Dozens of women from Afghanistan’s minority #Hazara community protested in the capital Saturday after a suicide bombing a day earlier killed at least 35 people – mostly young women, and all from the Hazara ethnic group. Protesters later gathered in front of the hospital and chanted slogans as dozens of heavily armed Taliban, some carrying rocket-propelled-grenade launchers. According to witnesses; peaceful protesters have been met with an increasingly violent response.
A bomber blew himself up on Friday at a Kabul study hall as hundreds of pupils were taking tests in preparation for university entrance exams in the city’s Dasht-e-Barchi area.
Since returning the Taliban to power, the luck of the state rises threats against Hazara and other minorities. The Hazaras are one of the main ethnic groups in Afghanistan, constituting over 20 percent of the population. The Hazaras have long been subjugated and subjected to discrimination and persecution due to their ethnic and religious identity.
@LinaRozbih The people in Afghanistan are killed because they are #Hazara, killed because they are #Shia, killed because they #seek_education, killed because they raise their voice against the #Taliban’s atrocities, killed because they seek their #rights…and the world only condemns & ignore.
@UNAMAnews UNAMA human rights teams in Kabul helping establish accurate record of college attack in #Hazara neighborhood. The latest UN figures show at least 35 killed & 82 hurt. The majority of casualties are girls & young women. All names need documenting & remembering & justice must be done.
@thedaoudnaji UNAMA asked the Taliban to provide security for the Hazaras, this looks like asking the Nazis to provide security for the Jews. #stopHazarGenocide
UNICEF also offers its heartfelt condolences to all families affected by this terrible event and wishes for a swift recovery to the injured. “Violence in or around education establishments is never acceptable. Such places must be havens of peace where children can learn, be with friends, and feel safe as they build skills for their futures.
Alongside the women’s pretests in Kabul, many Afghan citizens rises their voices on Twitter with the hashtag #StopHazarzaGenocide screaming with pain, anger, sadness, frustration, impatience, and worry, the words that the world leaders cannot and will not feel right now.
Mokhtar Yasa twitted; 20 yrs ago, Zahra Ahmadi was born to a #Hazara family in #Ghor province. She studies hard to get to this stage of her life. She dreamed to continue her university studies & serve her nation. The terrorists took her life & dreams by attacking her #Kaaj academy. #StopHazaraGenocide
“Children and adolescents are not, and must never be, the target of violence. Once again, UNICEF reminds all parties in Afghanistan to adhere to and respect human rights and ensure the safety and protection of all children and young people.” <UNICEF>
As the UN has condemned a suicide bombing against Hazara, in their report to the Human Rights Council on 6 September, Mr. Bennett detailed how Hazara communities have been subjected to multiple forms of discrimination, negatively affecting their economic, social, cultural, and human rights.
“There are reports of arbitrary arrests, torture, and other ill-treatment, summary executions and enforced disappearances,” the Special Rapporteur insisted. “In addition, an increase in inflammatory speech is being reported, both online and in some mosques during Friday prayers, including calling for Hazaras to be killed.”| UNHuman Rights Council |
On maj last year, before the Taliban’s return to power, at school in Dasht-e-Barchi at least 85 people — mainly girls — were killed and about 300 were wounded. At that time also Taliban were the focus of claims by international and national media. The decision on education has worrying echoes of the tactics the Taliban used in the 1990s, when they last ruled Afghanistan, to bar girls from school without issuing a formal prohibition.
Women are imprisoned in their homes and are denied access to basic health care and education. Food sent to help starving people is stolen by their leaders. The religious monuments of other faiths are destroyed. Children are forbidden to fly kites, or sing songs… A girl of seven is beaten for wearing white shoes. — President George W. Bush, Remarks to the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism, November 6, 2001.
Violation of Basic Rights
Again the Taliban claims that we are trying to ensure a society in which women had a safe and dignified role, but the facts show the opposite. Women were stripped of their dignity under the Taliban. At the moment they are unable to support their families. Girls are deprived of basic health care and of any semblance of schooling. They are even deprived of their childhood under a regime that took away their songs, their dolls, and their stuffed animals — all banned by the Taliban.
The Taliban perpetrated egregious acts of violence against women, including rape, abduction, and forced marriage. Some families resorted to sending their daughters to Pakistan or Iran to protect them. Many Afghan activists’ lives are hidden and many have already left the country with the support of US and NATO members.
[Today’s horrific attack is… a shamefaced reminder of the inaptitude and utter failure of the Taliban to protect the people of Afghanistan.[Taliban’s] actions of omission and commission have only further aggravated the risk to the lives of the people of Afghanistan, especially those belonging to ethnic and minority communities. Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner
The July 23rd, 2016 attack on peaceful Hazara protesters was the deadliest attack since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. 107 Hazaras, the majority of whom were university students, were killed and over 500 others were wounded in a double suicide attack followed by a volley of gunfire by unknown gunmen.
Although the national and the international media initially reported 84 were killed and over 230 wounded, as time passed it became clear that the number of casualties was significantly higher than indicated by these initial reports.
Reasons behind the protests by Hazaras:
Over the past three centuries, Hazaras have been massacred, their lands have been grabbed by numerous Afghan governments and they have been forcefully displaced. Deprived of their citizenship rights, they have been living in their homeland as if they are aliens.
