The Ethnic Cleansing of Afghans in Northern Afghanistan

3/12/2002 (Other) :: The Warlords belonging to Uzbek, Hazarah and Tajik are systematically cleansing the Pashtuns in Northern Afghanistan. These are the warlords from the same groups who rapped, looted and murdered over 50,000 innocent Kabul residents between April 1992 and September 1996 when they had unleashed their atrocities in order to grab political power. No one and nothing was safe in Kabul and all the major cities and towns of Afghanistan from them. They looted the National Archive, the world famous Kabul Museum, public libraries and all government and private houses that they could lay their hands on. Amnesty International, Human Right Watch, the UN Human Rights Commission and the US State Department annual reports document all these.

Now these very group who had hidden themselves in caves from fear of Taleban, have come back with vengeance, this time with the aid of the United States Military who carpet-bombed the Taleban for over five weeks before these so called Northern Alliance troops could come out of their hidings and claim victory.

Pashtuns according to the most authoritative five-year population survey, (carried out by the WAK Foundation for Afghanistan,) are 62 per cent of the country's population with Tajik at 12.5 per cent the second and Hazarah at 9 per cent the third largest group. Uzbek are 6 per cent and Turkmen 3 per cent. The rest are other smaller groups.

The US military and intelligence for their purpose of aiding and abating the Northern Alliance has with out any proof all of a sudden reduced the number of Pashtun to 40 per cent and knowing that this is not true had adopted the term " the Pashtuns are the country's largest ethnic group", without specifying its per cent age.

The atrocities that is committed by Tajik, Uzbek and Hazarah Shi'iah groups in Northern Afghanistan are daily witnessed by the foreign NGOs and also French and American troops who are stationed in Mazar and other parts of the north. Yet these have done nothing either to stop it or report it and it took Human Right Watch and other journalist to publicise the news. In these attacks ten-year-old girls as well as 80 years old women have been gang-rapped by the wild animals belonging to these minority ethnic groups. The Pashtun houses have either been burned or looted, most of their men killed or forced at gunpoint to leave. Some 20,000 such families have already crossed into Pakistan and others are on their way over the snow-filled mountains to reach safety.

We all conscious men and women deplore the Northern Alliance, this creature of the USA military and ask the UN and the World Court to collect the names of the culprit commanders and their militias and to bring them to trail.

UN Condemns Attacks On Ethnic Pashtuns

Reported by: Charles Recknagel

3/14/2002 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Prague) :: A recent visit by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to northern Afghanistan has fanned a dispute over the extent to which the ethnic Pashtun minority there is being targeted for reprisals by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks. The UN rights chief says she was shocked by victims' accounts during her tour in early March. But the Afghan interim administration says reports of abuses are widely exaggerated.

Reports of violence against northern Afghanistan's minority Pashtun community have appeared in the Western press periodically ever since the collapse of the Taliban in late 2001.

The news reports from correspondents traveling in the area say that the attacks occur as factions that opposed the Taliban have carried out campaigns to disarm the Pashtun in areas the fundamentalist militia once controlled. The north's approximately 1 million Pashtuns enjoyed considerable protection under the Taliban -- a movement which itself was Pashtun-dominated -- and they were often regarded as an enemy by the region's majority ethnic Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek populations.

In late January, "The New York Times" reported that thousands of Pashtuns from the northern provinces of Balkh and Faryab had fled their villages as news spread that ethnic Uzbek and Hazara fighters were looting, raping, and kidnapping, under the guise of disarming Pashtun communities. Some of those fleeing their homes told the newspaper that the goal of the attacks sometimes appeared to be clearing the area of the Pashtuns altogether.

But, as with so many events in Afghanistan, hard facts regarding the number of incidents are difficult to obtain. The north's Pashtun minority is concentrated around the agricultural cities of Kondoz and Balkh, and the reported attacks take place in remote villages visited infrequently by journalists.

That is why many Western observers are now paying close attention to a recent visit to the area by Mary Robinson, the head of the UN High Commission for Human Rights. Robinson traveled to Mazar-i-Sharif, then extended her itinerary to also visit the town of Balkh nearby. The reason for the extension was what she called her "shock" at the number of people who personally told her of violence they had suffered.

Robinson described her trip to reporters yesterday in a press conference in Islamabad. She said that in Mazar-i-Sharif she met with some 30 men who said they were the targets of ethnic-based reprisals. As a result of that meeting, she proceeded to Balkh to talk with several women who said they had been raped in the attacks.

The UN Human Rights chief told reporters, "the violations were extremely serious. Killings, physical beatings, rape of women, taking animals, 1,000 sheep in one village, looting, taking everything out of houses."

