Reports from Herat province under Taliban rule (1998-99)
How Many Times Do They Kill?
It was nine in the morning when the appalling voice of the Taliban's religious police started announcing in loudspeakers that, "All citizens are invited to witness the execution of two thieves at 2 PM in the Heart stadium." I set out for the stadium with a few friends in the afternoon. When we entered, we decided to sit in the shade, but a Talib came to us running and started hitting us with his stick and said, "Sit down there, why donít you understand me?" The Taliban were treating everyone like animals and pushing people from one side to another, like a herd of sheep. At the middle of the field, there was crane to hang the suspects. One Mullah (religious scholar), who couldn't speak Persian well, started speaking and said, "Fellow citizens, it is a pleasure to see that the religious rules are being implemented in our country. Today, the Taliban's high court is punishing two criminals who wanted to fight the Taliban. They are bandits, etc." After him, another Mullah, who is the chief of the criminal division, started explaining the crimes of these two people. Then two cars entered the stadium. We saw a body being thrown out of one of the cars. They fastened the rope around his neck and lifted him with the crane. It was obvious that he had been beaten to death on the way and they wanted to hang his body just for the show. The body did not move at all; his legs and hands were stiff like a stick; and half of his body was covered by dried-up blood.
Then, they brought the second suspect. They threw him out of the truck and started kicking him and beating him with their guns and batons. They put the rope around his neck and lifted him with the crane and kept him suspended in the air until he died. Then a Mullah spoke up and broke the silence; but he had barely spoken for a minute when everyone stood up and started to exit the stadium. The Talibs were furious and asked the people to wait and listen to the Mullah; and they didn't let people leave using their guns and batons, but people refused to sit down. By the time they took the bodies out of the stadium, everybody had already left.
On Jan. 9, 1999, only three nights after the wedding of a young couple, they decided to go out for the night. They hadn't gotten away a few meters from their home, when the man realized that he had forgotten something. He went back inside the house and left the bride waiting outside by herself. While he was inside, he heard his wife screaming. He and his family rushed out of the house, but his newly-wed wife's screaming was fading away inside a pick-up truck. She was kidnapped and the struggle of two families to find her has not reached any conclusion yet. The "security officials" have no interest in following the incident and both families are grappling with a deadly sorrow.
Security in Herat
On the afternoon of Jan. 11, 1999, a bus was travelling from Islam Qalah to Herat. They stopped at a restaurant and started again, this time a two-seated pick-up truck accompanying them. On the way, armed bandits stopped them and, after beating the passengers of both vehicles, took away all of their money, passports, and valuables. The security forces imprisoned the robbed passengers, saying, "How could you let them steal all the money and goods from you?!" Everyone knows that the bandits are no one but the members of the security forces themselves.
The Crime of the "Angels of Peace"
On Nov. 30, 1998, at two o'clock after midnight four armed people broke into the house of Mohammad Ishaq, the 55-year-old, ethnic-Hazarh worker, by breaking his door. Mohammad got out of the room to see what was going on. The armed thieves forced him into the house with the threat of their guns and asked him and his wife and two young children to give them whatever money they had. Mohammad Ishaq said he had only two hundred thousand Afghanis, which is worth the wage of his six day labor. But the thieves told him that one of his sons had gone to work in Iran and so he had to have more money; and they asked him, while beating him with their guns, where the money was. His wife, upon seeing her bloody husband, threw herself on him, while holding a copy of the Quran, begging them not to kill him. But the thieves beat her in the head with their guns and made her unconscious and then threatened Ishaq that they would kill him unless he gave them the money. This time, they beat him in the head so hard that he became unconscious too. The thieves, then, started searching the house, and after being disappointed from finding anything in that poor man's house, they took a few blankets and two hundred thousand Afghanis. His sons and neighbors took him to the hospital and had his head stitched, but he died at four in the morning. People traced the criminals to one of the Taliban's headquarters.
Mohammad Ishaq's son, who had gone to work in Iran, was arrested by Iranians officials after only a few days and was sent to a camp and eventually deported back to Afghanistan after a few months. Not only couldn't he make any money there, his father had to pay for his bus fair from the Iranian border back to Herat.
Also, on Sep. 27, 1998, at one o'clock after midnight a few armed people, who belonged to one of the Taliban's local headquarters, broke into Seyed Ali Mohammad's -- an ethnic Hazarah -- house. He woke up from the noise and went out to see what was going on; and then started shouting and asking neighbors for helps, but one of the criminals opened fire on him to keep him quiet. The cowardly criminals fled the scene and by the time the neighbors arrived, Seyed Ali had passed away. Since following the incident will lead to the exposure of the criminal Taliban, nothing has been done by the "security officials," despite the frequent request of Seyed Ali's relatives.
