Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Staffers for French aid organization killed in Afghanistan

“Six Afghan employees were killed following an ambush that targeted a team of seven people,” it said. “They were killed in the course of their work to support the development in the north. We deplore the deaths of our colleagues while they were carrying out their duties.”

Six local staffers working for French aid group ACTED have been killed by suspected Taliban gunmen, according to officials. The staffers were working on a government-backed literacy project in the north of the country.
The victims were dragged from their car and shot Wednesday in the Pashtun Kot district of Faryab, which borders Turkmenistan. Provincial police chief Nabi Jan Mullahkhail said the staffers were traveling from the provincial capital of Maimana to Almar district when they were stopped. Seven people were shot in total, but just one survived, according to the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation.
ACTED (the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) condemned the killings and confirmed that six of their staffers had died in the attack.
"Six Afghan employees were killed following an ambush that targeted a team of seven people," ACTED spokesman Adrien Tomarchio said in a statement.
"They were killed in the course of their work to support development in the north. We deplore the deaths of our colleagues while they were carrying out their duties," he added. "Today our thoughts are with the families and relatives of our lost colleagues and to our teams in Afghanistan."
The Taliban were not immediately available for comment. Northern Afghanistan is generally more peaceful than the south and east of the country, but insurgents, militias and criminal gangs are active in the area.
ACTED is a Paris-based non-governmental organization founded in 1993 that runs aid projects around the world. According to its website, it had 834 local staff and 13 international staff working in Afghanistan last year. Earlier this year, a French ACTED employee was held hostage for more than two months before being safely released.
The scheduled withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan by 2014 has raised concern that aid donors will be reluctant to provide funds if the security infrastructure deteriorates.
DW and dr/hc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Iran: Afghan Refugees and Migrants Face Abuse

Thousands Denied Refugee Rights, Summarily Deported
(Kabul) – The government of Iran’s policies toward its Afghan refugees and migrant population violate its legal obligations to protect this vulnerable group from abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Iranian forces deport thousands of Afghans summarily, without allowing them the opportunity to prove they have a right to remain in Iran, or to lodge an asylum application.
The 124-page report, “Unwelcome Guests: Iran’s Violation of Afghan Refugee and Migrant Rights,”documents how Iran’s flawed asylum system results in a detention and deportation process with no due process or opportunity for legal appeal. Iranian officials have in recent years limited legal avenues for Afghans to claim refugee or other immigration status in Iran, even as conditions in Afghanistanhave deteriorated. These policies pose a serious risk to the rights and security of the almost one million Afghans whom Iran recognizes as refugees, and hundreds of thousands of others who have fled war and insecurity in Afghanistan. The practices also violate Iran’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
“Iran is deporting thousands of Afghans to a country where the danger is both real and serious,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Iran has an obligation to hear these people’s refugee claims rather than sweeping them up and tossing them over the border to Afghanistan.”
Human Rights Watch documented violations including physical abuse, detention in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, forced payment for transportation and accommodation in deportation camps, forced labor, and forced separation of families. Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about the Iranian security forces’ abuses against unaccompanied migrant children – who are traveling without parents or other guardians – a sizable portion of Afghan migrant workers and deportees.  
Iranian authorities are increasingly pressuring Afghans to leave the country. The Iranian government in June 2012 ended registration for its Comprehensive Regularization Plan (CRP), which had permitted some undocumented Afghans to legalize their status and obtain limited visas.
In November 2012, the Iranian cabinet of ministers issued a regulation allowing the government to expel 1.6 million foreigners “illegally residing in Iran” by the end of 2015. The regulation, approved at the vice presidential level, also instructed the Interior Ministry to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of an additional 200,000 Afghans legally classified as refugees and terminate the refugee status of another 700,000 Afghans.
Iranian officials ordered 300,000 Afghans living in Iran with temporary visas and temporary permission to work under the regularization plan to leave the country after the visas expired on September 6, 2013, with no chance of extension. As of this writing, Iranian officials had not yet implemented their plan to deport these Afghans.
As the Iranian government ratchets up the pressure on Afghans to leave, Afghanistan’s deteriorating economic and security situation increases the dangers for returnees. In the first six months of 2013, Afghanistan’s armed conflict and diminished security boosted the number of displaced people inside the country by 106,000, bringing the total to over 583,000. Attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups are the main factor in a 23 percent increase in civilian casualties in the first six months of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012.  
 Declining international investment and development aid ahead of the deadline at the end of 2014 for full withdrawal of international combat forces is creating increasing economic insecurity.