In the wake of Robinson's remarks, the Afghan interim administration said yesterday it is taking "very seriously" any reports of ethnic-based violence in the north. Spokesman Yusuf Nuristani said in Kabul that interim administration chief Hamid Karzai had previously dispatched senior investigators to the region to look into the reports.

But the spokesman also said the central government believes the international media has exaggerated reports of the violence. Nuristani said, "There might be some incidents, some minor incidents, because we are coming out of 23 years of war." He also said that three top commanders in the north -- General Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ustad Atta Mohammad, and Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq -- have promised to prevent any such attacks from occurring.

Some of the northern commanders themselves also have called the reports of ethnic-based violence and people fleeing their homes exaggerated. Dostum told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service recently that the situation in the north is calm.

"We are surprised, too. Sometimes untrue reports get transmitted. There have also been reports that the security is not good in the north, that there is war between people and factions," Dostum said. "I would like to reassure you that the situation in the north is good, and things are becoming calm."

UN refugee officials say they have been receiving sporadic reports of abuses in the north from refugees fleeing to Pakistan over the past several months.

Peter Kessler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, told RFE/RL today that some 60,000 people have crossed or applied to cross the Pakistani border since the start of the year. He said only a small percentage of that total are from the north, but some of those say they are fleeing ethnic attacks.

"Most of [the refugees entering Pakistan] are desperate Afghans fleeing a lack of food in many remote areas in the countryside. Others are people who report attacks by bandits, and some are minority groups, mainly Pashtuns, who say that they feared reports of ethnic violence or themselves may have been persecuted by groups in the north of the country," Kessler said. "But these people who have brought with them reports of ethnic attacks represent the vast minority of those Afghans who have arrived in Pakistan in recent months."

The UNHCR has expressed concern about the reports of ethnically motivated violence to the authorities in Kabul. The agency also has provided transportation assistance to investigators dispatched to the north by the interim administration to help them better assess the problem.

UN Human Rights chief Robinson called for expanding the multinational force beyond Kabul to help increase security in the country. Speaking in the Afghan capital on 8 March, she said: "I think that the international force that is here must be extended beyond Kabul, and that's very clear when you're here. I'm going to Mazar-i-Sharif on Sunday [10 March], and I know that that's the message that I will be asked to convey, because you cannot have rebuilding of a whole society and security for Human Rights if you have violence, if you have killings, if you have robberies, if you have looting, if you have women terrified."

Robinson also said that a proposed truth commission in Afghanistan should investigate atrocities committed by all factions -- not just the ousted Taliban. The commission, which has been endorsed by the interim administration, would investigate civilian killings and Human Rights abuses committed during the country's past two decades of war.

Afghan Truth Commission Requested

KABUL , Afghanistan, 3/10/2002 (AP Wire) :: U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson on Sunday said a proposed truth commission in Afghanistan must investigate atrocities committed by all factions, not just the ousted Taliban.

"It's not acceptable in the context of Afghanistan to look at a partial truth," Robinson told reporters in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

On Saturday, she and Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai endorsed the idea of a truth commission to uncover atrocities committed over two decades of war.

But Karzai's government may be too fragile to withstand an investigation into abuses by those currently in power, especially members of the northern alliance who fought the Taliban but who were themselves accused of human rights violations.

When northern alliance members held power from 1992-1996, they destroyed much of Kabul in factional fighting that killed thousands.

Robinson acknowledged this was a concern, saying Afghanistan must pursue the dual goals of maintaining stability while at the same begin reversing the "culture of impunity and violence."

A human rights conference in Kabul on Saturday was attended by U.N. officials, Afghan leaders and human rights activists, including Bianca Jagger.

Its purpose was to find ways to implement the human rights provisions of last December's agreement in Bonn, Germany, setting up Karzai's interim government. That administration is supposed to rule until June, when a grand council will be set up to choose a new government ahead of elections in 2003.

Many are hoping that last year's routing of the Taliban can reverse decades of human rights violations and start the country on the path to peace. Yet those efforts will likely require forming a viable central government free of factional fighting and warlord rule that still plague much of Afghanistan.

New Evidence of Violence Against Pashtuns

New York, USA, 3/8/2002 (Human Rights Watch ) :: Afghanistan: Stop Abuse in Northern Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch today released recent testimonies documenting abuses against ethnic Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan, and warned that the deployment of an expanded international security force was needed to end a campaign of violence and intimidation there.

"Our research found that Pashtuns throughout northern Afghanistan are facing serious abuse, including beatings, killings, rapes, and widespread looting," said Peter Bouckaert, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. "The interim Afghan government will need much greater support from the international community to bring security and stability to the north."
Human Rights Watch today released a selection of recent testimonies documenting abuses in northern Afghanistan, and a comprehensive report is forthcoming.

