The Politics of Survival in the Face of Exclusion: Hazara and Shia actors under the Taleban

Ali Yawar Adili

Afghanistan Analysts Network

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Since the Taleban’s return to power, an array of Hazara and Shia Muslim groups and individuals have tried to position themselves vis-à-vis the new order in an effort to protect a community that feels particularly vulnerable. The struggle over who gets to speak for the community has revived old intra-communal rivalries and factionalism, weakened their position and rendered them susceptible to division and manipulation. So far, the Taleban’s public messaging towards Shias and Hazaras has largely been conciliatory, as they sought to establish control, but has not been backed by positive action. Ali Yawar Adili (with input from Martine van Bijlert) provides an overview of the main Hazara and Shia political actors and their positions as they advocate for protection, political inclusion and religious recognition.

This thematic report looks at the leaders and groups that have scrambled to respond to the Taleban’s dramatic takeover and domination of Afghanistan. They are a mix of leaders and officials from the old mujahedin factions, marked still by old rivalries and enmities, along with new politicians who emerged from the churn of electoral politics, large protest movements, the university and clerical establishment. There are even one or two Hazara/Shia Taleban. They include:

  • The old guard leaders who held senior government positions under the Republic and were leaders or senior members of mujahedin groups (Muhammad Mohaqeq, Muhammad Karim Khalili, Sarwar Danesh and Muhammad Sadeq Mudaber). They are outside the country but maintain in-country contacts through their aides and party networks. Initially, they did not support armed resistance, hoping instead that the Taleban would form a government inclusive of Hazaras/Shias, but have since become more vocal in their criticism of Taleban policies and behaviour. Although they have hinted at the possibility of armed resistance, they have not taken any concrete steps so far.
  • Three aides to Mohaqeq, Khalili and Mudaber who remained in Kabul and formed an ad hoc coalition early on to engage with the Taleban in order to secure Hazara/Shia representation in the government. All three are longstanding acquaintances of the Taleban and used to serve as their leaders’ focal points with the movement. Two have recently been appointed to government positions.
  • Several cleric-led Shia organisations have sought to represent the community, including the old Shia Ulema Council of Afghanistan, the newer General Council of Hazaras, which was established by Kabul-based Grand Ayatollah Vaezzada after the Taleban takeover, and the Assembly of Shia Ulema and Influential Persons of Afghanistan led by Sayed Hassan Fazelzada; it had already lobbied in favour of the Taleban before the takeover. Sayed Hashem Jawadi Balkhabi, a rare Shia member of the Taleban, is included in this section because he is close to Fazelzada. He has been speaking on behalf of the Taleban since the takeover and was given a role in defusing tensions between the Kuchis and villagers in the spring of 2022.

Several newer politicians who have been seeking to expand their influence, including former MP Jafar Mahdawi and Deputy Minister for Economy Abdul Latif Nazari. Both have academic backgrounds and were in contact with the Taleban before the takeover. Since then, they have discouraged Hazaras from any confrontation with the Taleban.

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The Politics of Survival in the Face of Exclusion: Hazara and Shia actors under the Taleban