Iranian legal restrictions and bureaucratic obstacles effectively deny newly arriving Afghans the opportunity to lodge refugee claims or register for other forms of protection mandated by international law and based on conditions in Afghanistan. Iranian policies deny the opportunity to legally challenge deportation to hundreds of thousands of Afghans in Iran who may face persecution or serious harm upon return to Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch found.
“Iran has shouldered the burden of hosting one of the world’s largest refugee populations for more than three decades, but it needs to meet international standards for their treatment,” Stork said. “Afghanistan may be even more dangerous now than when many of these refugees first fled – now is not the time for Iran to send them home.”
The Iranian government should address the serious flaws in its asylum system that deny Afghans the right to lodge refugee claims, Human Rights Watch said. The now more than 800,000 Afghans recognized as refugees registered in 2003 under the country’s Amayesh system, a registration program designed to identify and track recognized refugees. They are required to renew their refugee registration cards every year or risk deportation to Afghanistan.
Human Rights Watch also documented problems in Iran’s treatment of registered Afghan refugees. The Iranian government has instituted a complex and onerous process for Afghans to retain their Amayesh status. The process includes frequent re-registration with relevant government agencies, without official assistance for those with limited literacy who struggle to understand bureaucratic procedures, and onerous fees, which many poor refugees cannot afford.
Afghan deportees from Iran told Human Rights Watch that the smallest technical errors, including mistakes during the registration process, can prompt the Iranian authorities to strip Afghans of their refugee status permanently and deport them summarily. The Iranian government has also decreed large swaths of Iran to be travel and residency “no-go areas” for non-Iranians.
Iranian police and security forces also violate the rights of Afghans and commit serious abuses while deporting them. Some of the Afghans Human Rights Watch interviewed had received legal status as refugees from the Iranian authorities, and many of them had spent many years or even decades in Iran. Yet they reported that the Iranian officials who deported them denied them the time and opportunity to collect their wages and personal belongings, or even, in some cases, to contact their family members.
The Iranian government’s policies toward Afghan migrants create other kinds of abuses and discrimination. Although Iranian authorities have made efforts to educate Afghan children, many undocumented Afghan children face bureaucratic obstacles that prevent their children from attending school, in violation of international law. Iranian law limits Afghans who have permission as refugees to work to a limited number of dangerous and poorly paid manual labor jobs, regardless of their education and skills. Iranian law also denies or severely restricts Afghans’ citizenship and marriage rights. Afghan men who marry Iranian women cannot apply for Iranian citizenship, and the children of such marriages face serious barriers to citizenship.
The Iranian government has also failed to take necessary steps to protect its Afghan population from physical violence linked to rising anti-foreigner sentiment in Iran, or to hold those responsible accountable.
“Iran is failing on many counts to respect the rights of Afghans living in Iran,” Stork said. “Even migrants without refugee status have clear rights to educate their children, to be safe from abuse, and to have the opportunity to seek asylum prior to deportation – none of which the Iranian government is respecting.”

Select Statements from Afghans Interviewed
“We were traveling in a mini-bus in Sarhak. A police officer came in and asked for our ID. The police officer took the ID and said ‘I will give it back tomorrow, come at 8 am.’ I went and they put us all in a car and took us to a [deportation] detention facility. [Then they deported us, leaving our children, ages 8, 10, and 12 behind in Iran….] I don’t know what I will do. I don’t have money to get a passport and visa. We have no one in Mashad to help. We are going to Mazar-e-Sharif. We have no house there but we will try to rent a house and bring the children back from Iran. I don’t know how God will guide me.”
– Arif, who was deported with his wife and infant, with their three older children, ages 12, 10, and 8, left behind in Iran. The family had lived in Iran for 10 years, and had valid Comprehensive Regularization Plan (CRP) cards at the time of their deportation.
“They beat us in the head and shoulders. I was hit five times in the back of the head with an AK47. I was kicked in the chin after sitting up. They kicked me in the chin and said go get in line.”
– Rafiq, age 18, who was a member of a group of Afghans who were travelling into Iran with a smuggler. Several of them were beaten after they were captured by police and failed to respond to police questioning about who the smuggler was.
“We decided to leave when the children were expelled from school [for being foreigners]. But it was too late. We weren’t documented anymore so we couldn’t go anywhere. We had green cards [residency cards], UN documents. But the Iranian government collected these documents and issued new documents extended every six to nine months. The last document was not very valuable [and then] they took this finally.”
– Najib T., age 55, and his wife, age 45, who lost their refugee status when the Iranian government declared the city where they had lived for 18 years a “no-go” zone for foreigners and they were found still living there after all foreigners had been ordered to leave.
“We woke up and were surrounded by Iranian soldiers. They said don’t move or we’ll shoot. People who had rings, they [police] took [them]. They broke my phone. We were taken in containers in big trucks. We were close to dying because of lack of oxygen. They locked the door. We begged them to keep the door open or we will die. They said you should die.”
– Naeem, age 30, who travelled into Iran in a group of about 500 Afghans being brought in by smugglers. They were resting soon after crossing the border when they were caught by police.
“I have two sons, five daughters. One of my daughters died of a stroke in Afghanistan. So now I have four daughters left. One of my sons got deported, so there's only one more left. I had grown used to living with my one son. Then the merciless people even took him away from me. He was a naughty boy, he was always running around. I had locked all doors so he couldn't get out. And [my] older son also told me to lock our doors before he went to work. But it's not possible…how can you keep a young boy indoors? After a while, he started pleading with me to open the door. He said, open the door. I will go get some eggs to cook for myself. They caught him immediately after he got out of home. He’s 12. He was deported six months ago.”
– Jamila, age approximately 40. She went to Iran from Afghanistan after her husband died to join family members who were there, including her sister. She and the two sons she was living with in Iran were undocumented.
“I left Afghanistan about one month ago. I went because we didn’t have anything to eat. We didn’t have any money. In a way, we were destroyed. My family paid the smuggler, but it was my decision to go. We went through Pakistan. In the Pakistan mountains we were walking and thieves came with five AK-47s and took everything from us… Between Zahedan and Tehran, we were robbed again. I had money in my shoe that the first thieves didn’t find, but the second thieves found it. One day later, while walking, before making it to Tehran, the police found us and we were arrested. In the detention facilities there was too little food. I paid 30,000 Iranian tomans [about US $25] in the first detention facility and 10,000 rials [about US $8] at White Stone [Deportation Camp]. Our families sent money. The police said you have to pay or you will have to stay here.”
– Salim, age 14, who travelled with a smuggler by himself from Dai Kundi province in central Afghanistan to Iran to try to join his two older brothers who were already in Iran.
“I don’t know what we will do. We don’t have money here; we don’t have money to go back. My wife does not work – she is uneducated.”
– Father of Hasina and Zohrah, after he and his teenage daughters were deported, leaving his wife and three young children behind in Iran. Officials deported the father and daughters after the teenagers were arrested because Hasina was wearing bright pink sneakers in the holy city of Qom. After they called family members for help and their father and Zohrah’s fiancé came to the police station. Realizing that they were Afghans, the police deported all four of them. 
“Around 6 am about 20-25 officers in military uniforms attacked the houses and arrested us. Some of us were beaten. They loaded us onto trucks and drove for a while. Then we got out in the middle of a barren desert at some point. They brought us some food. Then they took us to a local police station. There were some 12 and 13 year olds with us too. At the local police station there were about 450 undocumented Afghans. We needed to come up with 5,000 tomans each [US $4] to pay for our transportation to the detention facility in Kerman. I was forced to stay one night because I didn’t have any money and they [the police] beat me with a baton in the head that night several times. They asked me to pay 2,000 tomans [US $1.63] but I didn’t have it so they put me in a car and transferred me to Kerman Detention Facility anyway. There I needed 5,000 tomans but I didn’t have it so I cried and begged until people helped me. Kerman Detention Facility was horrible. [The detention facility guards] beat and harassed us and fed us very little.”
– Daoud, age 16, had previously been deported from Iran and was returning in a group of 48 people being smuggled in an effort to try to rejoin his brother who had remained in Iran. The group was sleeping in guesthouses when they were apprehended by police.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