Human Rights Watch researchers have just completed four weeks of research in northern Afghanistan, visiting dozens of villages and communities affected by violence and looting. Their research established that the three armed political factions currently in power in northern Afghanistan-Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami, Jamiat-e Islami, and Hizb-i Wahdat-are subjecting ethnic Pashtuns to murder, beatings, sexual violence, abductions, looting, and extortion.

Pashtuns flee revenge of Taliban's enemies

3/6/2002 (Daily Telegraph) :: Thousands of ethnic Pashtuns are fleeing persecution in northern Afghanistan, a New York-based human rights group said yesterday.

"Armed political factions in northern Afghanistan are subjecting ethnic Pashtuns to murder, beatings, sexual violence, abductions, looting, and extortion," Human Rights Watch said.

"The on-going campaign of violence and intimidation is forcing thousands of Pashtuns to leave their villages."

Since the fall of the mainly Pashtun Taliban, Pashtuns, who are a minority in northern Afghanistan, had been attacked by ethnic Uzbek, Tajik, and Hazara factions in reprisal for real or imagined association with the ousted regime, HRW said.

"The testimony of Pashtuns across this large area was consistent in its depiction of violence, looting, and intimidation," the group said.

HRW said it had documented more than 150 incidents of violence and looting in the past three months.

Villagers in northwest Faryab province reported armed Uzbeks systematically looted their homes in what one villager described as "40 days of terror".

In Balkh province, ethnic Hazara Hizb-i Wahdat forces were involved in several execution-style murders of Pashtun villagers.

HRW said it had also received testimony about sexual violence and abduction of women.

"While many women were subject to violence due to the general insecurity in the north, Pashtun women seemed especially singled out," it said.

HRW called for the International Security Assistance Force to be deployed to stem the violence.

"The only way this violence is going to be checked in the short term is by the presence of international troops," HRW spokesman, senior researcher Peter Bouckaert said.

"The Pashtuns in the north need protection now; they can't wait."

ISAF military personnel last week started training the first batch of soldiers for an Afghan national army, but it could be years before the force replaces ethnic warlords.

While commanders whose forces were associated with abuses in Faryab were removed by Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum, "in other areas, abusive commanders and forces continued to act without restraint".

"The factions clearly can stop the abuses by their local troops when they choose to," Mr Bouckaert said.

A Tribe Is Prey to Vengeance After Taliban's Fall in North


NAZRA, Afghanistan , 3/7/2002 (New York Times) :: March 3 One after the other, the villages in the valley of Shor Daryab stand all but empty.

Nazra and Guljosh, abandoned. Ghaforbai and Babakzai and Daulatzai, gutted. Attan Khoja, a mishmash of lean-tos and caves and half-crazed hangers-on.

"Go this way, and you will see that all the villages are empty," said Amir Jan, a lone man searching for truffles near a lifeless town.

Until recently, the 10-mile valley near the border with Turkmenistan was inhabited almost exclusively by ethnic Pashtuns, the group that formed the core of the Taliban movement.

The Pashtuns are Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, but a minority here in the valleys and plains of the northwest.

They lived in clusters, away from the more numerous Uzbeks and Tajiks, and when the Taliban fled the area last November, the Pashtuns suddenly found themselves hunted and alone.

The Pashtuns of northern Afghanistan are fleeing their villages by the thousands now, telling tales of murder and rape and robbery, and leaving behind empty towns and grazing grounds just beginning to shimmer with the first grass of spring.

Some refugees are living in caves; others are heading south, to where their ethnic brethren still dominate. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of Pashtun villages have been looted.

Reports like these inspire proposals by the interim government in Kabul for a security force to police areas outside the capital, proposals that the Western allies are reluctant to accept.

One of those who has caught the full fury of revenge against the Pashtuns is Muhammad Yosin, a farmer from Attan Khoja who fled his village when the Uzbek gunmen came and now lives with his family in a cave.

On a crinkled piece of paper he carries a handwritten list detailing what they stole: new carpets 4; old carpets 4; mattresses 6; cups 12; plates 6; teapot 1.

"I have 100 witnesses who would swear I am not a Taliban supporter," said Mr. Yosin, a tiny man with a long beard, "and still they took everything I own."

The persecution of the northern Pashtuns opens a new chapter in Afghanistan's tangled history of ethnic relations.

