Carolina Blue in Hazara: The magnificent Blue Mosque at Mazar e Sharif, in north Afghanistan, believed to be the burial ground of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son in law of the Prophet Muhammad, and Islam's fourth caliph. Mazar-e-Sharif means "Tomb of the Exalted." (Juliett-Foxtrott)
As the Taliban advanced on the Hazara city of Mazar-e-Sharif, in north Afghanistan exactly 12 years ago today, during the second year of the Taliban's original (pre-9/11) sweep over the country, the Shiite population resisted putting down its weapons to the Taliban's Sunni Pashtun fighters. A squabble turned into a battle.
The Taliban, unfamiliar with the city's streets, were overwhelmed by Hazara fighters. Fifteen hours of fighting left some 600 Taliban fighters massacred and 1,000 captured. United Nations offices were looted and UN personnel forced to flee. Many captured Taliban men were later found dead in containers, a favorite Afghan death chamber.
Losing Mazar-e-Sharif would prove to be the Taliban's worst defeat until it was routed by the Northern Alliance and American special forces in the 2001 invasion. However, the Taliban avenged its loss in Mazar through genocidal massacres of its own in August 1998, when they surrounded the Hazara in Mazar.
As Ahmad Rashid writes in Taliban, still the best book on the subject
What followed was another brutal massacre, genocidal in its ferocity, as the Taliban took revenge on their losses the previous year. A Taliban commander later said that Mullah Omar had given them permission to kill for two hours, but they had killed for two days. The Taliban went on a killing frenzy, driving their pick-ups up and down the narrow streets of Mazar shooting to the left and right and killing everything that moved — shop owners, cart pullers, women and children shoppers and even goats and donkeys. Contrary to all injunctions of Islam, which demands immediate burial, bodies were left to rot on the streets. ‘They were shooting without warning at everybody who happened to be on the street, without discriminating between men, women and children. Soon the streets were covered with dead bodies and blood. No one was allowed to bury the corpses for the first six days. Dogs were eating human flesh and going mad and soon the smell became intolerable,’ said a male Tajik who managed to escape the massacre.
Novelist Khaled Rashid evoked the massacre in vivid detail in The Kite Runner.
- Who Are the Hazara of Afghanistan?
- What Are Pashtun?
- Rohullah Nikpai Gives Afghanistan a Rare National Victory
- Brief History of the Taliban
- Video of Mazar-e-Sharif
- Afghanistan: Country Profile