28 Afghan human rights, women’s rights and civil society organisations and networks publish today an open letter to Ms. Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner

Afghan human rights, women’s rights and civil society organisations and networks publish today an open letter to Ms. Navy Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner and draw her attention to serious human rights violations and offer detailed recommendations to the Government of Afghanistan and the International Criminal Court.
Open letter to Ms Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner
25 September 2013
Kabul, Afghanistan

Dear Ms Pillay,
Your effective presence in Kabul last week was a great opportunity for us, human rights and women’s rights organisations and networks. You offered your observations and concerns in your press conference on 17 September 2013. Not only do we agree with you, we are happy that you have endorsed our views.
The prospect of the withdrawal of international forces by the end of 2014, combined with the release of the Taleban leaders from prison and their increasing presence in important positions necessitate urgent measures to guarantee and perpetuate the significant institutional and democratic achievements since 2001, to ensure that Afghanistan shall not return to extensive and systematic violation of human rights and shall not become a safe haven for terrorism again. The hasty reconciliation with the Taleban without paying necessary attention to human rights, which the Afghanistan government and the international community are currently pursuing, shall be unsustainable and is doomed to fail. This approach will lead to eradication of truth and justice-seeking efforts, perpetuation of impunity and further human rights violations. Such reconciliation shall not establish the foundations for a lasting peace.

In the past few years, numerous national and international key actors have distinguished between peace-building and negotiations with the Taleban, women’s rights, human rights and transitional justice as separate and unrelated issues. They have established numerous unrelated institutions and claimed that the aforementioned processes are separable and have no impact on one another. Nevertheless, experience of post-conflict countries has proved that reconciliation without paying attention to truth and justice seeking shall lead only to rehabilitation of perpetrators of serious violations of human rights and ignoring rights of the victims.

We wish to draw your attention in particular to the following pressing issues:

1. The increase in the number of civilian casualties as a result of the growing terrorist operations and general insecurity means a systematic violation of human rights. The government of Afghanistan and its supporters must take effective measures to confront the insurgents and have a clear stand on non-negotiable red lines. Without any clear signs of the Taleban’s intention to respect rights of women, rights of victims and respect for justice, it is not possible to make peace with people who cause death and injury to the citizens of Afghanistan. The main actors are also sending worrying messages: Unconditional pardon for and release of Taleban prisoners in Afghanistan and Pakistan that has recently included key Taleban leaders (e.g. Mulla Abdul Ghani, No. 2 in the Taleban leadership hierarchy), can only reinforce the culture of impunity and pose a threat to a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

In this regard, we are eagerly waiting for the independent recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and its assistance to the government to enhance the rule of law. UN Human Rights Council is responsible for preventing the violation of human rights.