Over 62 percent of Hazaras were massacred by the Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan between the years 1890-1892, and much of their lands were seized by the Afghan government during that historical period. Currently, Hazaras live in remote, mountainous areas of central Afghanistan. They almost always, in subsequent years, have been deprived of their due rights.
During the Taliban regime, Hazaras were massacred inhumanely in different cities such as the Kande Pusht area of Zabul, Baghlan, Mazar-e Sharif and Bamiyan.
Based on reports by human rights organizations, the Taliban systematically massacred over 8,000 Hazaras including women and children in August 1998 during two days in Mazar-e-Sharif. In addition to several mass killings of Hazaras in Bamiyan, the Taliban also demolished the two Buddha statues of Bamiyan, which had been the most important historical and cultural symbol for Hazaras.
After the fall of the Taliban, Hazaras took part in all political and democratic procedures of the new Afghanistan state. However, systematic discrimination against them continued.
Despite the presence of the global community in Afghanistan and billions of dollars in foreign aid to the country, very few development projects were considered for Hazaristan, the Hazara-inhabited areas of the country. There are few paved roads in Hazaristan, schools of these areas are often working without buildings and students have to attend schools in open areas.
The government has not built any hospital or health center of the place where Hazaras live and the few hospitals present in Bamiyan have been built by international organizations such as the Agha Khan Foundation.
In Bamiyan, the heartland of place, currently, thousands of Hazaras live in caves where they are deprived of any services by the government.
All routes ending in this area are considered insecure as dozens of Hazara passengers are abducted and then murdered by terrorist groups on a daily basis.
Due to the existence of such a situation, Hazaras have often staged peaceful protests against systematic discrimination over the past 14 years.
Their protests have often focused on becoming beneficiaries of the basic services which should be provided by the government to every citizen. Hazaras have repeatedly come to the streets to protest against their deprivation of security, poor roads and health and education services. However, their protests have not received adequate attention from the Afghan government and the global community.
Over the past 2 years, thousands of Hazaras were forced to leave Afghanistan, seeking asylum in western countries, as they had suffered from insecurity and the continuation of systematic discrimination in their homeland. Between the years 2014-2015 over 140,000 Hazaras had to flee from Afghanistan. They do not have any hope to live their life in Afghanistan where their lives are in constant danger.
As discrimination against Hazaras became more widespread in 2016, a significant number of Hazara activists, especially students, and academics, decided not to remain silent about discrimination anymore. In order to fight systematic discrimination, they formed small groups inside and outside Afghanistan that observed the important issues of the country and acted against discrimination and injustice.
In April of the current year, Afghan media reported a sudden change to the route of a 500 kV power transmission line originating in Turkmenistan through Salang, rather than Hazara-inhabited Bamiyan.
Based on the 20-year electricity master plan of Afghanistan prepared by a German firm named Fichtner, the line was expected to pass via Bamiyan after routing through the northern Afghan provinces. However, the Afghan government, in a hidden session on April 30, 2016, decided to route the line through Salang, rather than the impoverished Hazara-inhabited Bamiyan. While the government cited cost and length of time for construction as reasons for the change, because the Salang route incudes considerable drawbacks, it can only be supposed that the real reason for the change was discriminatory policies against Hazaras.
Following the change in the route of the line, Hazaras inside and outside Afghanistan quickly protested against the Afghan government’s decision and a blatant discrimination against Hazaras. Just a few days after the government’s decision, and following many protests which started in Bamiyan and then carried on in many cities throughout the country, thousands of educated Hazaras gathered in western Kabul in the area called Mosala of Shahid Mazari (Mosala).
In the wake of the protests which had started in Bamiyan these Hazaras formed a civil movement called the Enlightenment Movement to show their protest against the government’s decision.
The Enlightenment Movement is led by a specific group of students and academics called “The People’s High Council”.
The People’s High Council set a two-week deadline for the Afghan government to annul its discriminatory decision and to route the line through Bamiyan. They also threatened that Hazaras from all around the world, but particularly in Afghanistan would carry out acts of civil disobedience and stage protests.
After about two weeks passed, Hazaras staged a huge protest in Kabul and other provinces on May 16, 2016. Around one million people participated in a protest in Kabul in which they tried to reach the center of the city to stage a sit-in in front of the presidential palace. However, the government blocked the path to the palace by blocking roads with shipping containers. The huge crowd stayed in Dehmazang Square for hours and chanted slogans against systematic discrimination. Although the majority of protesters intended to remove the obstacles to continuing their march towards the city center, the leaders of the Enlightenment Movement prevented them from doing so.
The People’s High Council to the Enlightenment Movement decided to end the protest without resorting to violence. On that day, government forces had been deployed to different parts of the city with enough equipment to suppress the protesters, leading organizers to believe there was a possible threat of bloody suppression.
Following this strategic retreat, the protests of the Enlightenment Movement continued outside Afghanistan. Hazaras in Australia, Canada, the US and different European countries staged protests against the systematic discrimination of their countrymen in Afghanistan.
During the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland on June 9, Hazaras from different European countries gathered and staged a widespread protest. Because of the potential embarrassment and controversy that might have been caused by the presence of Hazara protesters, the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani had to cancel his press conference as he did not have any answer for the protesters.
Following the Warsaw Summit and the Afghan government’s disgrace, protests of Hazaras continued. However, the government stubbornly neglected to pay attention to their protests. The government had over one month to enter into negotiations with protesters. Instead, by giving empty promises, authorities tried to persuade traditional Hazara leaders to leave the protesters and to end their protests.
