Why are they killing us? I am a male, an Afghan, a Muslim. I belong to a minority ethnic group in Afghanistan called Hazara. Hazaras are easily distinguished from other Afghans by their Asian features. Most Hazaras follow the Shia branch of Islam. These are all labels – nametags… like my name, Shoaib. None of these labels tell a person who I am. I was born on 5th March, 1997, when bullets were raining from the sky in my village in Afghanistan. Two years before my birth, the Taliban had killed Abdul Ali Mazari, the leader of my ethnic group, and had taken control of most of Afghanistan. As the situation became worse, my father, who was also a Mujahid defending our village against the Taliban, was warned many times that they may kill his whole family. Within a week of my birth, he decided to take my family out of Afghanistan. We left everything we owned and came to Quetta, Pakistan with thousands of other refugees to escape the terrorism, killing and genocide. The peace and security we sought in Pakistan was fleeting. Shortly before I started kindergarten, eight Hazara passengers were killed and five severely wounded when gun men attacked the van they were traveling in. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or "Army of Jhangvi", also known as LeJ, claimed responsibility for the attack. LeJ is an anti-Shiite Pakistani religious extremist group who, similar to the Taliban, believe that Shiite Muslims are infidels. They have been responsible for many deadly attacks on Hazaras in Quetta and have been targeting Shia Muslims for decades. Hazaras can easily be recognized by their Mongol facial features, thus making them the primary victims of the attacks. Thousands of innocent Hazaras and other Shia Muslims have been killed throughout the years in Pakistan. On 16th Feb, 2013, I was in my Islamic Studies class at school. It was the last class of the day. Although I was tired, I was happy because it was Saturday and I didn’t have to ride 2 kilometers on my bicycle to my English language course after school. Fifteen minutes remained until the end of the day when a massive, shrieking sound pierced our innocent ears and made them bleed. We all hid under our desks. The windows to my right had broken and it seemed that sharp slivers of glass were sent to kill us all. When I was satisfied that everything was safe, I raised my head and noticed broken pieces of window and blood all around me. We could see the smoke rising through our second story windows. Everyone was yelling and shouting “Allah-O-Akbar.” I stepped toward my friends to help them get to the first floor, but my left leg couldn’t hold my weight and I fell down. I looked at my leg and saw that my knee was bleeding and my pants were stained with blood. My class fellows helped carry me out of the class to the first floor. In every direction, I saw innocent students in blood. Questions jumped in my mind. Why are they killing us? Why don’t they understand the basic principles of Islam? What have we done to them? We are Shia, but we are humans and that is what is important. My teachers were bringing bandages when my brother, Behman, came in the building, hugged me hard and said, “Take care and go home right away.” Then he left quickly, searching for his friends. After drinking a cup of juice, I rushed to my bicycle to leave for home when I saw armed Hazara men stationed in our school. My class fellows said that they were our guards but they didn’t realize that their presence made the environment even scarier. When I opened the school door, I saw people running from side to side as if everyone was experiencing doomsday in our peaceful town. A foul smell was coming from the corner of the street where the bomb had exploded. I saw a hand without fingers, a head without a body. Our town was soaked in blood and grief. I passed broken families while I walked through streets of terror which were once the streets of passion. When I reached home, my mother ran to me. She hugged me as if she hadn’t seen me for years. She was crying until she saw that my leg was bleeding and quickly brought a new bandage to stop its bleeding. Hazaras have witnessed the slaughtering of our loved ones. We are killed because we are Shia Muslims. In the rest of the world, all Muslims, Shia and Sunni, are known as terrorists and criminals. Every incident of terror makes us ashamed of being Muslim. However, we are the real Muslims – Muslims who prioritize humanity and are religiously tolerant. We are not terrorists. We care for the people who were killed in Paris, the ones who are being slaughtered in Syria, and the ones who were targeted on September 11th. I want the world to know that we are Humans and we are Muslims and we are not terrorists. On that terrifying afternoon of February 13th, like the tears of my mom, the sun was crying and had lost its brightness. Soon it disappeared and sent the sad face of the moon instead. It was like everything was mourning around us. I asked Allah to take me to those who have committed this crime so I could ask them my questions. Why are you killing us? What kind of Islam promotes such violence? What have we done to you? We are humans, just like you.
This post was submitted in response to This Is Who I Really Am.