2. A list of about 5,000 victims of the 1978-1979 period was recently published by 8 Sobh, a national daily newspaper. The initiative was a consolation for thousands of relatives of the victims who, despite the elapse of several decades, did not know what had befallen their beloved. Thus, the need for uncovering the truth and implementing justice has been underlined once again.

The government of Afghanistan should:

Enshrine in its immediate agenda the revival and realisation of the Action Plan for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, which was included among its tasks with its own approval in several national and international documents.

3. Violence against women, failure of the Parliament to approve the Law for Elimination of Violence against Women (which is in force by a Presidential Decree), the widespread illiteracy of 90% of women and their lack of access to education and health illustrate the acute conditions of women in Afghanistan.
The government of Afghanistan should:
- Annul all discriminatory laws against women, in particular the Marriage Law, the discriminatory provisions of the Penal Law and the Property Law, the discriminatory traditional laws and the Law of Personal Status of the Shiite;
- Take measures to put an end resort to mobile informal courts and guarantee women’s full and effective access to the formal justice system;
- Enhance the implementation of the Law for Elimination of Violence against Women, in coordination with the Prosecutor-General’s Office throughout the country;
- Continue to improve women’s access to social rights, e.g. health and education, and combat illiteracy among women nationwide;
- Always extensively consult and cooperate with women, civil society organisations and the AIHRC to draft government reports to the UN committees, in particular the Committee for Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to implement their concluding observations and the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

4. Despite considerable mobilisation of women in elections, the new Election Law has reduced women’s seats in provincial councils from 25% to 20%, even though women had operated very successfully in those councils and offered valuable service to the people. The Law has also eliminated women’s quota in the District Councils. The serial and systematic kidnapping and killings of women who are active in social and political fields, lack of executive power of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which the government and its partners have given the greatest responsibility, the failure to achieve the targets of the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) and Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) – which have been formulated with a spirit of equality for women and total elimination of sexual discrimination – have sounded the alarm for women’s rights and achievements.
The government of Afghanistan should:
- Ensure women’s equal and effective (and not just symbolic) participation in all stages of the peace talks, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security;
- Guarantee that the minimum 25% quota of seats in Parliament allocated to women will not be modified in electoral law, and ensure that the same quota is returned to women in Provincial Council elections;
- Appoint women to key positions in the government, the judiciary and other decision making bodies; and
- Prosecute perpetrators and instigators of the killings and kidnapping of women.

5. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission should lead all peace-building processes and guarantee realisation of human rights in the country. However, it has been marginalised and its access to international mechanisms has been restricted.
The government of Afghanistan should:
- Appoint professionally and morally competent and qualified persons to strengthen the AIHRC and guarantee its independence;
- Ensure the AIHRC’s participation in all peace and reconciliation-related processes; and
- Publish immediately the full text of AIHRC’s ‘Conflict Mapping Report’ on violations of human rights in Afghanistan during the war.

6. The justice system’s mechanisms have displayed their inability and unwillingness to open serious investigations and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes.

The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor should:

- Publish regularly its detailed reports on its preliminary analysis of Afghanistan and its activities concerning the principle of complementarity of the court;
- Open investigations into the crimes committed in Afghanistan since 2003 and respond to victims’ need for redress.

We thank you, Ms. Navi Pillay, for your consideration and look forward to the pursuit of these indicators for an efficient and human rights oriented development of Afghanistan, we wish you success in the important task you have.

Sincerely yours,
Armanshahr Foundation/OPENASIA, Transitional Justice Coordination Group, Cooperation Center for Afghanistan, 8 Sobh Daily, Afghanistan Watch, Afghanistan Cooperation for Peace and Development, Simorgh Peace Prize, Nai Supporting Afghanistan Open Media, National Movement of Afghanistan’s Youth Human Rights and Democracy Organization, Civil Society & Human Rights Organization, Roya Film House, Herat Civil Society Institutions Network, 1st International Women’s Film Festival-Herat, Afghanistan Pen, Tahminah Organization, Afghan Civil Society Forum Organization, Subhan Foundation, Negah-e Zan Magazine, Development and Support of Afghan Women and Children Organization, Kandahar Women’s network, Empowerment Center for Women, All Afghan Women Union, Merman Women’s Radio, Khadija Kubra Women Association for Culture, Nawandish Social and Cultural Foundation, Fadai Heravi Publishing House, Support to Afghanistan Civil Society Organization, Supported by the International Federation for Human Right (FIDH).

Afghanistan (Dari) – Tel: +93 700427244 – Email :
Media: Arthur Manet (French, English) – Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 – Email :
Audrey Couprie (French, English) – Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 – Email :

- His Excellency President Hamed Karzai
- Ms. Sima Samar, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
- Ms. Hossn Banu Ghazanfar, Minister of Women’s Affairs
- Mr. Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi, Speaker of Parliament
- Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, High Council of Peace
- Ms. Fatou Bensouda, Office of Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
- Mr. Ján Kubiš , Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
- Ms. Georgette Gagnon, Director of UNAMA’s Human Rights Unit

Friday, June 21, 2013

Gulnaz: the Afghan woman forced to marry her rapist

Gulnaz prompted an international outcry in 2010 when she found herself jailed for adultery after being raped. But in the three years since then, her life has taken an even more shocking turn.