MP Mohammad Mohaqiq, Karim Khalili former Vice President of Afghanistan and other traditional Hazara leaders initially stood with the people at the outset of the protests, but later they left the protesters and their cause, likely for reasons of political convenience. Currently, Hazaras have withdrawn support for the traditional Hazara leaders. Thus, despite having lost most of their influence on the Hazara population, these leaders try to symbolically take part in decision-making by standing with the government.
Currently, a significant change has come about regarding Hazaras’ perspective of their traditional leaders. The majority of Hazaras do not want to follow their traditional leaders anymore. Instead, they support the new and educated generation in a bid to create a new leadership in the Hazara community; an innovative act which is not tolerable for both the government and Hazara traditional leaders.
The new generation of educated Hazaras have come to the political arena with a new tool as all of them are familiar with the latest political affairs and their demands are unchangeable. They know that one cannot rely on the empty promises of the Afghan government and traditional leaders. Furthermore, they try to expand the changes brought to the Hazara community among other ethnicities of Afghanistan, reaching out to activists from other ethnic communities in an attempt to build bridges.
How Hazara protesters were attacked in Kabul
Enlightenment Movement’s public demonstration, which was to carry on for an unlimited time, started at 7 am, the 23rd of July 2016 from Dast-e-Barchi in West Kabul. Dasht-e Barchi is a Hazara majority area in Kabul.
The streets were full of protesters. Old and young women were marching in front of the protesters carrying bunches of flowers in their hands. Many children were also walking alongside them. The number of female protesters was significant. In recent years, it was the first time Kabul witnessed such a large crowd mixed of men and women in a male-dominated Afghanistan.
They had come to demand their rights and justice and stand against the systematic discrimination against a certain ethnic group. Hazaras have been discriminated against, survived massacres, and endured the most inhumane degradations over three centuries. Let’s not allow them to discriminate against and degrade our people anymore. We have a very human demand. We will never resort to violence. We demand equal rights.”
The nightmare of the potential massacre, of the bloody crackdown, had turned real.
People were under gunfire from the surrounding buildings. The third suicide bomber was killed by police before he reached the crowd.”
Targeted and Deadly Attacks
Two hours after the attack, the Afghanistan Intelligence Service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced that has been carried out by Daesh, a local branch of the Islamic State, and was organized from the Achin district of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan.
Later Daesh (IS) announced that they had not carried out the attack on the 23rd July protesters. The surprising thing after the attack was that the Taliban followed a similar line sketched by the NDS. Strikingly, both the Taliban and NDS sent similar statements to media. Both had attempted to direct public attention to IS.
At the same time, the NDS announced that the explosive used in the attack was the type of RDX which is only accessible to the military.
Clearance of the Crime Scene
After the crowd was forced to leave, the Afghan government cleared and water-washed the scene of the tragic massacre in order not to leave any sign for later investigations about the deadly attack. This act of the government further strengthened suspicions of the government’s hand in the attack.
The day after the attack, Ashraf Ghani assigned a truth-finding commission to investigate the attack on the Enlightenment Movement’s protesters. But the Enlightenment Movement and families of the victims rejected Ashraf Ghani’s commission and asked the United Nations for an impartial investigation of the massacre of their loved ones. Hazaras suspect that this attack targeted them specifically and that some of Ashraf Ghani’s government officials were behind the attack on their fellow community members.
The Afghan government is a suspect in the attack and does not have the authority and legitimacy to assign a truth-finding commission.
While the Enlightenment Movement and Hazara people have asked for a UN truth-finding commission, they set a deadline, the 40th day after the attack, which is a traditional day of remembrance for people who pass away or are killed, for the government to respond to the Enlightenment Movement’s demand positively and route the 500 kv imported power transmission line from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan according to Afghanistan Power Supply Master Plan prepared by Fechtner, the German consultancy firm, via Bamiyan and Maidan Wardak provinces.
The Twitter Storm: Social Media Campaign
After the massacre of peaceful Hazara protesters and on the burial day of victims who lost their lives, the Afghan government banned any demonstration and gathering for ten days. The government feared that the protest would spread on the burial day of the martyrs. At the same time, the government wanted to hide the extent of the tragedy by limiting people’s freedom to gather and protest and by censorship. However, Hazara youth across the world resorted to another innovative way of campaigning and raising their voices.
They decided to coordinate a twitter storm in order to raise awareness about the demands and goals of the Enlightenment Movement.
The twitter campaign was scheduled on 28 July and started at 9 am Kabul Time and continued till midnight. More than 8000 users from around the world joined the campaign with the #enlightenment hashtag. They sent more than 400,000 tweets with the #enlightenment and #EnlightenmentMovement hashtag.
The campaign sent an average of 4000 tweets per hour, and around 897 thousand twitter users per hour viewed those tweets. It was an unprecedented social media campaign in Afghanistan.
The literal meaning of their activism is that they cannot tolerate discrimination against their people anymore. They will continue their struggle until their demands are met.
The international community has also not tried to recognize the hands behind the Hazara massacre. This negligence and underestimation from the international community’s side leave a narrow space for a non-violent struggle against systematic discrimination.
While their peaceful protests are targeted and their screams for justice fall on deaf ears, Hazara people of Afghanistan are showing themselves to be so resilient that it will be very difficult to silence their voices any longer.