For decades, northern Afghanistan peacefully cradled its many groups, jostling together the Pashtuns, the Turkmen and the Hazara with the dominant Tajiks and Uzbeks. Then came the Taliban, ethnic Pashtuns drawn mainly from the south and inspired by a vision not only of extreme Islam but also of Pashtun supremacy.

When the Taliban swept across northern Afghanistan in the late 1990's, they focused their fury on minorities, massacring thousands. The Taliban often gave favored status to their local brethren, setting aside the choicest lands for their farms and cattle.

Now, it appears, the newly dominant are exacting their revenge, from Herat in the west to the outskirts of Kabul in the east, where Kuchi nomads are too afraid to bring their sheep to their historic grazing lands on the Shamali Plain. Much of the mayhem seems to be unfolding before the gaze of America's wartime allies, the Uzbek warlords who took over when the Taliban collapsed.

More than a dozen Pashtun villagers along the Shor Daryab blamed an Uzbek warlord named Hashim, who led the force that took control of the area in November.

Seated on the floor of his office in nearby Faizabad, Mr. Hashim seemed a harmless figure, a smiling man with a beard. Above his head hung a framed portrait of Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Russian-backed Uzbek mercenary and regional leader, and a letter of appreciation for Mr. Hashim's help in subduing the Taliban.

Asked about the thousands of Pashtuns who have fled their villages, he dismissed them with a wave, saying, "They are Al Qaeda."

It is not clear to what extent the attacks on Pashtuns have been politically orchestrated, and to what extent they are spontaneous revenge.

A United Nations (news - web sites) official, who declined to be identified, said of the anti-Pashtun campaign: "It has been systematic and wide scale. Rapes are far more common than killings, but the serious looting is very pronounced. With the change in power, it is time to settle old scores."

No one knows how many Pashtuns have fled their homes, or how many villages have been sacked. The United Nations says 50,000 Afghans have gathered at camps near the Pakistan border, many of them northern Pashtuns and Kuchi nomads.

In Faryab Province, where the Shor Daryab runs, field workers with the International Organization for Migration said they had distributed food to more than 2,000 displaced Pashtuns living in tents and caves.

Until recently, Attan Khoja formed a network of mud-brick Pashtun hamlets nestled alongside the Shor Daryab, a once-formidable river that years of drought have reduced to a gully. The breathtaking valley, framed by undulating green hills, provided the grazing grounds for the herds of sheep, camels and cows that kept the villagers alive.

According to villagers still left in Attan Khoja and some who fled, the Taliban abruptly retreated from the province's main precincts on Nov. 9, the same night that opposition forces expelled the Taliban from the key northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif. The next night, the villagers say, Uzbek soldiers led by Mr. Hashim swept through, gathering up all the guns.

Like many Pashtuns left in Faryab Province, the people of Attan Khoja say they neither supported the Taliban nor benefitted from their rise to power.

The next night, the villagers say, the Uzbeks returned, yelling and shooting and dragging men from their beds. Some women were raped. Nearly everyone was robbed, animals were seized, carpets carted off. Three men resisted; they were shot.

"We have the women sleeping in the donkey stables," said Gul Muhammad, a 55-year-old shepherd. "When the men with guns come, we cannot protect them."

After that first night, the Uzbeks came again and again, the villagers said, always demanding money and valuables at the points of their guns. After each attack, more and more villagers left. When the survivors of Attan Khoja had nothing left to give, the Uzbeks ripped the beams and frames from their mud-brick homes.

While none of the villagers' claims could be verified, today the village of Atan Khoja stands in ruins. It is mostly an eerily quiet place. Door and window frames have been torn away, and most of the roofs are gone. Many of the remaining families have carved caves from the nearby mountain walls, where they live with the few possessions they have left.

The stragglers who have stayed seem to have paid a price for their stubbornness. A bedraggled woman named Gul Dana sat outside her cave mumbling to herself, unable to remember the names of her sons and bemoaning her ill fortune.

"We have nothing, we have nothing, no carpets to sit on," Gul Dana cried, fingering her head scarf. "I think it is time I sold my veil."

The people of Attan Khoja seem befuddled by their fate, but a drive north along the Shor Daryab offered something of an explanation. A few bumpy miles up the road, the hamlet of Daulatzai stood silent but for a pair of shepherds grazing their animals on the hillside. They were Uzbeks from over the hills, and they reveled in the novel experience of leading their sheep to the finest lands in the valley.

"During Taliban times, we would have been beaten for trying to bring our sheep over the hills," said Lal Muhammad, 25. "The Pashtuns were arrogant, and they were cruel."

He pointed to one of the few intact houses: "See the window frames and the roof beams? They are mine. I am not going to take them back, but they are mine, and they took them from me when the Taliban came four years ago."