She lives on the outskirts of Kabul, in a new neighborhood that, translated, means "cheap and expensive". Her days, like most Afghan housewives, are filled with cooking, baking bread and childcare.

Yet Gulnaz is no ordinary housewife. For a time she was an international celebrity, a symbol of the suffering Afghan women are subjected to, years after the west toppled the Taliban and promised to transform women's rights.
He dishonoured me, but at least this way my daughter will have a father.
Her path to worldwide fame began three years ago, when she was violently raped by her cousin's husband in the family home.
After the attack, Gulnaz realised she was pregnant. She went to the police, but instead of getting help, she was arrested and imprisoned for adultery.
Her situation caused an international outcry. Gulnaz's story was reported all over the world. Eventually Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued an unconditional pardon.

'I had no other option'

But now Gulnaz has become a symbol of the west's failure to progress the cause of women's rights in Afghanistan.
After three years of living first in jail and then in a women's shelter, she finally bowed to pressure from her family and her society by marrying the man who raped her.
"I didn't have any other option." she told us. "My family didn't want me and I didn't have anyone else.
"In the end I had to do it. He dishonoured me, but at least this way my daughter will have a father."

In denial

In her new home in Kabul, she now lives with her new husband, Asadullah. He served two and a half years in jail for the rape. She shares the home with his first wife and their five children.
They said I raped her and tied her with a rope. Nothing like this happened. There was no force.
Asadullah says he has some regret about what happened. But he still refuses to admit he raped Gulnaz.
"They said I raped her and that I tied her with a rope and so on. Nothing like this happened. There was no force."
The atmosphere in the house is glacial. It is melted only by the presence of two and a half-year-old and half year old Muskan, the product of that rape.
Asadullah sees himself as the wounded party - newly burdened by the responsibility of another wife, and a new child.
"It's very difficult for someone who has a family to spend two and a half years in prison." He says. "It was very hard for me."

'I am nothing'

It soon became clear during our visit that within the choices available to her, Gulnaz had chosen for her daughter. As Muskan raced around the room playing with her new brothers and sisters, a grin plastered from ear to ear, the true meaning of sacrifice became clear.
"I want her to study, to have an education, maybe she will want to become a doctor or a teacher," she told us. "I want her to become something. I am nothing."
The story emerges as negotiations begin with the Taliban in on Doha. Many fear is that any of the advances women have made in the last decade will be bargained away.
Read Alex Thomson's blog - One nil to the Taliban: the flag and the farce
"The big red line that people keep talking about is, everyone says the constitution but what they really mean is the article that says men and women are equal," says Heathr Barr, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch.
"This is something it's unthinkable that the Taliban would accept. I think Karzai wants to avoid this discussion avoid this argument about how fundamentally committed to women's rights is Afghanistan going to be now and in the future."
The accompanying film is the work of Clementine Malpas and Leslie Knott. It was produced by Teresa Smith and edited by Agnieszka Liggett. The reporter is Kylie Morris.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Resolution Statement of Afghan Civil Society and Human Rights Activists

Facts and realities from the world history are demonstrating that universities and academic spectrum have always functioned as the cornerstone for nurturing elites, the production and reproduction of wisdom, social consciousness, cultural awareness and political awareness, having paved the way for and strengthening human development and civilization. 

After the brutal 9/11 incident and the subsequent global alterations introduced as the result of the generous supports and technical assistance of International Community, along with comprehensive efforts of Afghan politicians, it was anticipated that Afghanistan would experience more constructive and deeper changes at higher education stage so that, on one hand; it could produce technical and professional cadres for filling the social, cultural and educational gaps, and on the other hand; the higher education graduates, experts and academic professionals could play vital roles at establishing long term communication and understanding among citizens belonging to different ethnic, regional and religious groups. 

Unfortunately, recent examples of some regretful contingencies occurred throughout the academic institutions of Afghanistan, it has depicted an unpleasant fact that most academic institutions suffer lack of competent cadres, out date and non-standardized teaching curriculum, lack of required technologies and equipment that have tremendously affected negatively overall situation of the academics. In addition, there are numerous evidences of inhuman approaches of some lectures and management personnel of the universities towards students, particularly against those who feel unsatisfied about the quality of teaching and learning process. Anyone who have spent his/her some days as a student of the public universities, have many unsaid stories of prejudice, discrimination and unjust treatments of the teachers and other university personnel. But most of the students hardly can reveal such hidden stories due to threats hey receive again and again.

Following very few examples of such strikes and protests, on-going hunger strike that started six days ago in Kabul has been incredibly shocking and agonizing. More than 200 students from the Social Science Faculty of Kabul University turned to go on indefinite hunger strike to rise up their voices against injustice and discrimination; and since then, they have been persisting Ministry of Higher Education to bring essential changes at management and curriculum levels. But unfortunately, yet, they have not received any practical and logical response. As a result, right now the health conditions of the strikers are deteriorating second after second and many of them have been sent to hospitals for survival. 

