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Taliban blow up Abdul Ali Mazari’s statue revealing deep Sunni-Shia rift in Afghanistan

The statue of Abdul Ali Mazari which was blown up by the Taliban

While a Taliban spokesperson was assuring the Afghans about their safety on Tuesday, Taliban fighters  had blown up the statue of Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari in the Bamiyan province.  The flatlands of Bamiyan, over which two giant Buddha statues, blown up by Taliban two decades ago,  kept vigil,  can be reached from Kabul across the  famous Salang pass. The area is  home to Hazaras—a Shia ethnic community with deep historical ties with Iran. The Taliban had executed Mazari  in 1995.

“So, Taliban have blown up slain #Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari’s statue in Bamiyan. Last time they executed him, blew up the giant statues of Buddha and all historical and archaeological sites. Too much of ‘general amnesty,” says Human rights activist Salim Javed in his post sharing the pictures. The incident is a grim reminder of the blowing up monumental Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley in 2001 by the Taliban.

Abdul Ali Mazari was the political leader of the Hezb-e Wahadat party during and following the anti-Soviet Jihad of the eighties. More than a decade after his murder, Mazari was posthumously given the title ‘Martyr of National Unity’.

The Hazaras are descendants of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol empire, and the Mongol soldiers who swept through the region in the 13th century.

When the Islamist extremists last ruled Afghanistan, they brutally persecuted the Hazara ethnic and religious minority.

In Taliban 2.0, group’s spokesperson has been assuring the Afghans that the group would not indulge in ethnic killings. We have pardoned anyone, all those who had fought against us. We don’t want to repeat any conflict anymore. We want to do away with the factors for conflict. Therefore, the Islamic Emirate does not have any kind of hostility or animosity with anybody; animosities have come to an end and we would like to live peacefully. We don’t want any internal enemies and any external enemies,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in Kabul on Tuesday.

But another Hazara leader and Afghanistan’s one of three female district governors, Salima Mazari has been missing since the fall of her district  Chaharkint, Balkh province. According to locals Salima was captured by the Taliban fighters after the fierce fighting between her troops and the Taliban.

“Hazara sources confirms #SalimaMazari is now in #Taliban custody. She is the #Hazara district Governor of Chaharkint, Balkh. HOPE is worried about her safety and do not know about her current whereabouts”.

While the top Afghan leadership and commanders including former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country or surrendered to the Taliban, Salima Mazari fought till she was captured. Now no one knows about the fate of Afghanistan's first female governor.  Last week, before the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, Salima had  expressed fears about a Taliban takeover to the Associated Press (AP).

“There will be no place for women,” said Mazari, who governs a district of 36,000 people near the northern city. “In the provinces controlled by the Taliban, no women exist there anymore, not even in the cities. They are all imprisoned in their homes.”

Salima Mazari was shown in the media with her fighters on the front line of her district fighting the Taliban.

“Salima Mazari was captured by the Taliban. After the surrender of Balkh, Chahar Kent district has also fallen to the hands of Taliban and Salima Mazari, the governor of this district, captured by the Taliban fighters.” says Hamid Haidari, an Afghan journalist.

The Taliban has been repeatedly saying that the group has given “general amnesty” across the country  even for those who fought against them  and there won't be any revenge killings.

But ethnic  groups like Hazara are worried, an easy target for the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide.

Also Read: Taliban strike softer note on women’s rights at first press briefing after taking over Kabul