Across northern Afghanistan, the pattern repeats itself. In the middle of a grassy plain southwest of Shibarghan, Kuchi nomads clamor over their few remaining sacks of rice. That very morning, they said, Uzbek gunmen had come in search of loot. When they found none, they grabbed one of the young men instead.

"They took my son! They took my son!" howled Shah Pairy, pulling the veil away from her face.

Two miles down the road, Abdul Shakur, a 21-year-old Uzbek farmer, guided an ox across his fields for the first time in four years. The Taliban had seized his lands when they conquered the area, he explained, and now he was taking them back. If some Pashtuns were suffering now, well, Mr. Shakur said, it was time they were repaid, wasn't it?

UN seeks to end Afghan abuses

3/7/2002 (BBC) :: UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson is due in Afghanistan on Thursday as reports emerge of horrific abuses against the ethnic Pashtun population.

Mrs Robinson is to spend four days in the country talking to senior officials and overseeing the launch of a human rights commission, reports said.

The former Irish president, who was vocal in her criticism of the number of civilian casualties of the US-led bombing campaign, will meet interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.

Her visit comes hours after the release of a Human Rights Watch report, detailing horrific rights abuses by Northern Alliance forces in northern Afghanistan.

The US-based group warned that an expanded international security force was needed to end a vicious campaign of violence and intimidation there.

'Serious abuse'

The independent commission that Mrs Robinson will be initiating was enshrined in the Bonn accords which set up the interim government that took power in December.

Its role will be to monitor and safeguard human rights in Afghanistan.

But since the fall of the Taleban last November, commanders from each of the three factions of the Northern Alliance have been accused of atrocities.

"Our research found that Pashtuns throughout northern Afghanistan are facing serious abuse, including beatings, killings, rapes, and widespread looting," said Peter Bouckaert, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Three factions - ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara - captured territory around the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif along with US forces.

Pashtuns would have been targeted because the Taleban were Pashtun, correspondents say.

Harrowing testimony

Human Rights Watch researchers spent four weeks visiting dozens of villages and communities affected by violence and looting.

The testimonies that they collected make harrowing reading.

"They took all the women and girls to another room and started with my fourteen-year-old daughter," said one 30-year-old Pasthun woman.

The soldiers were from the ethnic Hazara Hezb-i-Wahdat faction, the report says.

"She was crying a lot and imploring them not to do this because she is a virgin," the woman said.

"But one of the men threatened her with his gun and said he would kill her if she did not undress. She was raped three times."

The soldiers then raped the mother, looted her home and beat her invalid husband unconscious, Human Rights Watch says.

More support

"The interim Afghan government will need much greater support from the international community to bring security and stability to the north," Mr Bouckaert said.

The International Security Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan is still only deployed in Kabul.

The force has begun training the first unit of a national army, which will be charged with eventually disarming as many faction fighters as possible.

But given the increasingly fragile security environment, calls are mounting from within Afghanistan for an expansion of the numbers and the mandate of the international force.

The calls have in turn sparked fears among some member countries of the international force of so-called 'mission creep'.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has faced opposition allegations at home that Britain put troops into the Afghan peacekeeping mission without knowing how to get them out.

Talks are under way between Britain and Turkey aimed at handing leadership of ISAF over to Ankara.

But Mr Blair has conceded that UK troops could still be taking the leading role in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan after their withdrawal deadline of 30 April.

Anti-Pashtun Violence Widespread In Afghanistan

New York, USA, 3/4/2002 (Human Rights Watch) :: Armed political factions in northern Afghanistan are subjecting ethnic Pashtuns to murder, beatings, sexual violence, abductions, looting, and extortion, Human Rights Watch said today. The ongoing campaign of violence and intimidation is forcing thousands of Pashtuns to leave their villages.

Over the last four weeks, teams from Human Rights Watch have visited over two dozen villages and communities across northern Afghanistan, from Faryab province in the northwest to Baghlan in the north central mountains. They have documented over 150 separate incidents of violence and looting over the last three months, some of them as recent as this week. The testimony of Pashtuns across this large area was consistent in its depiction of violence, looting, and intimidation at the hands of local commanders.

The research teams interviewed dozens of Afghan villagers and community leaders, all of whom said they wanted a greater international security presence. They also wanted local political factions disarmed. Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. Security Council to expand the mandate for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to include areas outside of Kabul.

"The only way this violence is going to be checked in the short term is by the presence of international troops," said Peter Bouckaert, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. "The Pashtuns in the north need protection now - they can't wait for a national army to be trained."

