President Karzai has fired Chief of Afghanistan's Academy of Sciences and three of its other staffers after publication of the Ethnography Atlas that includes extremely offending and derogatory claims about a particular ethnic group, which has sparked reactions from political circles and ordinary people. The Attorney General has been ordered to launch investigation against the authors of the chapters with fascistic claims that can damage ethnic harmony and fuel clashes.
It is a welcoming and timely move. I hope it can help calm down an expected extreme reaction in Kabul and other parts of the country that could create a serious trouble for the Government and cause dent in the efforts of international community for political and social stability in Afghanistan, particularly at the current sensitive transition period prior to the withdrawal of international troops in 2014.
The Academy of Sciences has published a book titled "Ethnography Atlas of Non-Pashtun Ethnic Groups of Afghanistan". Its contents are claimed to be a collection and compiling of research papers by certain Afghan authors. The Academy says publication of the Atlas was aimed to promote national unity and increase inter-ethnic cultural awareness and understanding. However, soon after some copies of the Ethnography Atlas were obtained by independent researchers and political circles outside the Academy, reactions have sparked since.
The controversial chapter about Hazaras start from page 600. After seeing the content, one rub the eyes in disbelief. While reading some parts, one wonders how such nonsense ever got approved by the leadership of the Academy and went to publication? In some parts, the sentences are referenced with explanations that for the sake of national unity, many lines have been omitted not to 'hurt' people of certain ethnic groups. I wondered it was for national unity and promotion of inter-ethnic cultural understanding that the level of fabrication in academic claims were such offensive and humiliating that, if spread among ordinary people, the book could fuel our descent into countrywide chaos of ethnic violence quickly.
The book includes fabricated quotes from foreign sources and Afghan historians such as Faiz Mohammad Kateb. Hazaras are described as "liers, dishonest, unreliable and ignorant people who are always indulged in tribal violence among themselves." On page 664 of the book, Hazaras are declared sons of Mongo Khan, grandson of Ghengiz Khan living in the mountains of Afghanistan. Going further low, another lines goes, "Hazara women have hair on their head and under armpits. The rest of their body is hairless. Hazara women are superior than their man. Surprisingly, the Hazara man discuss family affairs with women and value their advice."
The book also includes extremely offensive sectarian claims labeling the Hazaras as Rafizi—something lower than infidels in the eys of Islamic radicals. This branding is an intentional attempt to fuel sectarian hatred and cause enmity among people of different sects. Such claims can fuel Shia-Sunni rifts and conflict in the country, sadly coming from so-called academics who claim to promote national unity and inter-ethnic cultural understanding. One could expect such a supremacist attempt under the totalitarian regime of the Taliban, but it comes from the torch-bearers of liberal nationalism and so-called secular academics.
It is a timely move that President Karzai has ordered immediate dismissal of the Chief of Academy of Sciences Abdul Bari Rashid, his deputy Syed Muhammad Amin Mujahid, Chief of Social Sciences Department Abdul Hakim Safi, Deputy of Human Studies Department Nasrullah Sobman for offending the Hazaras, under the section 13, article 64 of the Constitution.
Some sane voices around President Karzai alerted him quickly to avoid a serous trouble that could spark nationwide conflict and put us on edge of polarization at this sensitive times of our history when Afghanistan has last chance to choose stability after decades of wars and conflicts. The book was published two weeks ago at the cost of $50,000 from public taxes.
However, the fact that biased elements with their ethnic politics and agendas of hate can infiltrate our national institutions, particularly academic organizations to spread their ideology of discrimination, it should be a matter of serious concern for the international community who have sacrificed blood and money to bring stability in this country during the last ten years, which could be derailed overnight by such moves of some fascist elements around President Karzai.
The President has ordered Attorney General to launch investigation against the authors and researchers of the Ethnography Atlas published by the Academy of Sciences and trial them for insulting entire people of a particular ethnic group.
MP and head of People's Unity Party of Afghanistan Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq in a press conference on Sunday had strongly condemned the 'offense to Hazaras', saying it could spark ethnic clash across the country and damage national unity. He demanded full dismissal of the Academy of Sciences and asked for equal representation academic experts from all ethnic group in the Academy of Sciences.
President Karzai in remarks during the Palace meeting about the issue said freedom of expression in Constitution does not mean one can use the language of hate to insult others. He added that Ethnography Atlas published as research work is an offense to all ethnic groups of Afghanistan and the nation.
The Academy was under fire recently for another controversial issue when it published Encyclopedia of Aryana with census statistics. It had shocking figures on ethnic composition of the country. It has put Pashtuns at 62%, Tajiks 12 %, Hazara 9% and Uzbek 4% of the total population of Afghanistan. Political circles have condemned the claims published by the Academy and demanded the Government to dismiss officials responsible for fueling ethnic clash and polarization of the country. The head of Afghanistan's Statistics Office has dismissed the figures as "unofficial" and "unacceptable" saying that there has not been any census, how could Academy of Sciences publish figures.
Lets hope the dismissal of Abdul Bari Rashid and his colleagues will put waters on the hot temper of reaction among those offended by the Academy of Social Sciences and it can prevent further polarization of our society.