There will come the day in which our people and our peaceful struggle will be remembered and celebrated, maybe not today, but it certainly will happen. Be sure about that.
Twenty-two years ago, residents of Kabul’s Afshar district awoke to the sound of rockets launched at them from a nearby mountainside. February 11, 1993, marked the bloody dawn of the Afshar campaign, one of the worst mass atrocities of Afghanistan’s civil war of the early 1990s. Powerful militia-backed faction leaders systematically planned and coordinated the Afshar campaign as part of their battle for control of the capital. Civilians bore the brunt of the brutality as the militias shot, raped, and kidnapped at will.
It is impossible to know how many civilians were killed, or abducted and never released. Human Rights Watch documented victim accounts that describe some 80 summary executions and more than 700 kidnappings in three days; of these, 80 to 100 were freed after ransoms were paid. The rest never came home.
Afshar and its aftermath symbolize the toxic impunity that has plagued Afghanistan for decades.
The final documents of an official inquiry into the massacre were destroyed after the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996. There is no serious dispute about what happened in Afshar, and there’s ample evidence of who was responsible. But the government that came to power with international support in 2001 opted to not pursue the perpetrators of the Afshar campaign as part of a cold-blooded political calculation that traded justice for hoped-for political stability. It systematically blocked inquiries and efforts aimed at holding to account those responsible for Afshar and other mass abuses. In 2006, the Afghan parliament went so far as to give amnesty to perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, many of whom enjoy positions of power. Former President Hamid Karzai approved the law despite promising not to do so.
The United States and other allies of Afghanistan, who squandered the opportunity to push for justice for over a decade, have worked with and supported many of the people facing credible allegations of grave human rights abuses.
But there’s still hope: a report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission provides forensic detail of abuses between 1978 and 2001, and is an invaluable starting point for further investigations. The Karzai government opted to suppress the report, but the new government of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Adbullah should use it to end decades of impunity.
The victims of Afshar and too many other atrocities have waited far too long for justice, but Ghani and Abdullah could bring it within reach.
It was a pleasant day in Lal-o-Sar Jangal, Ghor Province Afghanistan. Latifa was thrilled since morning because she was going to Kabul City with her husband today for the honeymoon. Her husband, Nauroz had already told her to get all necessary stuff ready by 10pm.
Nearly a month ago, she got married with Nauroz, his village mate. She was just 22 years old, a young lady with full of dreams to enjoy the marriage life. It was early morning, when she left her bed to start the day but it was not the routine day. She couldn’t sleep properly as the honeymoon excitement kept her awake nearly all night. She hurriedly prepared breakfast for the family. Her blood was running fast in her veins. She seemed flying today—feeling over the moon. She wanted to finish all house chores as quick as possible and she also wanted to finish packing before the set time.
In the evening, her parents visited her home to see off her. She cooked a sumptuous dinner for the family. All family members enjoyed the dinner. Latifa promised to bring beautiful wool shawls, scarves from Kabul and warm shoes for her mother-in-law.
It was around 10pm, when her husband asked her to leave home. She kissed her elders’ hands to seek their blessings. In traditional Hazaragi dress, she was looking stunning with a bridal scarf. They both left home and arrived at the bus station, where a mini-bus was waiting to get them on board. The driver put their bags on the roof and tied them up. The commuters took a sigh of relief when the bus started moving forward.
“We will arrive in Kabul in the afternoon,” the driver said loudly and sped the bus bit fast.
“Why the bus doesn’t go in the morning?” she asked her husband inquisitively.
“It’s safe at night rather than in the day light,” Nauroz replied confidently.
The mini-bus was going slowly but the commuters could easily feel the jerk and the bump as it was running on the rough and unpaved road. The bus was swaying to either side when it moved bit fast. However, Latifa wasn’t feeling the knock and jolt because she was thinking about Kabul City, her honeymoon.
“Do you know which place we should see first in Kabul?” she asked.
“What do you think?” her husband replied.
“I don’t know. This is my first time going to Kabul.”
“After lunch in Kabul, we’ll take a rest for a few hours, and then we’ll go to the cinema. We’ll watch a Hindi film. What do you think?”
“Sounds great to me.”
She didn’t know how Kabul looks like. She heard a lot about Kabul City, especially Bagh-e-Babur, Bagh-e-Bala, Qargha, Kabul Zoo, cinemas and of course shopping malls. The beautiful national park Band-e-Amir and historical Bamiyan city known for its giant Buddhas were also in her list before coming home.
When the bus reached Feroz Koh, it stopped.
“Why it’s stopped?” she asked curiously.
“I think, it’s a normal checking by the authorities—not to worry,” her husband explained.
Three bearded armed men got on the bus. One of them put the gun on the head of the driver and shouted to get off the bus.
“Who are they? What are they doing?” she asked nervously.
“I don’t know—may be Taliban. Don’t know,” Nauroz said fearfully.
Both of the armed men were pulling commuters off the bus. She couldn’t believe her eyes, when a dark bearded armed man with thick eyebrows and a large nose dragged her out of the bus. She was horrified. She was made to line up beside the bus with other commuters. She also saw more armed men who were getting passengers out of the three buses and were lining them up. The women and children were crying. Armed men were asking everybody to show their ID Cards. She didn’t know, why they were asking ID Cards?