The three political factions active in the north are the Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami, Jamiat-e Islami, and Hizb-i Wahdat, drawn largely from the Uzbek, Tajik, and Hazara ethnic groups respectively. Since the fall of the Taliban, each group has targeted the Pashtun community in areas under its control, partly in reprisal for these communities' real or perceived association with the predominantly Pashtun Taliban movement, and partly as a result of political competition in northern Afghanistan. The abuses have also occurred in a broader context of violence by armed groups, in which Pashtuns -- lacking political and military power in the north -- are acutely vulnerable.

A typical pattern for these attacks emerged from the testimony of villagers in the Shoor Darya region of Faryab province. They reported that armed Uzbeks associated with the local Junbish faction took away their guns (but not those of other ethnic groups) in mid-November and proceeded to loot the villages thoroughly, violently taking livestock, stored grains, household goods, money and jewelry over the course of the next few weeks - a period one villager described as "forty days of terror." Villagers around Aibak, the capital of Samangan porvince, described an ongoing practice of detention and extortion of local Pashtuns by armed men linked with Junbish.

Junbish is not the only political faction whose gunmen have targeted Pashtuns. Some of the most violent attacks occurred in the Chimtal district of Balkh province, where Hizb-i Wahdat forces were involved in several execution-style murders of Pashtun villagers. In Baghlan province Tajiks belonging to the Jamiat faction looted Pashtun homes in Nahrin district and the Kilagai valley.

Human Rights Watch also received testimony about widely prevalent sexual violence and abduction of women in northern Afghanistan. The testimony was especially striking because of social taboos against discussing such issues. While many women were subject to violence due to the general insecurity in the north, Pashtun women seemed especially singled out for attacks. In central Balkh province, Wahdat and Junbish factions targeted Pashtun women for sexual violence.

In some areas the most severe violence has subsided. But Human Rights Watch encountered several serious recent incidents of looting and violence in northern Afghanistan. Commanders whose forces were associated with the abuses in Faryab were subsequently removed by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an action that appears to have contributed to a decrease in violence against local Pashtuns, but in other areas, abusive commanders and forces continued to act without restraint or reprimand. Violence is also acute in areas where political factions are currently contesting authority, for instance in and around Mazar-i Sharif, where all three political groups are active.

"The factions clearly can stop the abuses by their local troops when they choose to," Bouckaert said. "But given their past record, it would be foolhardy to rely on them to restore security and protect human rights."

The interim authority's capacity for addressing the violence is also limited. In a positive development, Hamid Karzai, the chairman of Afghanistan's Interim Administration, last week appointed a three-person independent commission to investigate claims of discrimination against ethnic minorities in northern Afghanistan. Some initial missteps notwithstanding, commission members appeared to be taking their fact-finding task very seriously, but it remained unclear what impact their work would have.

Human Rights Watch warned that the anti-Pashtun violence could threaten the success of refugee repatriation. It could also undermine the Loya Jirga process, by which the interim authority will be replaced with a more permanent government. Under the Bonn Agreement, an emergency Loya Jirga or assembly will meet in June 2002. That body will choose a head of state to lead Afghanistan until a more representative government can be elected.

Human Rights Watch intends to release a fuller report of its findings in northern Afghanistan in the near future.

Warlord's men commit rape in revenge against Taliban

Reported by: DAvid Filipov

BALKH, Afghanistan, 2/24/2002 (Boston Globe) :: In a country where women have long lived in the shadows, rape is an especially potent political weapon. To this, the women of northern Afghanistan can attest - at least those who dare speak publicly.

The ouster of the Taliban by the US-backed Northern Alliance did not stop the use of rape as a way to demoralize and dominate. But what has changed since the fall is the identity of the victims, now mostly Pashtun families and displaced people living in camps, the losers following the defeat of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban.

The crime is perpetrated, say victims and aid workers, by the men who answer to warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, a Northern Alliance commander whose 3,000-man army, Junbish-e-Millie, now rules much of the country's north.

Most women are too afraid and ashamed to talk about being raped. But, Nazu, a Pashtun mother of 10, was willing to describe what happened to her, and to her girls.

It was, she said, a little over a month ago. She had put her children to bed when five heavily armed Junbish soldiers burst into their modest compound in Balkh, 12 miles west of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Over the next eight hours, she said, one soldier held her crippled husband, Jamaludin, at gunpoint as the others took her three oldest girls into the room and raped them repeatedly - first Fatima, 14, then Bibi Aisha, 12, and then Bibi Amena, 10. Then they came for Nazu.

''The soldier pointed a gun at me. He told me I was a Pashtun,'' Nazu, 40, said as she and her daughters crouched against the dusty wall of their home, faces partially hidden behind scarves, their eyes lowered.

