Fact Sheet: The Taliban's Betrayal of the Afghan People
(Issued by the Office of International Information Programs) (1320)
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October 17, 2001
The Afghan people have been the primary victims of Taliban misrule, since the Taliban came to power in 1996. The Taliban militia was formed in 1994, in response to human rights abuses by other warring factions in Afghanistan. By 1996, the Taliban had captured Kabul, and, with claims to religious as well as political authority, began a reign of terror. The Taliban have made the Afghan people the unwilling hosts of foreign armed terrorists, who have exploited and endangered the Afghan people, and made Afghanistan a pariah in the world community.
This fact sheet outlines documented atrocities and human rights abuses committed by the Taliban against the Afghan people.
The Taliban have massacred hundreds of Afghan civilians, including women and children, in Yakaolang, Mazar-I-Sharif, Bamiyan, Qezelabad, and other towns. Many of the victims of these massacres were targeted because of their ethnic or religious identity.
Massacre at Yakaolang: January 2001 Taliban forces committed a massacre in Yakaolang in January 2001. The victims were primarily Hazaras. The massacre began on January 8, 2001, and continued for four days. The Taliban detained about 300 civilian adult males, including staff members of local humanitarian organizations. The men were herded to assembly points, and then shot by firing squad in public view. According to Human Rights Watch, about 170 men are confirmed to have been killed. According to Amnesty International, eyewitnesses reported the deliberate killing of dozens of civilians hiding in a mosque: Taliban soldiers fired rockets into a mosque where some 73 women, children and elderly men had taken shelter.
Massacre at Robatak Pass: May 2000 The May 2000 massacre took place near the Robatak pass. 31 bodies were found one site, of these, 26 were positively identified as civilians. The victims were Hazara Shi'as. Massacre in Bamiyan: 1999 When the Taliban recaptured Bamiyan in 1999, there were reports that Taliban forces carried out summary executions upon entering the city. According to Amnesty International, hundreds of men, and some instances women and children, were separated from their families, taken away, and killed. Human Rights Watch reports that besides executing civilians, the Taliban burned homes and used detainees for forced labor.
Massacre in the Shomaili Plains: July 1999 Human Rights Watch reports that a Taliban offensive here was marked by summary executions, the abduction and disappearance of women, the burning of homes, destruction of property, and the cutting down of fruit trees. According to a report by the U.N. Secretary General on November 16, 1999, "The Taliban forces, who allegedly carried out these acts, essentially treated the civilian population with hostility and made no distinction between combatants and non-combatants."
Massacre in Mazar-I-Sharif: August 1998 In August 1998, the Taliban captured Mazar-I-Sharif. There were reports that between 2,000 and 5,000 men, women and children -- mostly ethnic Hazara civilians -- were massacred by the Taliban after the takeover of Mazar-I-Sharif. During the massacre, the Taliban forces carried out a systematic search for male members for the ethnic Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek communities in the city. Human Rights Watch estimates that scores, perhaps hundreds, of Hazara men and boys were summarily executed. There were also reports that women and girls were raped and abducted during the Taliban takeover of the city.
Massacre in Mazar-I-Sharif: September 1997 Retreating Taliban forces summarily executed Hazara villagers near Mazar-I-Sharif, after having failed to capture the city. Amnesty International reported that the Taliban massacred 70 Hazara civilians, including children, in Qezelabad, near Mazar-I-Sharif. There were also reports that the Taliban forces in Faryab province killed some 600 civilians in late 1997.
Other Massacres: On at least two occasions, according to Human Rights Watch, the Taliban killed delegations of Hazara elders who had attempted to intercede with them.
Human Rights Abuses Against Women and Girls
Taliban rule has been particularly harsh for Afghan women and girls. Taliban restrictions against women and girls are widespread, institutionally sanctioned, and systematic in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan.
-- Girls are formally prohibited from attending school.
-- Women are prohibited, with very few exceptions, from working outside the home, and are forbidden to leave their homes except in the company of a male relative. These restrictions are devastating for the thousands of Afghan war widows, who have reportedly been reduced to selling their possessions or begging to feed their families.
-- The Taliban have significantly reduced women's access to health care, by decreeing that women can only be treated by women doctors.
-- The Taliban threaten and beat women to enforce the Taliban's dress code for women.
The Taliban and the Humanitarian Situation
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is grim. Twenty years of internal armed conflict, and four years of devastating drought have contributed to this situation, but the Taliban have made an already grave situation much worse, holding the Afghan people hostage to their political agenda.
-- The Taliban do not share the hardships they have imposed on the Afghan people, and they have done nothing to alleviate these hardships.
-- The Taliban have not only failed to provide security, food, and shelter for the Afghan people, but they have disrupted the efforts of international relief agencies to deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies to the Afghan people.
-- The Taliban have harassed international and Afghan aid workers.
-- On October 16, the Taliban seized control of two UN warehouses, containing more than half the World Food Program's wheat supply for Afghanistan. The UN Security Council on October 16 demanded that the Taliban should cease obstructing aid destined for the Afghan people.
The Taliban and Islam The Taliban have imposed their own interpretation of Islam on the Afghan people.
-- Taliban interpretations of Islam are not widely shared in the Muslim world.
-- Taliban words and actions misrepresent Islam.
-- The Taliban have used Islam as a cloak to practice ethnic cleansing in Afghanistan.
-- Warning against "converting our countries into another Afghanistan," Saudi writer Turki Al Hamad, writing in As-Sharq Al Awsat, put it this way:"...[under the Taliban], Islam would be relegated from a world religion with a global human and civilized mission to a Taliban-like dogma that bans pigeon breeding, long hair, kite flying, and listening to music.... That, at a time when the rest of the world is de-coding the genome, experimenting with cloning, inventing information chips, exploring outer space and tackling the wonders of laser beams and infra-red radiation. If we want to have an impact on today's world, the only way to do so is by interacting with it."
Destruction of Afghan Culture
The Taliban have perverted Afghan customs, tradition, and religious practice for their own narrow political interests.
-- The Taliban and their foreign armed militant "guests" have set about destroying traditional Afghan culture.
-- They have prohibited all forms of music, and even traditional recreation, such as kite flying.
-- They have looted and destroyed the historical and cultural patrimony of the Afghan people -- the Kabul Museum, formerly one of the finest museums in the region, is largely empty; the centuries-old Buddhist statues in Bamiyan have been reduced to rubble.
-- They have deprived the people of Afghanistan both their history, and their future.
Documenting Taliban Abuses
-- Several non-government organizations maintain web sites documenting Taliban abuses.
-- The web site of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (www.rawa.fancymarketing.net) maintains a gallery of still photos and video clips documenting massacres, beatings, and executions by the Taliban. The documentary photos and videos were clandestinely made by Afghan women to provide evidence of Taliban atrocities. One video clip on this site documents the public execution of an Afghan mother of seven.
-- Several human rights organizations maintain web sites documenting human rights abuses by the Taliban and other factions in the Afghan conflict. Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) and Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org) provide extensive documentation of these abuses.
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(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)