After checking ID Cards, the armed men were letting some commuters to go, while some others’ hands were being tied on their back. She started crying when her husband’s hands were tied on the back. She realized that only Hazaras were being singled out and lined them up against the bus. The armed men were kicking and punching Hazaras. After excluding Hazaras from others, armed men started torturing and shooting including women. She also felt something in her head and after that she didn’t know, what happened to her.
In the morning, the horrifying news struck to the national media and the social media networks. 15 innocent people were shot dead in Feroz Koh area including three women and a 9-month old child. Nobody was found injured. They were shot killed because they were Hazaras and Shias. Latifa’s body was lying dead beside her husband. Her hands were also tied on the back. She received several bullets but the bullet in the head took her life. She was killed because she was a Hazara and it was the only crime.
As routine, Kabul government issued clichéd statement vowing to bring terrorists to book. It’s worth mentioning, that for the past one month, around 50 Hazaras have so far been slaughtered by the religious terrorists in different parts of Afghanistan. No single terrorist in this regard was brought to justice, which is a matter of great concern for Hazaras in Afghanistan.
Angry protesters from different parts of Afghanistan including Kabul, Herath, Mazar-e-Sharif, Bamiyan and Daykundi even from Quetta City, Pakistan took to the street to express their solidarity with aggrieved family members and demanded Kabul Government to stop the killings of Hazaras in Afghanistan and provide full protection to its citizens. Many believe that if the recent ongoing Hazara killings were not stopped immediately by the government, it would further divide Afghanistan on ethnic lines.
The UN and international human rights organisations must send fact finding missions to probe the illegal disposal of Baloch people in mass graves
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expresses shock and deep concern over the discovery of mass graves in Balochistan; it is suspected that these graves are of Baloch missing persons who were arrested and subsequently extrajudicially killed. A large number of family members gathered around the places of Tootak village, district Khuzdar to inquire about their loved ones who have been missing for many years. However, the police and other security forces refused them permission to try and identify the bodies and baton charged the people to disperse them.
On January 25, three mass graves were found after one of them was discovered by a shepherd who saw pieces of human bodies and bones. He informed the Levies, a private armed force organised by tribal leaders, and according to Assistant Commissioner, district Khuzdar, Mr. Afzal Supra, Balochistan, the grave was excavated and 15 bodies were found.
As the news of the mass grave spread throughout the district people gathered there and started digging in the nearby area where they found two more mass graves. In total 103 bodies were recovered from the graves. The bodies were too decomposed to be identified. From the three mass graves 17, 8 and 78 bodies were found but the local people say that a total of 169 bodies have been found. People have witnessed more than 100 human bodies in Tootak while they were digging the area. However, Pakistani military forces stopped the local people from unearthing the mass graves and took control of the area. Now, no one is allowed access to the location except military personnel.
According to the media, a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said so far they have found around 56 unidentified graves and that there are many more. It is claimed that these bodies are those of Baloch missing persons.
The confirmation by government officials that over one dozen bullet-riddled bodies have been dumped in unmarked graves — many of them considered to be mass graves — in Balochistan has exposed the gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the security forces over the years in a bid to suppress a popular uprising against the government.
It is feared that more mass graves will be found in the coming days. However, the Pakistan Army, in order to hide its crimes, is not allowing any civilian or media outlets to visit the area. Anyone trying to gain access to the area comes under live fire by the Army. It is believed that the genocide of Balochis is one of the biggest mass killings of the 21st century.
Nasrullah Baloch, the vice chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), fears that their relatives who disappeared following arrest by the security services in the restive province might be buried in those graves. Baloch says that his cousin and the son of Mama Qadeer, who is leading the historical long march for the recovery of missing persons, Jalil Reki and another, Sana Sangat were brought to Khuzdar after arrest and killed after some days. He believes that their bodies must be here with others.
These mass graves were found very close to the residence of Mr. Shafique Mengal, who is a well known man of the security agencies and who is heading a militant organisation with the name of Nifaz-e-Amn. The organisation claims itself to be affiliated to the Pakistan security forces, working for the implementation of Islam and against Anti State elements. He has been provided with 30 armed vehicles. Whenever the security forces fail to conduct actions in tribal and mountainous areas they ask for Mengal’s help. The Frontier Corp (FC) own this organisation as the true one working body for the protection of Balochistan. The FC and other forces, as claimed by Baloch nationalist groups, have helped him to make private jails and torture centers in Tootak where the missing persons are brought and tortured before being extrajudicially killed. There is no power supply in the area but interestingly, electricity lines were provided to his private jails and his ‘fort’ which is guarded by the law enforcement agencies.
Human rights violations could soon escalate as the Pakistani government recently passed a new controversial law, the ‘Pakistani Protection Ordinance’- PPO, which has legalised enforced disappearances. The government has made an amendment in the PPO, though it has yet to be approved by the parliament. In an effort to provide protection for the crimes of the security forces the government has given legal cover for enforced disappearances and allows the security agencies to keep any suspect for up to three months without presenting them before a court and in cases of suspected terrorism the person can be kept for six months in their custody.
The crimes of the security agencies in Balochistan and the mass-scale disappearances and extrajudicial killings have now been exposed by the discoveries of these mass graves.
The non-investigation of the enforced disappearance of thousands of persons in Balochistan can be likened to the concentration camps of the Nazi’s who operated without any control or oversight; in a similar fashion as the armed forces and security agencies in Pakistan who answer to no one.