''I was afraid. I could not resist. I am a woman, and they had guns. I could not stop them.''

Officials deny attacks; local police powerless

Pashtun leaders and foreign aid workers say the assault on Nazu and her daughters is only one example in a horrifying trend.

Pashtuns, an ethnic group that made up the bulk of the Taliban, say Junbish soldiers have committed rape as part of their reprisals against the people they blame for the regime's oppressive rule.

Pashtun families in Balkh have not been the only victims. Three weeks ago, Junbish soldiers, who rule much of northern Afghanistan, rampaged through the outskirts of Dawlatabad, 20 miles north of Mazar-e-Sharif. Nur Mohammad, a local Pashtun leader, said 30 houses were attacked.

''Women were assaulted, but none of them will talk to you,'' he said.

At the Sakhi camp for displaced people outside Mazar-e-Sharif, armed Junbish have raped dozens of women since the Taliban left last November, local and foreign aid workers say.

''This is a problem that needs to be investigated,'' said one, on the condition he not be named.

The trouble is that foreign aid agencies depend on the local commanders - Dostum, ethnic Hazara leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, and ethnic Tajik leader Ustad Atta Mohammad - to do their jobs. Borders, roads, warehouses, even the buildings foreign organizations rent, are all under the control of the warlords.

Dostum's security officers routinely harass anyone who appears to be asking too many of the wrong questions.

Meanwhile, General Shakh Zoda, a Dostum aide, denied that Junbish soldiers had assaulted civilians. Mohammad Isa Eftekhari, the government-appointed police chief for Mazar-e-Sharif and the surrounding area, also told the Globe he had no knowledge of any attacks on civilians.

In this atmosphere of denial, local police are powerless to do anything. The police force in the town of Balkh numbers 110 men; the Junbish have more than 700 armed men in the town.

''If someone told you about a terrible crime the Junbish committed, what guarantees of protection could you give them?'' asked one Afghan who works for a foreign aid organization. ''We can't do anything because we have no power.''

Amir Hamza, the ethnic Tajik police chief of Balkh, agreed.

''Junbish commanders protect their soldiers from us,'' he said.

He said it was likely that many more Pashtun women had been raped, but they were afraid to tell anyone. ''It is also possible that some women do not want to discuss this crime with anyone. They are ashamed.''

Threatened and ashamed, victims remain silent

Rape has been used as a weapon of terror in other wars throughout history, most recently in the Balkans. In Kosovo, ethnic Albanian women who were raped by Serb soldiers were evicted when their families found out.

One of the bloodiest and most violent chapters in recent Afghan history occurred when Taliban fighters captured Mazar-e-Sharif in August 1998. In a few days more civilians were killed, and murdered and raped, than at any time in the previous 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

Now, like then, women who are victims of assault are pressured to be silent. Even with the liberation of Afghanistan from Taliban rule, the culture of oppression is slow to change. Especially in the north, women are expected to stay at home and never speak to strangers.

''Many times the Junbish committed these crimes, but Pashtun women have pride and they cannot tell people,'' said one villager.

Pashtun families make easy targets because the Junbish disarmed many of them when Dostum's troops, assisted by US special forces who continue to accompany the warlord everywhere, drove out the Taliban.

''The Junbish see a home, and they know there are Pashtuns living there, and they go inside and rape the women and threaten the men not to talk about it,'' said Amir Jan, the leader of the Pashtun community in the Balkh area. ''They know no one can do anything about it.''

Nazu was also afraid to speak out, and for good reason. The day after the soldiers assaulted her and her daughters, the soldiers came back and told the terror-stricken family that if they repeated this story to anyone, they would die. Jamaludin went to the police anyway, but he was told that they could not do anything.

It was Nazu's neighbor Safi Nubi who tried to get the police to investigate the assault on Nazu and her daughters. They arrested one man but set him free soon after. One of the assailants on Jamaludin's family lives nearby and still roams freely with the Junbish. Also because of this, Nubi said, many more women who have been raped are afraid to come forward.

''If Junbish soldiers commit a crime, the Junbish is very strong,'' Nubi said as tears welled in his eyes. ''The police cannot do anything. These people are afraid. They think that the Junbish will kill them.''

Jamaludin said he was too ashamed to take his wife and children to the hospital after the assault. When the government in Kabul sent a woman doctor to Balkh 20 days ago, he considered taking them, but he did not have any money; the soldiers had stolen it.

''We aren't feeling very well,'' said Nazu as she nursed her infant girl. ''It is shameful for us to explain.''

Her daughters looked on. It was hard to say whether the 10-year-old, Bibi Amena, understood what had happened to her. It was Fatima, 14, who spoke, revealing a young face covered in scars.

