People in Faryab complain of torture and illegal taxes by warlords
In many parts of Faryab, incidents of extortion and illegal taxes by warlords have become commonBy Shoaib Sharifi
MAIMANA, 12 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - Sitting in a small restaurant in a busy bazaar in Maimana, capital of Afghanistan’s northern Faryab province, Abdul Hadi, 36, worries out loud over the fate of his family in Kata Kala village, some 80 km away.
“I don’t know what will happen to my family after I fled 13 days ago,” lamented Abdul Hadi, after a local warlord tried to extract a US $1,200 illegal tax on some land he had sold.
“Two armed men grabbed me from my house and placed me in a dark room for five hours,” Hadi alleged. “The commander of the armed group demanded that I pay up or accept staying in jail,” Hadi claimed, adding he was only released on condition of paying the gunmen when other villagers intervened. “I left the home and fled because I cannot pay that amount of money,” he explained.“Unfortunately, these warlords are supported and equipped by some high-ranking officials from inside the government,” Habibullah claimed, adding: “To tackle this, the government should avoid employing human rights abusers and war criminals and strengthen the so-called disarmament process in the area.”
Such incidents are not unusual in Afghanistan’s troubled north. Ali Mohammad, 48, another villager living in Kata Kala, contends that he was imprisoned and tortured for 15 days by the same warlord when he resisted gunmen demanding money for his yearly crops.
“If I complain, I might be killed,” Ali Mohammad noted, citing the government’s failure to protect local citizenry from such actions.
But Hadi and Ali Mohammad both live in an area of Faryab where such actions have become largely institutionalised – with extortion and the threat of private jails now the norm.
“According to our reports, irresponsible gunmen are still torturing people in their private prisons and taking illegal taxes in remote districts of Faryab where the government’s control remains weak,” Habibullah, deputy head the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in Maimana, told IRIN.
“Unfortunately, these warlords are supported and equipped by some high-ranking officials from inside the government,” Habibullah claimed, adding: “To tackle this, the government should avoid employing human rights abusers and war criminals and strengthen the so-called disarmament process in the area.”
Yet Arun Dhoj Adhikary, representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Faryab, said people hold arms for a number of different reasons, including political, criminal and insecurity.
“There cannot be a common disarming strategy. Each of these reasons will need different solutions,” he explained.
"... Kabul’s police chief, Jamil Jumbish, has been implicated in murder, torture, intimidation, bribery and interfering with investigations into misconduct by officers directly under his control."
HRW, May 4, 2006
Many villagers living in Kata Kala interviewed by IRIN assert that the government has yet to take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.
Noor Mohammad, 60, says he was imprisoned three times in one week by gunmen before finally paying some $400 in illegal tax for purchasing four acres of land. “The commander warned me I would face a sound beating and even murder if I complain to anyone,” he said.
Meanwhile, analysts believe that one of most significant reasons behind such brutal activities is the abundance of arms still in the hands of gunmen, making the country’s already fragile stability all the more tenuous.
Despite millions of dollars spent by the international community for a nationwide disarmament campaign, many militia commanders are still holding stocks of weapons in their caches. There are reportedly still between 1,800 and 2,000 illegal armed groups across the country, which is a huge challenge for bringing stability, democracy and prosperity to the war-ravaged nation after over two decades of conflict.
According to the AIHRC, over 29 private jails run by warlords in different parts of the country have been closed already by the organisation since its establishment in 2002.
“There are still more than 10 private jails run by various warlords linked to some high-ranking officials involved in torturing people for a variety of reasons across the country,” said Ahmad Shah Mirdad, an officer for the AIHRC’s investigation and monitoring section.