03/02/2023, 16.05
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Hazara hockey player among migrants who died in shipwreck off the Italian coast

Shahida Raza came from Balochistan where the Hazara minority is persecuted. Last month February, the province saw a spike in violence by the Pakistani Taliban. She also played football. Seventeen Pakistani migrants survived the tragedy off the coast of Crotone, southern Italy.

Quetta (AsiaNews) – A member of Pakistan’s women’s hockey field team is among the 67 migrants who died after their boat sank off the coast of Steccato di Cutro, Calabria, southern Italy.

Shahida Raza, 27, was an ethnic Hazara, a mostly Shi‘a minority originally from central Afghanistan, that has been historically persecuted.

In Pakistan, the largest concentration is Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, scene of a recent rise in attacks.

Known as Chintoo, Shahida Raza took part in the 2009 Asian Hockey Federation U-18 Girl’s Cup and the 2012 Asian Hockey Federation Cup, but she also played for the Balochistan United women's football team, with whom she participated in eight national championships.

Sports were her passion, but also an important source of income. Back in 2013, Pakistani newspaper Tribune reported that cash bonuses for outstanding performances ranged from 5,000 to 30,000 rupees (US$ 18 to US$ 108) in the most important tournaments, but the amount allocated to the players varied depending on what each club decided to retain for training.

According to a profile posted by the Quetta Literary Festival where she was a guest in 2022, Raza was also a national and international kung fu champion.

Chief Minister of Balochistan, Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, expressed his "deep grief" for the player’s death , who brought light to the name of the province and the country in the field of hockey.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry announced that two Pakistani citizens who lost their lives in the shipwreck identified by relatives. Another 17 survived the ordeal and one is still missing.

The incident put the spotlight again on the hardships Hazaras face in Pakistan. In Quetta they have been targeted by Lashkar-e Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist offshoot of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, an anti-Shi‘a terrorist group established in the 1980s.

In January 2013, the group claimed responsibility for an attack in Quetta in which more than 200 Hazaras were killed. Between 2004 and 2019, some 2,000 Hazaras were killed.

Last month, Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, stepped up their attacks in Balochistan, where at least 22 attacks were reported with 25 people killed and 61 wounded, this according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.

In February alone, 58 attacks were reported across the country (up 32 per cent over January), a figure not registered since June 2015.

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