Aimaq in Afghanistan: Surviving a difficult situation
A young Afghan minority activist shared with us his story. Here is what he has to say.
My name is Mobeenullah Aimaq. I was born in 1994 in Kunduz province, Afghanistan, and belong to the Aimaq community. The Aimaq are part of the Hazara people but they follow the Sunni tradition within Islam and not the Shi’a tradition. Historically, my community was mostly nomadic, but now more and more of us live a settled lifestyle. I have a Business degree from Kabul University, and, in 2015, I became the Director of Free Watch Afghanistan (FWA), an NGO based in Kabul.
FWA used to lead the Civil Society Election Coordination Group (CECG), including 19 civil society organizations across the country. The CECG was envisioned as a basic platform for the Afghan civil society government-affiliated electoral management bodies and donor countries to exchange views on the latest electoral developments, identify problems and provide solutions to support the government in holding transparent elections.
FWA has also worked extensively with national and international civil societies, including Counterpart International, DAI-Musharikat-USAID, National Democratic Institute, World Women Foundation, UN Women, Afghan Women On The Move, European Centre for Electoral Support, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Ziviler Friedensdienst-GIZ, Minority Rights Group International, UNAMA, GNWP and ICAN.
Due to my work in support of democracy and with women, girls and other marginalized groups through FWA, I received recognition from national and international organizations as a Human Rights Defender which also prompted technical and financial support. I chose this line of work because I personally understand the plight of minorities and the extent of their suffering in Afghanistan. Living in Afghanistan is very difficult for minority groups, especially for the Aimaq who have been marginalized for centuries. Over the last twenty years, no Aimaq has held a top leadership position within the government.
My work has always been sensitive. I was advised by the MoIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs) to stop my activism whilst living in Afghanistan. I was also shot and injured in 2018 by an extremist group, which was confirmed by the Ministry. I am thankful I survived my injuries. But this made me even more determined to speak up for marginalized Afghans and step up my efforts to fight for peace.
I would never have imagined the Taliban coming back to power in my country. A friend called me to tell me the news while I was volunteering, with a group of young activists, to distribute food packages to internally displaced people across various places in Kabul province. He informed me that the Taliban had entered Kabul and that I needed to come to the office immediately. I arrived quickly and started taking important documents home, still in shock and disbelief that with every passing moment the Taliban were drawing nearer and nearer. Reports were coming in that President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country, taking with him huge amounts of money. I remained in shock all day, returning to my family and asking them not to worry as I would do everything I could to get us all to the US. It was blatantly obvious to me that my days were numbered as the Taliban would come to kill me for my public stance for freedom and democracy.
I struggled with trauma and shock for the three months I lived in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. It was a very complicated and dangerous situation. No news was good news. We were living in fear under a rain of bullets. People were silent. I didn’t see any smiles anymore, no music on the streets. Men suddenly stopped wearing western clothes and were being targeted and beaten for sporting short (rather than the required long) beards.
I witnessed the Taliban’s behaviour myself. They are worse than in the past. After two decades of pushing for progress, Afghans are now living hopelessly amongst the ashes of what they strove for. I can’t believe the Taliban took over everything so easily with not a shot being fired.
Many Afghans are struggling to eat and access money. Women are in danger of being sexually enslaved and prevented from leaving their homes. Children are being denied their childhoods and education. We regress each day the Taliban are in power. Afghanistan is truly in the worst stage of its devastating history, and we all must stand for and by my country.
Since August, MRG has been assisting Afghan minority activists and staff from our partner organizations and others who are without support as their lives and their work came under threat with the return of the Taliban. We are currently supporting some who have been able to leave for secure locations in Pakistan, while also working against the clock to help those who remain in Afghanistan. The situation changes on a daily basis, as some reach safety and others reach for help. Click here to donate to our urgent appeal.
Photo credit: grondecka on Instagram.
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