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The Killid Group
Life and Death on the FrontlineWritten by Killid
Thursday, 15 July 2010 09:05
In the conflict of the nineties as the Taliban fought jihadi groups in a battle for territorial control over Afghanistan, districts and villages in the constantly shifting frontline often bore the worst of the brunt. Violence, arson and even rape were methods used to establish control by warring groups, especially if they sensed the local population was inimical to them. Though the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996, their control over areas of Northern Afghanistan fluctuated, with areas slipping in and out of their control. In January 2001 it was Khaja-Ghar District in the northern province of Takhar which became the battlefield.
Khaja-ghar District was considered a war zone, where both sides- the Taliban and the North Alliance - were fighting each other. This area had exchanged hands several times between Taliban and North Alliance. In January 2001 the Taliban came into the area again, seizing the area by force, setting houses on fire and executing people.
"When the Taliban came here, they set fire to our homes and many of the local residents fled to the mountains. Those who could not run away- around half the population - were murdered by the Taliban" says Abdul Aziz, a 30-year who also fled the area. "When the Taliban left the area, we came back to the district and we found many dead bodies burnt in the alleys and inside the houses. I personally saw more than 14 dead bodies which were burnt completely only in one alley."
Mohammad Alem, who is 25 years old and a resident, also remembers fleeing out of fear. "Before the fighting began we fled the area and only my grandmother remained at home. We thought the Taliban would not hurt her, but when we came back we found my grandmother was burnt to death along with the house itself." According to a UN report, which confirmed that the human disaster occurred in January 2001, the Taliban also hung approximately 34 locals in public.
However, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman strongly refuted these allegations, telling Killid: "These allegations are made by our enemies. We do not do anything against Islam and Quranic rules and we have not hurt anyone in this district. We were supported by locals in the northern areas and they behaved very well with us."
Locals claim that when the Taliban took control over this district and till the time they left the area, not only did they murder a number of people but that they also raped many women and girls.
"The Taliban were defeated here once and when they managed to capture the district a second time they were angry (about their earlier defeat) and because of this they killed innocent locals and set their houses on fire and also committed rapes" some of the residents said.
"At the time of Taliban's invasion of this district, I personally saw Taliban insurgents forcefully rush inside the house of our neighbours and they raped a woman and they took her two sons. I was a witness to this" says Zabiullah, a 32 year old resident of the area.
Rape is not something that is talked about easily or openly in the Afghan culture and most victims will not admit to it. "Those who were raped by Taliban have left this area and many of them do not want to speak about this issue in public as they believe it is shameful for the family and blackens its reputation" says Mohammad Azim, a resident of the area.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid however denies that any of the Taliban were involved in rape. "According to our Islamic rules, whoever commits such things; they will be charged and punished under Islam. Once again I say these allegations are made by our enemies. When they cannot fight with us, they start blaming and accusing us and they want to slander Taliban."
Mercenaries in Taliban
Giving his perspective on the contending claims, Hassibullah Arian, a writer from Takhar province says there were two distinct groups of Taliban. "Taliban caused financial and humanitarian damage by setting houses on fire in nine villages in the Khaja-ghar district. However in terms of the allegations of rape I have to say there were two groups of Taliban. There were the Taliban who were Taliban insurgents and then there were a number of people who fought for money along with Taliban. Most of the non-Islamic actions were committed by the second group."
When we asked Zabihullah Mujahid about the presence of people motivated by money within the ranks of the Taliban and the possibility of them committing such crimes, he agreed. "Yes, we were working with some people who were working for the money. But if they committed a crime, they would be punished through Islamic rules and Sharia law. There were also courts of law to charge and punish them, but it is still unclear for us who the alleged perpetrators of these crimes were."
(The Killid Group is engaged in a process that aims healing and bringing peace to a society wounded by crimes of war and human rights abuses throughout 30 years of war)