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The Killid Group

Kabul University: Flashback to 1978 horror

Written by Shoaib Tanha
Thursday, 05 August 2010 09:30

Kabul University: Flashback to 1978 horror


7th Sawar, 1357 (27 April, 1978) is remembered as a black day in the history of Kabul University, Afghanistan's most prestigious centre of learning.

In the following days, students and lecturers were arrested by the new regime of Nur Mohammad Taraki.  A leader of the Khalq faction of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), Taraki had taken power after the killing of former president Mohammad Daoud Khan.

While some taken away were never seen again, others were subjected to the most horrific torture under government orders.

Azizullah Lodin was a lecturer in the economics faculty, who was tortured by security and intelligence agents.

Lodin now 64, who was head of the Independent Election Commission in 2009, lives in Kabul, where he recalls the past with great bitterness and anguish.

"When the coup of 7th Sawar took place, we - a number of lecturers in Kabul university - joined together because we knew the Soviet Union would interfere in Afghanistan's affairs." When the university teachers launched a public movement, they were picked up by government security.

"It was approximately 11 pm. They put my colleagues and me into a car and covered our heads with sacks. We were taken to Pul-e-Charkhi jail.  I saw Professor Hashemi, who was one of my classmates - he was unrecognizable. His body was swollen because of the torture and beating."

Tens of thousands of people were tortured, falsely accused of crimes and executed without trial, during the years in power of the PDP's Khalq and Parcham factions. (Parcham, led by Babrak Karmal, took over the government after President Taraki's successor and bitter rival, Hafizullah Amin, was assassinated by Soviet intelligence.)

The arrests from the University were carried out in waves. Ten lecturers and some 30 staff were taken into custody in the first round. Mr Lodin says only two were eventually released. The rest were executed or died from torture.

Mohammad Amin Farhang who recently served as economy minister, is one of those taken to Pul-e-Charkhi by the communists. "It was winter and very cold, and more than 3,000 to 4,000 people were brought there. Up to 40 people were forced into each cell. There was a commander in the jail, Sayed Abdullah, who tortured us brutally every night!"

Mohammad Qasim Akhgar, well-known as an intellectual today, was also tortured in prison. Now editor-in-chief of the prominent Hasht Sobh  newspaper, he said he was tortured in December 1979, when the government was run by the Khalq Democratic Party. "The legacy of its anti-human achievements remains in the (present) Afghan leadership. They (members of Khalq) are in government, presidential office, civil society networks, and parliament and even in parties."

Alleged Perpetrators

Mr Farhang identifies Sayed Mohammad Gullabzoy and Kabir Ranjbar, as members of the central committee of the Hezb e Khalq, and involved "officially" in the abuse of political prisoners.

But the charge is strenuously denied by Mr Ranjbar, member of parliament in Afghanistan's Lower House.

"I was not in the country for 18 years, and I was abroad at the time of the coup," he says. "I returned to the country in 1364 (1985, after the Taraki and Amin regimes)."

Mr Ranjbar insists that he was not a member of the Khad (secret police). "I had no military or state position."

According to him, the victims of state torture like Farhang "can not prove any allegation against me." He accused them of trying to "plot against me (with) whatever seems possible."

Gullabzoy, who is running for a second term in September's parliamentary elections, is accused of human rights violations under both the Khalq and Parcham, including the torture of prisoners in Pul-e-Charkhi. Now he lives in Kabul's Karte Se neighbourhood.

He told Killid: "I was Afghan minister of interior from 1979-1988, but I was not involved. I worked in the area of politics, but it was only to investigate crimes by criminals and some other cases."

"I was not involved in these cases (of torture)," he says. "They were not in my authority. (Anyway) I could do nothing for two months after the coup (as) I was under medical treatment. Then I was appointed minister of telecommunications."

(The Killid Group is engaged in a process that aims at 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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