays, women’s freedom is higher among the Hazara communities than other ethnic groups, and there is less opposition to girls’ education. According to the New York Times, in a country like Afghanistan, where the literacy rate among women is very low, it is higher among women of the new generation of the Hazaras. Over the past years, literacy has been accelerating among the Hazaras girls.
Along with this cultural growth, social relationships have also been a positive development among them due to Hazara families’ investment in education. Even the family system has been redefined and modernized in the Hazara communities. For instance, nowadays the presence of Hazara girls graduated from college, is on the increase in public places, offices, and institutions. Likewise, girls’ enrollment in security forces is higher among the Hazara communities while the presence of girls from other tribes in national police and security forces is diminishing. Girls among the many Hazara families have the right to choose their future spouses. Families consider girls’ education with the same view as the right to educate their sons.The pioneering role of Hazara girls and women in most areas of social affairs represents a profound social transformation among the Hazara communities. This metamorphosis is also seen in reducing the rate of violence against women in Hazara communities.
The transformation of Hazara communities manifested itself not only in cultural and social spheres but also in the political form. In the last two Presidential and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, more than 35 percent of the female vote was from the Hazara regions. Afghanistan’s first female governor and first female mayor were Hazara women. For instance, the current governor of Daykundi province is a Hazara woman, and Bamiyan has previously had a female Hazara governor too. In fact, all these substantial changes were stemmed from paying huge attention to education by families and the avoidance of violence against women.
Hazaras in Afghanistan reached a dramatic growth and cultural glory within a short time. This vibrant growth within at least 18 years has been astonishing for many other tribes. Especially since this cultural and social transformation has taken place in a spontaneous way. And, no government agencies or non-governmental institutions have spent a considerable capital for transforming the Hazara communities.
This transformation besides liberating Hazara communities from rigid traditions and customs, it also caught the attention of many hardliners and fundamentalist who cannot tolerate the transformation of tribal lives in Afghanistan. As political and educational experts argue that the main reason that Taliban groups and ISIS target schools, educational centers, civic gatherings, and sports clubs in Hazara communities is to prevent them from obtaining the soft power – education. These places are the main sources of hopes and dreams for Hazara communities because a bright future and a sustainable economic development and tangible social and cultural transformation begin from these places. Therefore, Taliban and ISIS who are the extreme enemies of girls’ education, democracy, human rights, and cultural transformations are targeting these soft power generation bases among the Hazara communities.
Currently, Hazara communities have more problems than other communities. These problems include a shortage of electricity, inadequate state schools, lack of transportations, poverty, increasing the onslaughts of Taliban groups and ISIS on Hazara communities. As recently the Taliban groups attacked on Malistan, Urzgan Khas, and Jaghori districts where mainly Hazara communities are living. As a result of the Taliban attacks, thousands of families fled their homes and escaped to other neighboring provinces. The reports demonstrate that hundreds of persons have been killed and beheaded by the Taliban groups in these districts. The insurgents’ attacks on Hazaras communities not only lead to internal displacement but also force them to leave Afghanistan for other countries as they did during the Taliban era. The migration of Hazara elites, professionals, and young generations to European countries and Australia is dramatically increasing in recent years.
To sum up, despite the above challenges the morale and spirit of fight in Hazara communities against traditions and norms that impede them from improving are growing every day. Because Hazara communities ultimately have come to a practical and tangible conclusion that their historical suffering, social humiliation, economic poverty,and political deprivation have a rootedness in the poverty of literacy. Hence, they value education for their children more than anything else. They have understood well Nelson Mandela’s saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”