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The Killid Group

Russian Bombing Turned Joy Into Tears

Written by Killid reporters
Saturday, 24 July 2010 15:54


In 1984, Russian and Afghan government forces jointly bombed a target in the Qala Paeen area of Shindand district of Herat believing it to be a celebration by a group of anti-government mujahideen. The target turned out to be a wedding party and fifty people were killed as a result of the bombing, with entire families being wiped out by the strikes.

Ahmad was just one-year-old at the time and a scar on his body the only memory he carries of that attack. But he knows what happened that day from the stories told to him by local elders as also the fact that he has no one left of his own family, all relatives having died in the attack. "I was too young to remember anything from the incident that occurred at the time, but I'm telling you whatever I have heard from elders. They told me I lost all my family members during this brutal attack."

Ahmad now has his own family and lives on the outskirts of Qala Paeen district along with his wife and son. But the anger is sharp and remains with him. "I will never forgive those who killed my family" he says. "I think my main enemies are those who provided wrong information to the attackers by saying that this was a mujahideen wedding."

Haji Muhammad Abrahim recovered the dead bodies from the rubble, and he was witness to the attack. "It was Friday night and a young man from Qala Paeen whose name I forget was getting married, when all of a sudden, Russian bombers appeared in the sky and targeted the groom's house where the wedding was taking place. When we came to the site of the incident, we saw that people were stuck under the rubble. About 50 people lost their lives during the attack and we buried all of them in a mass grave."

Agha Ayub, who used to be a mujahideen commander at the time told us about what he had observed: "That night I was with other mujahideen in my base when we suddenly noticed that jets were flying over Qala Paeen. After a few minutes we heard a boom, so the mujahideen were immediately dispatched to the site where the incident occurred. Many people were martyred and we recovered all the martyrs from rubble. To my surprise, there was only one child (the Ahmad interviewed earlier in the story) who had survived, stuck under the rubble. We carried a number of people injured to our centre for treatment."

Ghulam Hassan used to work as a doctor with the mujahideen at the time. "When I was told that a wedding ceremony had been attacked by Russians causing a lot of casualties, I rushed to the medical centre and treated many of the wounded. One of them was a baby (Ahmad) whose neck was hurt and he was in a critical condition. People said the baby had lost all his family members during the attack."

Muhammad Akbar is one of the victims who lost his vision and was also struck dumb by the attack. "Since the incident took place, Muhammad Akbar has been constantly visiting the graveyard of the victims to mourn over them", says another resident of the area. He said three of Muhammad Akbar's family members were killed during the attack and Akbar himself had become mentally imbalanced.

Hope belied

This is not the only incident resulting in civilian casualties. Nearly every family in this country lost loved ones during 30 years of war in the country. When the Karzai government was formed people were really hopeful that those who responsible for the oppression and death of their loved ones would be brought to justice. But that hope has been belied.

"Although we have been expecting the current government to bring the war criminals and human rights violators to justice, it has not paid any attention to the victims" says Ustad Ghulam Hassan who is teaching in a high school in Shindand district. "It has been over 20 years since the Qala Paeen incident occurred, but nothing has been done to pursue the perpetrators. I believe all attacks are carried out based on information and therefore, first of all, the informers behind the incident in Qala Paeen must be prosecuted. Those who murdered people during the time of the different governments are still in power and no one questions them".

At present, the question asked by the victims of war is: "when and how will these perpetrators be brought to justice?"  The impact of impunity from prosecution is felt in the continuity of such incidents even into the current times. Wrong information has often resulted in air strikes against civilian targets, wrongful arrests and house raids, sometimes resulting in the death of innocents. While investigations have sometimes revealed that these operations took place on the basis of wrong information, there has never been any action reported against those who provided the wrong information in the first instance, something that could act as a deterrent.

(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)


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