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Hazara

The Hazara people are known to have lived in Afghanistan and in regions of Iran and Pakistan for many centuries. They make up one third of the Afghan population. Because of their Shiite religion and their partly Turko-Mongolian descent, they are discriminated against and persecuted by parts of the Sunni majority. At the end of the 19th century, 62% of the Hazara living in Afghanistan were murdered. Similarly, many were murdered in prisons in 1979. In 1997, the Taliban killed over 2000 Hazara in Mazar-i-Sharif. These people have faced constant persecution, threats, and discrimination, especially from the Taliban. Suicide bombings in recent years, which have claimed numerous victims in mosques, schools, and public places, have been directed primarily against Hazara.

Arezo recounts her father's childhood in her story. Six years ago, she and her family fled from the constant exclusion, discrimination and persecution that Hazara also suffer in Iran. Since then, she has been living with her family in Germany.

The sun was gently rising and slowly melting the snow that covered our shabby neighborhood like a white lavish mantle throughout the night.

The winter wind was blowing and I could feel the burning in my bones. Dressing in layers to stay warm wasn’t that much of help when the absence of a heater was so present. But the only response to complaints in this house was the cranky face of my father that could last forever sometimes accompanied by flying objects in the room and crying faces.

I wasn’t the one who complained, after all I was the man of the house. A month ago, I wasn’t considered that much of a man, no one asked for my opinion, when my father suddenly started packing our life into small suitcases, saying: “I want to leave this country for good, forever”, I guess by “I” he meant “we” and before I could grasp his words, I found myself in Iran, a country that even if everyone spoke my language felt foreign to me.

Today however, it feels like I´m still home, is it the winter or the burning that feels the same?

Hearing my dad doing his morning prayer, I new it was time for more layers of clothing. Ever since we came to Iran, I had to quit school and together with my 4 other brothers and my father care for the rest of the family. Being 11 I wasn’t really equipped with a lot of strength nor any special skills. Therefore, it was important to be early, earlier than other workers. Every day we woke up at the sunrise, packed our lunch, took the bus to the square in the center of the city and waited and waited.

At night, workers assembled again at the same corner waiting for the bus, with the only difference being their tired eyes that were locked on one spot throughout the ride home.

I remember one night, as we were all sitting in the bus, a worker tried to pick a fight with my father. I knew how my father was always cautious about not getting involved in fights or with the police because we were not legally existing in that country and any report would mean our deportation to Afghanistan. That night wasn’t of any exception, he tried to close his eyes and pretend he was deaf.

The worker was calling him “Afi”, meaning “Afghan”, asking him: “Can you see me with those almond eyes?” then it went on in a round and everyone made a comment: “Why wouldn’t you Afghans just go back to your country?” “How can you sleep at night when you are stealing our jobs from us?”

It wasn’t the first time I heard those lines nor the first time I wondered why they bothered to ask what was obvious. Wasn’t it clear why we were here? That we too had a family to feed?

I once asked my father if those things bothered him, he told me: “I was called out for being Hazara when I was in my own country, I don’t expect anything from strangers.”

I wasn’t old enough to understand his words. While I thought “Afi” was just a nickname for Afghans, he took the discrimination and the unfairness to his heart.

A week later, the same incident happened but this time I promised to myself I will not take it no more. We were almost arriving home when one worker called him “Afi” and made a gesture with his eyes. I talked back. I regret until today.

My father got into a fight with 4 workers. They through bricks at him, he was bleeding, and I couldn’t help but cry. No police were informed, no report was made. After a few days at the hospital, we went back to work, like nothing has ever happened.

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