The signatories of this resolution statement, who are comprised of civil society and human rights activists while strongly supporting the legal demands of the strikers, would like to bring up the following points as their unchangeable propositions to Ministry of Higher Education. However, they are ready to continue their struggle until the last possible moments: 

1. Promptly satisfying responses to the legal demands, propositions of the strikers and embarking on immediate decisions to end the strike peacefully; 
2. Establish a transparent and just system to guarantee meritocracy, professionalism and competitive based recruitment and employment; 
3. Implement well-planned programs aiming at standardization, up-to-date, review and develop the education curriculum and textbooks; 
4. Follow and inspect particular examples of discriminated and harmful treatments of such specific faculty personnel, and enforce appropriate mechanism for disciplining, punishment and their expulsion from the academic institutions. 
5. Provide practical scales to ensure freedom of speech, open discussion academically healthy and constructive interaction within the university departments and academic environments. 

With Best Regards, 
The Afghanistan Civil Society and Human rights Activists.
25 May, 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

Terrorist attack on 3 April in Farah province of Afghanistan

4 April 2013 – The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack on 3 April in Farah province of Afghanistan, causing numerous deaths and injuries of mostly civilians. 

The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, and to the people and Government of Afghanistan. They wished the injured a speedy recovery.

The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Afghan authorities in this regard.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their serious concern at the threats posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and illegal armed groups to the local population, national security forces, international military and international assistance efforts in Afghanistan.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed, and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the need and reiterated their determination to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and all obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

The members of the Security Council reiterated that no terrorist act can reverse the path towards Afghan-led peace, democracy and stability in Afghanistan, which is supported by the people and the Government of Afghanistan and the international community.
KABUL, 4 April 2013 – The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) strongly condemns an attack against a Government compound in the south-western province of Farah on 3 April that resulted in the deaths of at least 41 civilians, most of whom were civilian Government workers, and injuries to more than 100 others.

 Among the civilians killed were two judges and six prosecutors, as well as administration officers and cleaners working at the site. The attack was the deadliest for Afghan civilians since December 2011.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they intended to target civilian Government employees, in particular workers in the courts and prosecutors’ offices.

“The United Nations again calls on the Taliban to follow through on their previous public commitments to protect civilians,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš. “Who is a ‘civilian’ requiring protection is not a matter of controversy; the term is defined in international law and parties to the conflict, including the Taliban, are obliged to abide by this definition.”

UNAMA notes that international humanitarian law defines civilians as all those who do not take a direct part in hostilities and who are not combatants – such as civilian Government employees. Attacks against civilians are prohibited at all times and may amount to war crimes.

The civilian toll of Afghanistan’s armed conflict has already increased in 2013. UNAMA has repeatedly called on all parties to the armed conflict to increase their efforts to protect civilians. With the onset of the spring fighting season, UNAMA again highlights the obligations of parties to take all necessary measures to protect civilians.

UNAMA expresses its deepest condolences to the victims of the attack and their families, and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Correcting Details: More on the NYT Reporting the Human Rights Mapping

by: Kate Clark
The New York Times piece ‘Top Afghans Tied to ’90s Carnage, Researchers Say’ ‘revealed’ what everyone knows and rarely says, that many of today’s senior Afghan politicians have murky pasts. Talking about the war crimes of the last thirty years has proved difficult for Afghans and the international powers alike. The decision, in 2005, to put together a Conflict Mapping Report of the alleged war crimes from 1978 and the communist coup d’état of 1978 to December 2001 and the transition of power to Hamed Karzai was taken partly to help the nation discuss its troubled history. The Times article raised the possibility of those senior politicians trying to block publication of the report. Unfortunately, says AAN analyst, Kate Clark, the article was so peppered with inaccuracies that it risked giving ammunition to those who want to bury the crimes of the past together with the report. She also asks why did the Times yet again duck mention of the alleged presence of US Special Forces at one of the massacre sites.
In a guest blog for AAN last week, Ahmed Rashid accused The New York Times of arrogance in claiming an exclusive on a subject which many other journalists and human rights activists had been risking their lives to cover for years. For me, reading through the piece, it was the inaccuracies which were glaring – and surprising because the reporter, Rod Nordland, is usually excellent.

People in Kabul, including journalists, whom I spoke to about the article had assumed the Nordland had read a leaked copy of the Conflict Mapping Report, the ‘monumental’(1) work put together by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) detailing the war crimes of the 1978-2001 period. However, if you read his piece carefully, he said only that he spoke to Afghan and foreign sources who had worked on the report. This is important because almost all the allegations he makes are garbled in some way. It is not that the men he names necessarily have clean hands, but that Nordland makes factual errors, including attributing crimes to men when there is no evidence of a link. No-one, apart from its authors, has read the Conflict Mapping Report and as Nordland’s sources are anonymous, it is impossible to judge where the inaccuracies came in. However, it is difficult to imagine anyone with any knowledge of the war crimes of the last thirty years making the basic errors which feature in the Times piece.

