Jan 14, 2021

The semantics of racial slurs in Afghanistan

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on my Farsi blog about my experience with racial discrimination and racial prejudice in Afghanistan and today I thought I should start writing a few posts about the semantics of some those ethnic slurs that people of other Afghan ethnic groups commonly use against the Hazara people. Here is one of the most popular racial slurs used toward Hazaras:

"God forbid my dog to be a Hazara" (خدا سگ مره هزاره نکنه  khuda sagi mara hazara nakuna). 

1. Dogs are known to be loyal, friendly, and even protective. Hazaras are so disloyal, unfaithful, and unfriendly that they do not deserve to be even like dogs and as such, God has created them a different species other than humans.

2. Dogs in Islam are considered najis (Arabic word), meaning untouchable, and unclean. Hazaras are so vicious, wicked, and dirty that dogs are way kosher and clean that deserved to be kept as friends but not Hazaras. They must be outcasted.

3. Dogs are animals and Hazaras are even worse than animals. They have no culture, no religion, no ethics, and they deserved to be annihilated. 

4. Dogs are also considered infidel. This trope is twofold. One that Hazaras are infidels, therefore, they are not Muslim. It has both religious and historical bearings and so it commensurates with the mainstream Sunni doctrine that the Shias are heretics. As a direct result, Hazaras have been subjected to genocide two times in history and almost 100 years apart. One by King Adbul Rahman during 1890s, which resulted to 60% extermination, and most recently by the Taliban between 1998 and 2001. Another meaning of this trope is that infidels (any non-Muslim) in the West keep dogs as friends. In a way it lacks strength but it also brings back the idea of infidelity and the dehumanizing view that the Hazaras are not part of Islam and should be dealt with like non-Muslims because ultimately the purpose is to deprive them from humanity and anything that aids this purpose is useful.

These are the four big and important semantic features of the ethnic slur, "God forbid my dog to be a Hazara," that powerfully pervade in the common sense of Afghan racial discriminatory language and thinking against the Hazara people. And yet, it has a more broader range of invisible but dangerous connotations that is beyond this blog post. I may come back to this later. 

The main purpose of this kind of slur is to dehumanize the Hazaras, to dispossess them from their humanness, and to project or see them as less than oneself. Subsequently, what follows is cruelty and suffering through different means with an end result of killing Hazaras mercilessly. Based on dehumanization ideology, when you deprive someone from all human qualities, then it's easy to kill them.

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