The residents of this district are mainly ethnic Hazarah, and although they have guards during the nights, once in a while there is an armed robbery. People know that the robberies are done by the armed Talibans, but can't say anything publicly out of fear.
Taliban Doing Business
The Taliban have banned all forms of arts and most professions. I will mentions one of the myriad of their crimes that I witnessed personally.
On August 24, 1998, a young man named Firouz Ahmad from Barahan in Heart was going home after doing some shopping for his wedding. A few Talibs with long hair and mustache stopped him and pulled him over. One was touching his face, saying, "You're beard is short," and the other saying, "Look at his hair," while all were laughing. Then they grabbed his hair and wanted to cut it with scissors. The young man was shouting, "For God's sake, don't cut my hair; tonight is my wedding night." But the Talibs laughed loudly and said, "Your lady won't accept you if you don't have hair?" The young man started begging them to let him go; finally, he said, "I'll buy my hair from you." "How much?" said one of the Talibs. "A hundred thousand Afghanis," said the young man. The Talibs said, "It's not enough." "How much then?" the young man asked. "Half a million Afghanis," the Talibs replied. The young man swore that he had only three hundred thousand Afghanis to do the rest of his wedding shopping. Finally, he had to pay that amount to rid himself of the Talibs.
Child Molestation by the Taliban
Most of the teenagers from Herat have left the city for Iran because they are constantly subject to the Taliban's molestation. Another incident that I witnessed: On Sep. 6,1998, at 5:20 PM, I got on a bus in Herat. The bus was full and there was a teenager sitting in the last row. A Talib with a white turban and long mustache, who was apparently a commander, got on the bus also, and a few more Talibs followed him. The bus conductor told them that there was room at the back of the bus. The commander went towards the back, and the teenager stood up and offered his seat to him. The commander, with a smirk on his face, took the seat and had the teenager sit next to him and then grabbed his hand. A young man who was standing next to me nudged me and said, "Look, these filthy people have no shame." When I looked back, I saw that one of the commander's hand was holding the teenager's hand and his other hand was touching the teenager's thigh. The teenager was embarrassed -- sweating and blushed. The commander was telling him, while grinning, that, "Be my guest tonight or let me be your guest. Where's your house?" The teenager finally realized that everyone else on the bus had noticed what was going on; so he left the seat by force and got off the bus at the next stop before reaching his final destination, while the commander continued to follow him. Everyone on the bus was cursing the ignoble Talib.
Security in Herat
On Dec. 11, 1998, three armed Talibs stopped a man named Sakhi from the village of Safidrawan, who was riding his motorcycle with his young daughter, and robbed him of his motorcycle. He had to carry his daughter on his back and they didn't get to their home until late in the night. This is what the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan under the name of security.
On Dec. 23, 1998, four armed thieves who had two motorcycles blocked a road 10 km outside Herat. That day happened to be the weekly trading day when a lot of people from the surrounding area had come for selling and buying goods and some had brought cars with them. At 10 in the morning, these armed thieves stopped a Jeep and asked those aboard to give them whatever cash they had. The driver started arguing with them and they hit him with a gun and injured his chest so badly that he is in the hospital now. The thieves stole seven hundred thousand Afghanis from the passengers in broad daylight and left for the city. The Taliban, who claim to have brought security, turn a blind eye to incidents such as this which happen daily in Herat.
The Beating of Old Workers
On Jan. 1, 1999, two members of the Taliban's religious police went to Leilami street in Herat and started beating the shopkeepers and street vendors, and then two old workers named Abdollatif and Abdolhadi, who were working on an exploratory well, asking them why they hadn't attended the prayers. The people were witnessing a 17-year-old thug beating and insulting an old and respectable 70-year-old man.
The Contemptible Mullah Gholam Mohammad
On Dec. 17, 1998, Molla Mohammad Gholam, who is almost 25 and a constable, entered a wedding ceremony in the village of Sar Asia in Herat, where the old priest of the local mosque was present too. When the youth in the party saw the constable, they hid the cassette player quickly, but the constable started searching for the cassette player violently. After being disappointed from finding the cassette player, he asked the host to bring it to him so that he can smash it. The guests begged him not to do it. Finally, he asked for the cassettes. The host brought all the cassettes and he smashed them one by one, and then started insulting the local priest and even tried to take him to his headquarters, which the guests didn't let him do it.
A few days later, people and a few priests from neighboring villages discussed the issue and decided to write a petition and ask for the removal of the constable. It is interesting to mention that this same constable, when Ismail Khan was ruling Herat, on many occasions had called the Taliban mercenaries of Pakistan and the US and declared jihad against them. Also, recently he went to the village of Hasan Khwajah to insure the strict implementation of the religious laws. He heard music from a store, went inside immediately, smashed the cassette player which was worth three million Afghanis, and then triumphantly left the village.