The AHRC urges the government of Pakistan to immediately form a transparent high judicial inquiry to probe the cases of the mass graves and provide information relating to the possible identities of the deceased persons. It is a prime responsibility of the government to inform the nation of each and every development in the progress of the investigation. Otherwise it will be difficult to control the volatile situation in Balochistan which may well spread like wildfire throughout the entire country.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan must take Sou Moto action on the discovery of the mass graves.
The AHRC urges the United Nations to send a high powered fact finding mission to probe the presence of mass graves in Balochistan province, particularly in Khuzdar district. It must be pointed out that the people of Pakistan do not expect any proper and transparent investigation from their government and the security agencies as they themselves are involved in the killings and enforced disappearances and the concealment of such crimes, therefore, the importance of a UN report cannot be over emphasised.
Shia killings in Quetta, or call it the Hazara genocide, owe not only condemnation but also an explanation. How come that in a specific time in history of the province, its Shia citizens face a brutal massacre?
Researches reveal that the causes have always been international political environment and the state policies inside its boundaries to protect ideological boarder of the state i.e. a state conceived in the holy month of Ramadan meant for ostensibly ‘Islamic-principles laboratory’. But what is specific about Hazara genocide in Quetta these days?
The following paragraphs would attempt to answer three questions. The answers might not be supported by hard facts, though, but it contains an interesting insight. First, why, most frequently, Hazara-Shias are being targeted in the state for over a decade? Second, Hazara lives elsewhere in Balochistan such as Loralai wherein no killing of Hazara has been reported yet, but why they are killed in the provincial capital? Third, which force is behind the killings and why the agency wants more Hazaras dead?
I suggest the answer lies within Balochistan, though an international account of the carnage can be taken as complementary explanation. Tax imposed on excavation of minerals in the province by Establishment under the pretext of imagined threats has strong affinity with Hazara killings in Quetta. Putting it otherwise, as the establishment stays longer Hazara genocide reaches beyond its previous records.
Looking in retrospect, the paramilitary force has failed to restore the languishing law and order situation of Balochistan. Except that the organization is performing exceptionally well in business sector of the region. To this end, precious marble stone in Loralai is being excavated under the force’s supervision. Also, heavy tax has been imposed on exaction of coal in Chamalang and Duki. Furthermore, few know that FC approached Nawab Jogezai and asked whether he could help the organization to impose tax on chromites’ excavation in Muslim Bagh? The organization, in return, promised him a prominent political position as a good gesture. All this transpired before last year election. However, JUIF’s provincial assembly representative, Moulana Wassy, needs appreciation who intrepidly opposed the establishment and pre-empted their ‘pernicious’ intentions. A friend of mine told me that the same situation exists in Baloch belt of the province too, of which I have less knowledge.
The paramilitary organization wants to extend its stay in Balochistan. The more they inhibit the province the more the organization would relish the tax imposed on mineral excavation. But to prevail they need a justification. What else can warrant them justification other than Hazara killings? The killings would always make an emergency situation and in consequence demands the organization’s presence. Hence, the answer not lies in Quetta, wherein the paramilitary force has check posts after every two miles. It has to be sought somewhere in Loralai, Muslim Bagh, Chamalang and other areas where the establishment’s financial activities are booming.
It seems ironical that despite the paramilitary’s substantial presence in Quetta and in and around Mastung they could not at least chase after terrorists. Furthermore, why no Hazara is killed anywhere else in Balochistan where the state writ is weaker as compared the provincial capital? How come despite the establishment presence in the region, LeJ and other Jihadists are burgeoning?
Perhaps, one reason could be that killing Hazaras in and around Quetta grabs attention of media easily. Moreover, creating an emergency situation in the capital makes it easy to run rest of the province once one has taken over its administration and bureaucracy. Also, killing Shias in rest of the Pakistan, perhaps, cannot make rich the establishment in shortest possible time the way it can do in Balochistan.
Hazara massacre, therefore, in Quetta makes the establishment rich by extending its presence. The more they stay in the province more would they able to impose tax on minerals excavation. Killing them in and around proximity of Quetta creates and emergency situation that is utilized by the establishment to makes its stay a little more and also works as a camouflage that makes its financial activities out of the sight.
The presidential election candidates have vowed to take practical steps in implementing transitional justice against the war criminals in the country.
Head of the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan, Seema Samar said the candidates presented their plans and programs on transitional justice during a summit to mark the human rights day.
Samar further added that Afghanistan is facing considerable challenges in terms of human rights issues, and the rights of women and children are not respected.
She also added that the judicial institution of the country are also having problems since the rule of law is not properly implemented.
Samar said around 6000 people were killed in armed conflicts during the past one year and violence against women has increased by 24 percent as compared to last year.
According to Sarmar, at least 243 cases of honor killings and 123 rape cases were registered with the human rights commission of Afghanistan.
In the meantime, presidential candidates vowed to include implementation of transitional justice in their agenda, if they are elected as the next president of Afghanistan.
Work on transitional justice started nearly ten years ago when president Hamid Karzai was elected as the Afghan president, however no practical steps have been taken despite the independent human rights commission of Afghanistan completed its report regarding the war crimes which were committed during three decades of civil war.
A human skull and bones at a mass grave near the Afghan town of Mazar-i-Sharif. Such graves still litter the countryside.
