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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 14:08 GMT
Hazaras demand to be heard
Market in Kabul
The markets are busy but many people are worried
By the BBC's Peter Greste in Kabul

The market in the Karti-si district in west Kabul is a vibrant place, filled with the usual collection of spice traders, fruit and vegetable merchants, butchers and bakers.

But this area also has a particular interest in the negotiations due to take place in Germany next week.

It's the home of the city's Hazara community, an ethnic group, the legend says, which is directly descended from Genghis Khan's Mongol army.

They are a fiercely proud people but they've also been the most oppressed minority in the country.

Hazara man carries bread
Many Hazaras don't trust the Northern Alliance

Commuters cycle home on their pushbikes through an extraordinary vision of hell around the fringes of the Hazara district.

This is an old frontline area that separated the Hazaras down here in the suburbs from the government troops up in the hills.

Every single building is a wreck.

There is nothing but a pile of crumbling mud-brick walls with a few girders poking through here and there.

These are the skeletal remains of a community, yet the forces that created this are now standing side by side in the Northern Alliance.

Shaky coalition

The only reason they came together in the first place was to fight the common enemy - the Taleban. Now that they have all but gone, there is a genuine fear that the Alliance may not last.

Through all the diplomatic crowing about recent political breakthroughs and talks in Germany, the locals are taking a much more pragmatic line.

Northern Alliance soldier checks car
The Hazaras want to take part in patrolling the streets of Kabul
Amid the clacking of the prayer beads, a group of ageing local Hazara leaders convenes in a community house to weigh the prospects for their people.

They are here to meet a delegate from the leadership of their own Hezb-e-Wahdat faction, a Mr Saburi.

Wahdat is supposed to be an integral part of the Northern Alliance.

But the only troops patrolling the neighbourhood are those belonging to Jamiat-i-Islami, the main group within the Alliance.

They are the same ones who fought the Hazaras from the hills several years ago.

For Mr Saburi that's unacceptable:

Hazara refugee
Many Hazaras have suffered under the Taleban

"Jamiat troops are controlling territory all over Kabul and we demand that our troops share the patrolling duties. This government is only a few days old but already they are making it difficult. It should be our privilege to take part in this".

There are real fears amongst the Hazara community that in next week's conference their voices may simply not be heard.

So they have organised their own delegation.

"We will be there as part of the Northern Alliance but we will have our own people to make sure things are okay. We won't need the umbrella of the Northern Alliance and they must include us as well", says Mr Saburi.

The story is similar elsewhere in the Northern Alliance.

Lack of confidence

Armed factions are happy to be a part of the winning side but distrustful of its ability to work as a political force.

Even on the streets confidence is shaky, and many people believe that more fighting is still possible - "there's a 60% chance maybe", one man told me.

Across the Hazara traders a traditional song can be heard - it is an old familiar tune to most of the people here.

It speaks of the Hazara's plight and it prays to God for deliverance for Afghanistan's most troubled people.

It is a song they fear they may be playing for a good while longer.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Afghanistan's tribal groups
16 Nov 01 | South Asia
Hazaras march on Kabul
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
Hazara people's long suffering
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