By David Joly
“The government is not in control of anything.” AZIZULLAH ROYESH Credit Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images
KABUL, Afghanistan — AFTER his return to Afghanistan from exile, in 1986, Azizullah Royesh immediately became a tireless advocate of education as a bridge over the divisions that have made his country a battleground for decades.
Mr. Royesh has been hailed at home and internationally for his work at Marefat High School, his innovative school where girls make up almost half of the student population. He champions schooling as a way into the professional and governing class for Afghan minorities — and particularly for his fellow Hazaras, a mostly Shiite ethnic minority that suffered heavily under the Taliban regime.
But on a recent chilly day, sitting in his office at the school, Mr. Royesh had the resumed persecution of his people on his mind. The man who found his calling after returning to Afghanistan was reluctantly admitting that he understood the fear driving tens of thousands of Hazaras — and many other Afghans — to flee the country.
“The Hazaras feel themselves defenseless against the threat facing them,” Mr. Royesh said, pointing to the recent beheadings in the southern province of Zabul of seven Shiite Hazaras, including a 9-year-old girl, by militants linked to the Islamic State. In many other places, the Taliban, the Hazaras’ old nemesis, are resurgent, gaining territory by the week.
“The government is not in control of anything,” added Mr. Royesh, 46. “Others feel the same fear, but the Hazaras aren’t protected by anyone. The only way out is to flee the country.”
From:: Hazara People