As the Times is a paper of record and Nordland’s allegations are serious, I wrote to the foreign editor asking for corrections. The paper made only two, I thought, therefore, that readers might find it useful if I detailed what I think the factual errors in the piece are (drawing on the good published sources on the war crimes of 1978-2001, see footnote 2, below, as well as my own background) and what the consequences of it might be:

1) [The Conflict Mapping Report covers] human rights abuses in Afghanistan the Soviet era in the ’80s to the fall of the Taliban in 2001, according to researchers and officials who helped compile the study over the past six years.

The Report starts with the coup of 1978, not the Soviet invasion. Indeed, it is often forgotten that the pre-Soviet era featured the most concentrated blood-letting of the entire war, with mass arbitrary detention, torture and killings. An estimated 100,000 people were disappeared by the Taraki and Amin governments; they included ulema, students, school pupils, suspected Parchamis, Maoists, Islamists and members of the old elites, both in Kabul and in the provinces, including tribal elders. Entire extended families were wiped out. This is important. Otherwise, anyone reading the Times article could be forgiven for thinking the Conflict Mapping Report focuses on the war crimes of the mujahedin/Northern Alliance and to a lesser extent, the Taleban only. (In response to my letter, the Times admitted this error, saying it had crept in at the editing stage.)

2) Named specifically in the [Conflict Mapping] report as responsible for war crimes in massacres of prisoners in Mazar-i-Sharif are two Taliban commanders now held at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp — Mullah Fazul Akhund and Mullah Khairullah Khirkawa (sic) — and whose release is thought to be a condition of negotiations with the insurgent group.

This allegation is simply not true. Indeed, it seems the Times has mixed up the Mazar massacres.

In 1998, the Taleban massacred an estimated 6000 people in Mazar(3); they were predominantly civilians, but some fighters from Hezb-e Wahdat who were prisoners – who had been captured or had surrendered(4) – are believed to have been summarily executed.(5) In command of this massacre was Mulla Niazi.

Khairkhwa was in Herat at the time as governor. No sources have placed him in Mazar at the time of the 1998 massacre. Indeed, he is not accused of any crimes that I know of, with one possible exception: 35 to 45 civilians were killed in Dehdadi, a district just outside Mazar-e Sharif, by retreating Taleban and/or their local Hezb-e Islami allies in 1997, after the Taleban lost Mazar. Khairkhwa may have had command responsibility; he was in charge of the part of the Taleban army which retreated from Mazar to the west and may have ordered or failed to prevent the killings or failed to discipline subordinates who carried them out.

The victims in Dehdadi were Hazara civilians and they were killed in particularly brutal ways. However - and this is number 3 in the list of mistakes - the Times misattributes these killings to ‘General Dostum and his Hazara allies.’

There is also no evidence pointing to Mulla Fazl having been in Mazar at the time of the 1998 massacre, either. However, he is accused of many other war crimes, including: as a field commander, along with the late Mulla Dadullah, leading the wanton destruction of civilian property and associated killings in the Shomali in 1999 and; as Army Chief of Staff, having strategic command and control responsibility for the massacre of civilians in Yakaolang, January 2001 and the village burnings and associated killings in Northern Hazarajat later that year.

As neither Fazl nor Khairkhwa is at liberty to defend himself, it seems especially important to be scrupulous about reporting allegations against them. Khairkhwa actually had a comparatively good reputation during his time in the Taleban leadership. For details on both men, see an earlier AAN blog which has biographies of all five senior Taleban in Guantanamo who have been talked about for possible release as part of peace negotiations.

For the record, there were two notable massacres of prisoners in Mazar, but the victims in both cases were Taleban. In 1997, General Malek, who had ousted Dostum and invited the Taleban to Mazar, is accused of ordering the massacre of at least 3000 Taleban prisoners of war. Then there was the November 2001 massacre of Taleban prisoners, which is referred to later in the Times piece:

4) In all, 13 mass graves have been identified in the Mazar-i-Sharif area, including one detailed by human rights workers in the Dasht-e-Leili desert in the neighboring Jawjzan Province, believed to contain 2,000 Taliban prisoners slaughtered by General Dostum’s forces.

In 2001, an unknown number of surrendered Taleban fighters (estimates range from several hundred to two thousand) were crammed into containers and transported west to Jawzjan; they died through suffocation, thirst or when the containers were shot at from outside. Given the history of container deaths in the Afghan war, it could reasonably have been predicted that men neglected in this way would die. The prisoners were under the control of forces loyal to General Dostum. There is no evidence that Dostum ordered the killing, although at the least, he may well have been guilty of command responsibility by omission (ie, failing to prevent subordinates from carrying out war crimes or failing to discipline them afterwards). The accusation that he later ordered the destruction of the site and the evidence they contained is much firmer.

5) Remarkably, however, the Times makes no mention of the credible allegation that US special operations forces were present at the site in 2001 and may have been complicit in the killings. This is the second time the paper has failed to mention this. In 2009, James Risen reported on how the Bush government had resisted investigating the massacre. However, the allegation that US special operations forces had been present, made by one of Risen’s main sources for the story, an FBI agent called Dell Spry, did not make it into the published piece.

