Death and devastation as Taliban rockets hit Balkhab people’s home

Nearly 35000 people have been directly affected by the recent ethnic mass displacement and cleansing by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan.

According to OCHA Afghanistan | 27,000 people have been displaced following recent fighting in the district of Balkhab in Sar-e-Pul, as the Humanitarian partners are preparing to provide food, tent, and other supplies to more than 10,000 people in Balkhab and 6,000 in Bamyan.

Damages to civilian infrastructure are alarmingly impacting people’s access to essential services, particularly there are no homes, no water, and health services in the Hazaras region.

Key Figures:

  • More than 100 people were killed or injured, and only the bodies of 36 of them have been buried so far.
  • Balkhab has around 130,000 residents, and almost all of them have been displaced.
  • 10 villages of Balkhab were burned by the Taliban
  • The Bazar with all shops burned alongside the available supplies 
  • 6,000 displaced people reached Bamiyan, they need immediate action; food, health care, education, and psychosocial support, as well as cash assistance and other supplies.

Amnesty International repeated their calls;

(The cold-blooded brutality of these killings is a reminder of the Taliban’s past record, and a horrifying indicator of what Taliban rule may bring. These targeted killings are proof that ethnic and religious minorities remain at particular risk under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.) Agnès Callamard.


The Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan following the collapse of the government in recent days. Amnesty International has called for the protection of thousands of Afghans at serious risk of Taliban reprisals, from academics and journalists to civil society activists and women human rights defenders.

Hazaras have a long history of persecution in Afghanistan at the hands of state and non-state actors such as the Taliban and other extremist groups. This history and recent events align with the warning factors of mass atrocity crimes that the United Nations identified in the 2014 Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.

Fighting has been ongoing in the remote Balkhab district of Afghanistan’s northern Sar-e-Pol province over the past several weeks, part of a showdown between a cash-strapped central government run by the Taliban and locals who are trying to keep their own cut of the district’s riches. At the heart of the dispute is a battle over coal mines, and who gets to profit from them, trapping local residents in the middle.

The depth of the tragedy is still unknown because the situation is still military, and the Taliban don’t allow anyone to roam freely in the district. The Taliban killed civilians after they took control of Balkhab, local residents, and international human rights organizations have said.

A long-term troublemaker in the district, Mehdi joined the Taliban in 2019 after falling out with the previous government’s local leaders. He was appointed as Balkhab’s shadow governor in 2020, even before the Taliban took control of the district or the rest of the country, making headlines as an ethnic Hazara leader in a movement dominated by Pashtuns.

@BaratBatoor on Twitter

It is great the aid agencies are helping those affected by the earthquake in #paktika but it is extremely disappointing that thousands of #Hazara IDPs of #Balkhab haven’t received any support. It reported that several ppl including children have died due to cold weather. #helpbalkhab

Civil society leaders, human rights activists, and public intellectuals write an open letter to the UN, highlighting the persecution of the Hazara Shia community in Taliban-occupied Afghanistan.

We are writing this letter to express our grave concern about the escalation of violence targeting the Hazara Shia communities in Afghanistan. We are writing to demand your immediate action to address these targeted attacks, which can be crimes against humanity, and when taken together, constitute an act of genocide. We believe the persistent and deliberate campaign of violence against the Shia Hazara community in Afghanistan requires an urgent and coordinated response by the United Nations and the international community.

We urge you to:

  • Call a special session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss, as matter of urgency, the situation of the Hazaras and adopt a resolution ensuring that the community will be protected against such heinous targeted attacks;
  • Call for a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to discuss and address the ongoing genocidal attacks on Hazaras, and work to prevent such atrocities and bring the perpetrators to justice;
  • Launch an immediate investigation into the targeted killing of the Hazara and Shias in Afghanistan, and use instruments under international law to address and put an end to the perpetual killings of Hazaras;
  • Request the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Afghanistan to collect and publicize substantiated information relating to grave violations of international human rights law, including breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide committed against the Hazaras;
  • Request UNAMA and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Afghanistan to submit a special report on the situation of Hazaras identifying urgent and practical measures to protect the community against targeted attacks and mass atrocities.

Human Rights defenders call on the international community to protect the Hazaras against genocide, persecution, and crimes committed against humanity. According to the letter, the recent attacks in Dasht-e-Barchi mark an example that the ethnic group is vulnerable and exposed to terror attacks. Since 2014, more than 40 deadly attacks have been conducted on the Hazara community, killing and injuring several thousands of the community members. According to the letter, Hazaras have been targeted for their racial identity and religious faith.

The systematic ethnic cleansing has a very long history started by the brutal Afghan king Abdurrahman who declared jihad against the Hazaras with British money and weaponry and help from Punjabi mercenaries and advisers, suppressing a proud ethnic group for the centuries to come. During his era, on the basis of his direct decrees rooted with religious Fatwas, 62% of the Hazara population was annihilated, and their lands and properties were seized and distributed among the Pashtun. The remaining population was either forcefully displaced internally or fled the country.

Photos of the recent devastation

By: Marziye Vafayi writer & psychologist

Edited by Basir Seerat

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