''Please help us,'' Fatima said, ''and take care of us.''

Afghan Pashtuns Say They Are Targets

Reported by: Rohan Sullivan

QALACHA, Afghanistan, 2/24/2002 (AP Wire) :: At the school in this ethnic Pashtun village, every window is smashed, textbooks are scattered in classrooms caked with mud and chalk lies crushed in piles on the floor.

It was not the Taliban who wrecked the school, residents say, but neighbors from other ethnic groups seeking revenge from the harsh rule of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban.

"Our only crime is to be Pashtun," said Abdullah Qaderi, principal of the Qalacha school. "But they call us al-Qaida."

Thousands of Pashtuns are fleeing northern Afghanistan (news - web sites) to escape that they call anti-Taliban revenge attacks and looting by other ethnic groups that dominate the region, a United Nations (news - web sites) official said last week.

Pashtuns are Afghanistan's largest ethnic group and formed the core of the Taliban. But they are a minority in the north, where ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks dominate. They claim they are now being terrorized by the other ethnic groups seeking payback for suffering under five years of Taliban rule.

"When the Taliban were here, the security was good," said Azmin Khatak, a Pashtun farmer. "Now it is much more dangerous, with killing and stealing."

Pashtuns in the north are urging Prime Minister Hamid Karzai to disarm local warlords — including three members of his interim government — or bring in international peacekeepers to ensure security.

The United States has said it doesn't want its troops — which are in the country hunting for al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives — to intervene in factional disputes. But Washington has strongly backed Karzai's government, and on Sunday, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States may send military advisers to try to rein in feuding warlords.

The Pashtun complaints underscore the fragile peace in the north since U.S.-backed forces recaptured it from the Taliban late last year. Sporadic fighting among factions has raised fears of a return to the tribal feuds that have wrecked past peace hopes in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban captured Afghanistan's north in 1998 after fierce fighting with local forces, the hard-line Islamic policies it imposed and brutally enforced were at odds with many local customs.

Residents say the Taliban beat and killed Tajiks and Uzbeks for shaving their beards and for not wearing turbans, practices the Taliban said were required by Islamic law.

The Taliban were accused of atrocities, including killing thousands of Shiite Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of Afghanistan's population and live mostly in the north. The Sunni Taliban considered the Shiite branch of Islam flawed.

Pashtuns in Qalacha say they fared no better under the Taliban than any other group, but are now being blamed for atrocities committed by the Taliban and fighters from Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al-Qaida terror network.

Farmer Mohammad Jan said that two days after anti-Taliban forces recaptured the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, a mob surrounded his house firing bursts from Kalashnikov rifles into the air.

"They shouted: 'You are Pashtuns. You must be al-Qaida,'" Mohammad said. "They broke the windows and stole our money, a radio, my wife's jewelry.

"We know who they are," he said. "They are our neighbors from the next village. The Taliban attacked them two times, and we saved them. We told the Taliban not to attack. But when the northern alliance came, they attacked our houses."

The northern alliance, which is dominated by Tajiks and Uzbeks, fought the Taliban during its five years in power and now plays a prominent role in the interim government.

Of about 150 Pashtun houses in Qalacha, one of several villages in the Balkh region about 20 miles from Mazar-e-Sharif, 20 have been looted, they said. Pashtuns have been robbed on their way to the bazaar and forced to leave fields far from home untended because they feared being attacked.

Security in Balkh is controlled by the Hezb-e-Wahadat, a Shiite Muslim group that has more than 6,000 fighters across northern Afghanistan and is directed by Muhammad Mohaqqeq, a member of Karzai's interim government.

The group has a loose security pact with the north's two other armed factions, those of warlords Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad, both members of the U.N.-brokered interim government.

"We can't complain to the local commanders," said Asadullah, a farmer who uses only one name. "We are scared of them. Maybe they will kill us. But we can complain to the (international) peacekeepers. We want the peacekeepers if there is no security."

Qalacha residents say soldiers from all three factions were complicit in the attacks on Pashtuns and in some cases were involved in robberies and shootings.

"Just disarm the soldiers," said Abdullah, the school principal. "We are tired of the guns. When the guns are gone, the killing will stop.

"For 20 years we have complained about the fighting here," he said. "Now there is a new government and they are the ones with the guns. If they cannot make it better, then the international force should come."

The United Nations has complained to the interim government about reported anti-Pashtun discrimination, but was told that the national government did not have authority in many of the areas where attacks occurred, U.N. spokesman Yusuf Hassan said last week.

Interim government security officials were not available for immediately available for comment because of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.


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