When President Obama was asked about Risen’s story, he promised an investigation, telling CNN, ‘… if it appears that our conduct in some way supported violations of the laws of war, then I think that, you know, we have to know about that.’(6) The wording was certainly strange – was he just referring to the resistance to investigate US allies or had he been briefed on the Special Forces allegation - which would suggest the Times had discussed this before they published? If Obama’s investigation was carried out, it has never been made public nor, as far as I know, referred to officially again. (For sources on the 2001 massacre and possible US military presence, see hereherehere and here.)

Nordland’s reporting on the US currently objecting to the release of the Conflict Mapping Report is interesting and important. As it has done for the last 11 years, Washington continues to argue that now is not the right time to discuss war crimes and that such talk will ‘reopen all the old wounds’. (Don’t mention the war crimes – until 2014 when we’re out of the door was the clear message of the un-named embassy official quoted in the Timespiece.)

6) A researcher for the Afghan rights commission who investigated both of the graves in Khalid Ibn al-Walid [a neighbourhood of Mazar] said the victims were killed by General Noor’s [Ustad Atta] political party [Jamiat-e Islami], which had what the researcher called a ‘human slaughterhouse’ on the site in the 1990s, as well as by the Taliban, who later took over the same facility for the same purpose.

This allegation looks unsound to me: if Atta (or indeed the Taleban) had a ‘human slaughterhouse’ in Mazar, it seems likely those of us who follow war crimes would have heard about it. For the record, the one credible allegation I have seen against Atta personally from the pre-2001 period is that he ordered his forces to fire on unarmed demonstrators in Mazar in the period after the Taleban first took and then lost Mazar in 1997 and finally took it the following year. At the same time, it should be stressed that all the war crimes reporting on this period details accusations that forces loyal to Atta (hardly a ‘political party’, although they belonged to Jamiat indeed) and those of Dostum and Muhaqiq carried out ‘criminally-minded’ abuses of the civilian population, including looting, murders and forced marriage and rape. This, along with their infighting (the Times does refer to how they ‘fought bitterly among themselves’), was so appalling that the civilian population did not stand with them against the Taleban as they had done in 1997; when, in August 1998, the Taleban again massed to take Mazar, it fell.

Correcting the factual mistakes in the Times article is important because, not only are the allegations serious, but readers may have come away with the impression that the Conflict Mapping Report is sloppy or that the AIHRC has concentrated on the alleged crimes of the mujahedin/United Front (also known as the Northern Alliance). A spokesman for one of the successor organisations to the United Front has indeed reacted exactly that way very recently. It is unfortunate that the Times may have given ammunition to the very powerful politicians named in the article whom we can assume would like the Conflict Mapping Report not to be published.

It is an irony of course, that these men are powerful today in no small part because of the US intervention in 2001 and the arms and continuing political support Washington has given most of them. Those of us who did warn in the autumn of 2001 about the murky background of many of the men chosen to be America’s anti-Taleban allies can surely be forgiven for pointing out that the Times’ revelations, far from being an exclusive, are actually 11 years too late.

(1) The word is the New York Times’. This does seem accurate.

(2) Until the Conflict Mapping Report is (I hope) published, the best published sources on the war crimes of 1978-2001 are by the Afghanistan Justice Project and the UN (another Conflict Mapping Report which the UN suppressed, although it was briefly and inadvertently published and was cached) and, additionally for the Kabul civil war, by Human Rights Watch:

• The UN Mapping Report (2005)

• The Afghanistan Justice Project's Casting Shadows: War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity:1978-2001 Documentation and analysis of major patterns of abuse in the war in Afghanistan (2005)

• Human Rights Watch, Blood Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan's Legacy of Impunity (2005)

You can also find earlier sources (including by the UN, Helsinki Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ICRC and the media) in these reports.

(3) The following estimates were made: 2000 (Human Rights Watch), 6-8000 (Ahmed Rashid), who also wrote: ‘The UN and ICRC later estimated between 5000 and 6000 people were killed.' (Taleban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia).

(4) Rashid says there were about 1500 Wahdat fighters, out of whom only 100 survived, but it is not known how many died in combat or were executed.

(5) Under the laws of armed conflict, soldiers who are hors de combat, ie they are in the power of the enemy because they are wounded or captured, are protected persons.

(6) The full excerpt (broadcast on 12 July 2009) from a CNN interview is:

ANDERSON COOPER: And now it seems clear that the Bush Administration resisted efforts to pursue investigations of an Afghan warlord named General Dostum, who was on the CIA payroll. It's now come out, there were hundreds of Taliban prisoners under his care who got killed…


ANDERSON COOPER: …some were suffocated in a steel container, others were shot, possibly buried in mass graves. Would you support – would you call for – an investigation into possible war crimes in Afghanistan?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah, the indications that this had not been properly investigated just recently was brought to my attention. So what I've asked my national security team to do is to collect the facts for me that are known. And we'll probably make a decision in terms of how to approach it once we have all the facts gathered up.

ANDERSON COOPER: But you wouldn't resist categorically an investigation?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that, you know, there are responsibilities that all nations have even in war. And if it appears that our conduct in some way supported violations of the laws of war, then I think that, you know, we have to know about that.