More than 100 people marched in downtown Minneapolis to protest a recent bombing in Afghanistan targeting the Hazara community. Credit: Freshta Faramarz

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Afghans in Minneapolis gathered Friday to protest a recent attack in Afghanistan targeting the Hazara ethnic group.

Members of the Afghan Cultural Society in Minneapolis organized a candlelight vigil and protest on October 7 to commemorate more than 25 people who were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kaaj educational center in Kabul on September 30. More than 100 people marched through downtown Minneapolis and ended the night by lighting candles at the Afghan Cultural Society in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. 

The Kaaj educational center was located in a predominantly Hazara neighborhood. Hazaras have historically faced persecution from the Taliban as many of them are Muslims from the Shia sect of Islam. CNN reported that most of the victims killed in the attack were students between the ages of 18 and 25. Most of them were young women. No organizations have claimed responsibility for the attack. 

The United States government condemned the attack in a statement on Twitter. 

“The members of the Security Council expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims,” the statement says. “They expressed grave concern about the significant implications of attacks against schools on the safety of students and their ability to enjoy their right to an education.”

The attack sparked protests across the world. The Minneapolis protest was organized by local Hazaras, and attracted other Afghans, people from Iran and Somalia, and Native Americans. The protestors stood against what human rights activists are calling a genocide of Hazaras in Afghanistan.

The United Nations reported 20 incidents targeting Hazaras and Shias in the six months leading up to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. Five-hundred casualties were reported in those incidents.

Sahan Journal spoke to organizers and attendees at the Minneapolis protest in interviews translated from Dari. 

St. Louis Park residents Mozhgan Hussaini and Razia Panahi, who are Hazara, organized the protest. They shared stories of friends and family members who were killed in similar attacks in Kabul. 

Hussaini spoke about her cousin who died in a suicide bombing at a school in Kabul in 2019. More than 20 students died and 60 others were injured. ISIS, a militant group in Iraq and Syria with a presence in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. 

“The attack on the educational centers of Hazaras in Afghanistan is not a new issue,” Hussaini said. “Everyone has a responsibility to try to prevent such attacks, which suggest the genocide of Hazaras.”

Protesters gathered at the Afghan Cultural Society for a candlelight vigil honoring the dozens of people killed in a recent bombing in Afghanistan. Credit: Hussain Ali Haidari | Sahan Journal

Panahi’s brother, Hussain, was killed in a car bomb attack in front of the German embassy in 2017. Hussain was a Canadian embassy worker. Nearly 100 people died in the attack and more than 400 others were injured.

Mahdi Surosh, a Hazara Minneapolis resident, said terrorist organizations in Afghanistan have targeted Hazaras at schools, wedding halls, places of worship, sports clubs, hospitals, highways, and their homes.

“In the last few years, Hazara infants, mothers, students, laborers, farmers, Hazara activists, and public figures have been brutally killed with no justice,” Surosh said. “We want countries worldwide to break their silence, recognize the genocide against Hazaras, and take all the necessary measures to protect the community.”

Hussain Ali Haidari

Hussain Ali Haidari is a freelance reporter who worked as a journalist in Afghanistan for six years. He recently resettled in Minnesota.

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal and corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of...