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The Killid Group

Mass Graves: Massacre of Hundreds but no Criminals

Written by
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 10:36

Mass Graves: Massacre of Hundreds but no Criminals

By Killid reporters

Thirty years ago, when the Communist regime was still in power, hundreds of Herat residents were captured and disappeared. With the fall of that government in 1991 to the Mujahiddin, mass graves were discovered just north of the city of Herat. Locals say the remains belong to those who went missing some three decades ago. The perpetrators and war criminals behind this atrocity have yet to be captured or even disclosed.

The mass graves are reportedly located in Herat province near what is known as the Hill of Unknown Martyrs.  It is believe that locals from Herat and the surrounding districts were buried alive at the time when Hezbe Khalq communists ruled the region.

We went to this area and interviewed a number of residents, the families of victims and eyewitnesses to this tragedy.

Upon arriving at the Hill of Unknown Martyrs we encountered a resident who claims to have lost a number of family members to the massacre. A young man, he is here to pray to the spirits of relatives buried in the mass graves.

Jalil Ahmad claims to have lost his brother, uncle and father-in-law. He told us that "at the time of Communist regime, armed men to the government arrived to our homes and took them out and we have not found them yet."

We interviewed another resident: Sayed Ahmad was a police officer at the time of the Communist regime and served over a year in this area. He did not provide much information or details, only sharing that he saw tractors working over these hills to bury and hide the bodies.

Mass grave discovered

Kamaluddin Arab was a high rank general stationed close to the Hill of Unknown Martyrs in 1991 at the time of Mujahiddin.  Approximately 18 years ago, he recounts, when a number of soldiers were digging out this area to build a mosque, they discovered bones and proceeded to informed Esmaeel Khan, the former governor of Heart, before unearthing the entire grave.  "We pulled dead bodies out of graves and around 5000 were buried live in this mass grave."

Kamaluddin Arab says that upon discovering the mass graves, officials in Heart put the bones on display to raise awareness of Afghanistan's tyrannical past.

After much effort, we found Hakim Khan, also known as Delawar, who was an advisor to Hezbe Khalq in Herat province before running their media arm in Herat.

Delawar currently lives in a very old house in Malhadan village, 50 kilometers east of Herat.  He was not keen on speaking to journalists but was convinced by his friends.  "I was a member of Hezbe Khalq and I was undertaken as head of this Hezb's advertisement in Herat. I was not the head of this Hezb to get enough information. I just wanted to serve the people through this, but I could not handle it, when this regime was fallen."

Delawar says that since the fall of Hezbe Khalq he has been living in a rented house and does not know about how and why the people were killed en masse or who committed the act.

History will be the judge

Sayed Shafiq, an Afghan member of parliament, was an eyewitness to the unearthing. "The mass graves were discovered in north of Herat and it is clear for all. I was an eyewitness at that time, I could clarify them through their clothes, children' boots, rope, dead bodies were tied by them." He believes that this atrocity is much more difficult for journalists and others to analyze and investigate. "The history is eyewitness of this incident," he says, "and if Afghan government does not want to prosecute and identify the alleged perpetrators, the history will put them into trail."

However, a human rights monitor in Herat province told us on the condition of anonymity that they have yet to find any evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.

Provincial officials refused all interview requests.

Released Statistics

There is little public trust in government to fully investigate what happened at the Hill of the Unknown Martyrs.  Mahmood Saighal, a political analyst, says that the public's experience with the government's handling of past atrocities, such as the killing of as many as 25,000 in Herat in the early 1980s, has made them wary of believing what their government tells them.

To build the necessary trust there needs to be "rule of law and a popular government to prosecute and punish the perpetrators in such incidents. If the government is delivering slogans instead of enforcing the law while doling out largesse along ethnic and tribal lines, official government statistics will always be questioned and justice never served," says Saighal.

According to him, the currently prolonged U.S. led "war on terror" is bringing more crises to this country.  Human rights violations, already at a high base after 30 years of civil war, are increasing, he says, with a number of the worst perpetrators sitting in the Afghan government.

The Hill of Unknown Martyrs covers about 50 hectares, and was used as a military zone under Hezbe Khalq.  Following the collapse of the communist regime in 1991, Heratis were desperate to learn the fate of their missing loved ones.  It was then that the mass graves were discovered.  Although, there is not an exact number, locals and eyewitnesses believe that hundreds, or even thousands, of people were buried alive.

The current Afghan government, following in the tracks of previous regimes, has not been able to bring those responsible to justice or bring closure to the family of the victims.

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