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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Afghan Shiites fear decline in status

By The Washington Post

Published: Saturday, November 24, 2012, 8:36 p.m.
Updated 18 hours ago

KABUL, Afghanistan — For the past week, the Afghan capital has been draped with black cloth arches and festooned with huge colored banners. Mournful, pounding chants pour from loudspeakers across the city, filling the air with slow martial intensity.

The dramatic display is all part of Muharram, the 10-day Shiite festival that commemorates the slaying of Imam Hussein, a 7th-century holy figure and early champion of Islam. It is also a symbol of the growing religious and political freedom that Afghanistan’s long-ostracized Shiites have had in the past decade.

Now, as Western military forces prepare to leave the country by 2014, Afghan Shiites, most of whom are from the Hazara ethnic minority, fear their window of opportunity may slam shut again, leaving larger rival ethnic groups as well as Taliban insurgents, who are radical Sunni Muslims, dominating power.

“Everything we have achieved, our ability to come out and participate in society, has been in the shade of the international community and forces,” said Mohammed Alizada, a Hazara Shiite who was elected to parliament in 2009. “We are very concerned that once they leave, the fundamentalists will re-emerge, ethnic issues will return, and we will lose what we have gained.”

There are more immediate fears as well. Sectarian violence, historically absent from Afghan society, has been intensifying in next-door Pakistan and spilling across the border.....Continue Reading... 



  

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