Human Rights Watch released a report Saturday documenting a massacre by the Taliban that occurred in Mazar-i Sharif in northern Afghanistan on August 8, 1998. The Taliban targeted a minority ethnic group, the Hazaras, who practice a form of Muslim different from the Taliban. The Taliban actions in Mazar-i Sharif demonstrate a calculated and purposeful intent to seek out and kill the members of this particular minority group.
Hazaras practice Shi’a Muslim while the Taliban practice Sunni Muslim. For days after the initial attack, Taliban soldiers conducted house to house searches during which they asked the inhabitants whether or not they could recite Sunni prayers. The recitation of the prayer would prove that they were not Hazara. Hazara men were taken from their homes and executed soon after, making this one of Afghanistan’s worse mass killings since the beginning of the civil war.
One reason why this attack may have been so brutal is because Mazar-i Sharif repelled an attempt made by the Taliban to take the city in 1997. In order to quell any subsequent uprising, the Taliban, upon entering the city, shot at everyone in what has been described as a “killing frenzy.”
Human Rights Watch has urged the United Nations to investigate this massacre in order to determine the full extent of the abuses that occurred. Patricia Gossman, senior researcher of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, discussed the value of such an investigation, “Determining the truth about what happened would represent the first step toward accountability. It could also provide a means toward breaking the cycle of revenge killings that has characterized the civil war in Afghanistan.”