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — The atrocities of the Afghan civil war in the 1990s are still recounted in whispers here — tales of horror born out of a scorched-earth ethnic and factional conflict in which civilians and captured combatants were frequently slaughtered en masse.
The mass graves that were found include sites in the Dasht-e-Leili desert, and at Dehdadi, Khalid Ibn al-Walid and Kefayet Square.
Stark evidence of such killings are held in the mass graves that still litter the Afghan countryside. One such site is outside Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north. It lies only half-excavated, with bones and the remains of clothing partially obscured by water and mud from recent flooding. Experts say at least 16 victims are here, and each skull that lies exposed is uniformly punctured by a single bullet-entry hole at the back.
The powerful men accused of responsibility for these deaths and tens of thousands of others — some said to be directly at their orders, others carried out by men in their chain of command — are named in the pages of a monumental 800-page report on human rights abuses in Afghanistan from the Soviet era in the ’80s to the fall of the Taliban in 2001, according to researchers and officials who helped compile the study over the past six years.
The list of names is a sort of who’s who of power players in Afghanistan: former and current warlords or officials, some now in very prominent positions in the national government, as well as in insurgent factions fighting it. Many of the named men were principals in the civil war era after the Soviet Union withdrew, and they are also frequently mentioned when talk here turns to fears of violence after the end of the NATO combat mission in 2014. Already, there is growing concern about a scramble for power and resources along ethnic and tribal lines.
But the report seeking to hold them accountable is unlikely to be released anytime soon, the researchers say, accusing senior Afghan officials of effectively suppressing the work and those responsible for it. For their part, human rights activists say the country is doomed to repeat its violent past if abuses are not brought to light and prosecuted.
At the same time, some officials here — including some American diplomats — express worry that releasing the report will actually trigger new civil strife.
Titled simply, “Conflict Mapping in Afghanistan Since 1978,” the study, prepared by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, details the locations and details of 180 mass graves of civilians or prisoners, many of the sites secret and none of them yet excavated properly. It compiles testimony from survivors and witnesses to the mass interments, and details other war crimes as well.
The study was commissioned as part of a reconciliation and justice effort ordered by President Hamid Karzai in 2005, and it was completed this past December. Some of the world’s top experts in forensics and what is called transitional justice advised the commission on the report and provided training and advice for the 40 researchers who worked on it over a six-year period.
Three Afghan and foreign human rights activists who worked as researchers and analysts on large sections of the report spoke about its contents on condition of anonymity, both out of fear of reprisal and because the commission had not authorized them to discuss it publicly.
According to Afghan rights advocates and Western officials, word that the report was near to being officially submitted to the president apparently prompted powerful former warlords, including the first vice president, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, to demand that Mr. Karzai dismiss the commissioner responsible, Ahmad Nader Nadery.
At a meeting on Dec. 21, including Mr. Karzai and other top officials, Marshal Fahim argued that dismissing Mr. Nadery would actually be too mild a punishment. “We should just shoot 30 holes in his face,” he said, according to one of those present. He later apologized to other officials for the remark, saying it was not meant in earnest.
Mr. Karzai did remove Mr. Nadery. But a spokesman for the president, Aimal Faizi, said it was “irresponsible and untrue” to say that the president fired Mr. Nadery because of the mass graves report or was trying to block its release. He also called the accounts of the Dec. 21 meeting with Marshal Fahim and other officials “totally baseless.”
Mr. Nadery had finished two five-year terms as a commissioner and the president was legally entitled to replace him, Mr. Faizi said. “This decision has nothing to do with any A.I.H.R.C. report on war atrocities,” he said. “We believe that if there is any such report by the A.I.H.R.C., sooner or later it will come up and will be published one day.”
The figures accused in the report of playing some role in mass killings include some of the most powerful figures in Afghanistan’s government and ethnic factions, including the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban in 2001.
Among them are First Vice President Fahim, a Tajik from the Jamiat Islami Party, and Second Vice President Karim Khalili, a Hazara leader from the Wahdat Party; Gen. Atta Mohammed Noor, a Tajik from the Jamiat Islami Party and now the governor of the important northern province of Balkh, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is capital; and Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former Uzbek warlord from the Jumbush Party who holds the honorary title of chief of staff to the supreme commander of the Afghan Armed Forces, among many others.
Those men gave no response to verbal and written requests for comment about their naming in the report.
In all, the researchers said, more than 500 Afghans are named in the report as responsible for mass killings, including the country’s revered national martyr, Ahmed Shah Massoud, one of the last militia leaders to hold out against the Taliban sweep to power and who was assassinated by Al Qaeda just before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The report also investigates killings of civilians and prisoners said to be carried out by the Taliban and other insurgents, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami insurgents.
Named specifically in the report as responsible for war crimes in massacres of prisoners in Mazar-i-Sharif are two Taliban commanders now held at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp — Mullah Fazul Akhund and Mullah Khairullah Khirkawa — and whose release is thought to be a condition of negotiations with the insurgent group.
As the report languishes, evidence in the graves is being destroyed, sometimes as a function of poor care of the sites and sometimes intentionally.
One mass grave containing more than 100 dead was discovered in the Kefayet Square area of Mazar-i-Sharif, where General Noor holds sway, during a road-building project in March. The half-dozen bodies that were turned up were simply relocated to a cemetery and the construction went on, bulldozing over most of the rest of the remains.
