Najibullah Lafraie's letter to SAWA

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Statement by Dr Najibullah Lafraie

... If any iniquitous person comes to you with a [slanderous] tale, use your discernment [i.e., verify the truth before giving credence], lest you hurt people unwittingly and afterwards be filled with remorse for what you have done." (The Holy Quran, 49:7)

More than a quarter of a century of conflict and war in Afghanistan has claimed countless victims. Atrocities and abuses of human rights committed by armed groups -- pro-Moscow communist regimes, the Soviet Red Army, criminal elements in the ranks of Mujahideen, the Taliban, and now the two sides of the "war on terror" -- is one form of victimisation. A less conspicuous form, but nonetheless agonizing and devastating, is false accusations and character assassinations. Even Afghan national heroes have not been immune from this - heroes such as Ahmad Shah Masoud whose heroic resistance against the Soviet invasion has made him a legend, who almost single-handedly fought against the Taliban and their foreign supporters, and who finally lost his life to al Qaeda terrorism. It is not surprising, therefore, for others to fall victim.

My family has suffered enormously in the course of conflict in Afghanistan. I have lost a brother to Russian landmines and another to cancer aggravated by maltreatment for two years in a Taliban jail. My wife and children have been moving around all their lives, have lived in the hellish conditions of Peshawar city, have experienced showers of rockets on Kabul city, and have spent 12 months in hiding in Kabul during the Taliban rule. Coming to New Zealand, we were hoping to find peace and tranquillity. Unfortunately, there are those who play with the psychological wellbeing of my family for their own reasons. Jenny Shipley's accusation in the New Zealand parliament in early September 2001 is one example; and the current campaign by the Australia-based Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan (SAWA) on its website ( is another.

Background to the current campaign: In mid-September this year, I was approached by a member of Amnesty International and informed about an Afghan woman visiting Dunedin. I was asked if I wanted to meet her. Afghan traditional hospitality demanded that I should, so I agreed despite being extremely busy. I even talked to my wife about the possibility of having the guest for dinner in our house, but her schedule was very tight and stayed in Dunedin only for one night. The meeting, over a cup of tea, seemed friendly to me. The only issue about which Amena Shams seemed uncomfortable was when I told her that she and her organisation were making a mistake in their categorical condemnation of all the Mujahideen -- especially Ahmad Shah Masoud, whom I knew personally and had followed his career closely. I also told her I knew the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)'s background as a Maoist organisation, but appreciated its current focus on humanitarian work. (1) When we were saying farewell, Amena asked me why I had "forced" my daughters to wear headscarves -- she had met them in an earlier function that day. I told her that was not the case and that they did it out of their own freewill.

I had almost forgotten about Amena Shams when a friend informed me that according to SAWA she "was outraged to discover that Najibullah Lafraie ... is now a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Otago University in Dunedin." After calling me "the key ideologue of Jamiat-e Islami" and a war criminal, the SAWA website asks its supporters to write to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago to demand my dismissal and to the Prime Minister of New Zealand to take me to an international court.

Baseless charges: According to SAWA, I introduced myself to Amena Shams "as a proud member of Jamiat-e Islami." This is not true. Ever since I refused to leave Kabul with other Jamiat high officials following the Taliban's advance in September 1996, I have not considered myself a member of Jamiat and have had no involvement in pro-Jamiat political activity whatsoever. It is true, however, that I was a member of Jamiat from 1979 to 1996 and served as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the Jamiat-led government from 1992 to 1996.

Is being a member of Jamiat a crime? Jamiat was a leading resistance organisation against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and played a prominent role in its defeat. It is certainly an Islamist party; but its leadership, especially Prof. Rabbani and commander Masoud, was far from the extremism that characterised some other groups, such as Hizb Islami of Hikmatyar and the Taliban. (2)

Was I "the key ideologue of Jamiat-e Islami"? When I was associated with Jamiat, I wished there was time to engage in ideological work and promote the true teachings of Islam among the members of Jamiat and other Afghans. Unfortunately, all our attention was first focussed on repulsing the Soviet invasion and then resisting the imposed "factional fighting." Thus, overall there was not much ideological work. As for my personal role, because of my knowledge of English, first I was put in charge of dealing with foreign media and then foreign relations. I did not make any ideological contributions whatever.

Who was responsible for war crimes during 1992 to 1996? Undoubtedly heinous crimes were committed after the downfall of the communist regime of Dr. Najibullah. Most of those crimes were committed by those fighting against the government in Kabul. It is also possible that the government soldiers committed some atrocities (although I know firsthand that Masoud as the overall commander was against such actions). I was in charge of the Foreign Ministry representing the internationally recognised government of Afghanistan around the world. Neither in this period, nor during the war against the Soviet Union and its puppet regimes, did I take part in any military activity or any other activity that could cause any harm or injury to innocent civilians.

It is interesting that SAWA publishes my photo with two leading Australian scholars on Afghanistan -- Prof William Maley and Prof. Amin Saikal -- and then accuses me of war crimes. Did it ask those scholars how they could get together in the same room with a war criminal, set aside being photographed with him?

RAWA calling me "a terrorist fundamentalist": If "fundamentalism" means being a practicing Muslim and supporting my family in wearing headscarves, then I confess to this "charge" - but certainly not to the extremism that is usually associated with "fundamentalism." Calling me "a terrorist," however, is shocking and outrageous. Not only what I have said to the media and to my classes belie this charge, but also my actions throughout my life. I cannot deliberately hurt even a harmless insect, how could I support killing and maiming innocent humans?

Request to publish apology and this statement on website: I request that SAWA immediately withdraw the extremely defamatory and untrue material it has posted about me on its website. In its place I request that it publish an apology and this statement with a link to it on the homepage. Failing to do that, I would have to take legal action.


[ RAWA's response ]

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