In 2007, two mass graves in the Khalid Ibn al-Walid township of Mazar were simply covered over by construction of a new residential complex that researchers said was developed and owned by General Noor.
A researcher for the Afghan rights commission who investigated both of the graves in Khalid Ibn al-Walid said the victims were killed by General Noor’s political party, which had what the researcher called a “human slaughterhouse” on the site in the 1990s, as well as by the Taliban, who later took over the same facility for the same purpose.
In the case of the grave with exposed skulls, it was discovered in January by American and Afghan workers during a United States Army Corps of Engineers construction project in Dehdadi District, six miles outside Mazar-i-Sharif — one of at least two graves found there so far. Human rights investigators said that grave dated from the period when General Dostum and his Hazara allies controlled the site; the victims, their wrists still bound in many cases with stout twine, included women and children, judging from the clothing found with them.
During the civil war period, after the Communists were defeated and before the Taliban took power, warlords like General Noor, General Dostum, and the Hazara leader Hajji Mohammad Mohaqiq fought bitterly among themselves as well as against the Taliban, who are mostly ethnic Pashtuns. The conflict among these leaders, who had all fought in the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, was on both political and ethnic grounds.
For many Afghans, the warlords’ atrocities are taken as a given — old news better left unrevived.
“It will take us centuries to forget this,” said an Afghan National Army lieutenant colonel. “We don’t want to go back to those bad days again.”
In all, 13 mass graves have been identified in the Mazar-i-Sharif area, including one detailed by human rights workers in the Dasht-e-Leili desert in the neighboring Jawjzan Province, believed to contain 2,000 Taliban prisoners slaughtered by General Dostum’s forces.
“That grave was there and then suddenly it was not there,” said a second human rights worker who worked on the investigation in Jawjzan. “They just got rid of all the evidence.”
He said bulldozers were brought in during 2008 to remove the bodies, leaving huge pits behind. The remains were reportedly incinerated at a secret location, he said.
A Question of Will
Mr. Nadery would not discuss the contents of the mapping report except in the most general way. “You open the map in the report, you see there are dots everywhere,” he said. “Everyone should know that what they suffered was not unique. We should be able to tell our people: ‘This is our past, this is our history. It’s ugly, it’s bad, but we should be able to face it.’ ”
He said he still hoped that the commission would be able to submit the report, although he conceded that those prospects looked dim.
“I don’t want the report to become an event, just a headline for one day,” he said. Instead, he said, it needs to be presented officially so it can be acted on officially, whether by the Afghan government or by the international community.
He said the report tallied more than a million people killed in the conflict and 1.3 million disabled, although not all of those are necessarily victims of war crimes.
Other human-rights officials in Afghanistan also expressed urgency about releasing the report.
“There are lots of examples where a report like this was an important first step to bringing justice for the victims,” said Heather Barr, head of the Human Rights Watch office in Afghanistan. “It does put pressure on people who are named; it leads at least to marginalizing them.”
The volatility of the accusations was on full display in April, when a well-established but small political bloc, the Afghanistan Solidarity Party, held a demonstration against what it said were war criminals in government. “For us there is no difference between the Taliban and these war criminals,” said Hafizullah Rasikh, a party spokesman. “They are like twin brothers.”
Parliament responded with a declaration accusing the party of treason and demanding its disbandment.
A former mujahedeen commander, Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, who is now an editor of a weekly publication called Mujahed, did not deny that many atrocities took place, on all sides.
“One cannot make war with rosewater,” he said, referring to a popular ingredient in sweets and perfumes here. “If this war and all these killings were so bad, then why aren’t we putting their international backers on trial? If we talk about violation of human rights, we should accuse the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, who supported the mujahedeen at the time and now calls them warlords. Or President Ronald Reagan, who provided these warlords and human rights violators with Stinger missiles.”
The American Embassy here has been another source of objection to the mass-graves report. American officials say releasing the report would be a bad idea, at least until after Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election — which is also when the NATO combat withdrawal should be complete. “I have to tell you frankly on the mapping thing, when I first learned about it, it scared me,” said a senior American official, speaking on condition of anonymity as a matter of embassy policy. “There will be a time for it, but I’m not persuaded this is the time.”
“It’s going to reopen all the old wounds,” the official said, noting that several men who were bitter rivals during the civil war were at least nominally working together in the government now.
For its part, the United Nations has supported release of the report. “The U.N. position has always been that such reports should always be released publicly,” said Georgette Gagnon, the top human rights officer for the United Nations mission in Afghanistan. “But it’s up to the commission and we would support whatever they decide to do.”
Of the 180 graves documented in the report, only one has so far been exhumed forensically because the Afghan authorities lack the facilities to carry out DNA testing and the sort of scientific identification of remains that was done systematically in Bosnia.
That one was a grave on the grounds of the Interior Ministry in Kabul, according to M. Ashraf Bakhteyari, head of the Forensic Science Organization, a foreign-trained group that carried out the exhumation. Mr. Bakhteyari said he was ordered by the Interior Ministry not to divulge who the victims were. “It is classified information,” he said.
He is frank, though, about the prospects for investigating the rest of Afghanistan’s mass graves. “It is impossible to prosecute those who are responsible for the mass graves,” Mr. Bakhteyari said. “Neither the international community nor the Afghan government have the will to do that.”
Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.