Pashtuns driven from northern Afghan villages

, Oct.8, 2002

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, 10/8/2002 (Reuter) :: Forces loyal to Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum forced hundreds of ethnic Pashtuns from villages in northern Afghanistan during factional fighting, a local aid worker and a rival faction said on Monday.

The Afghan aid worker, who did not want to be identified, said 180 families were forced out of four villages in the Pir Naqshi area by forces led by Ahmad Khan.

Some of the women said they had been raped by his men and had their homes looted.

Pir Naqshi is an hour's drive north of Aibak, the provincial capital of Samangan province.

The aid worker said Khan's men had accused the Pashtun families of siding with rival ethnic Tajik forces belonging to the Jamiat-e-Islami faction of Ustad Atta Mohammad during fighting in the area on Thursday.

A Western aid worker in Mazar-i-Sharif said he had heard similar allegations, but declined to discuss details.

The Uzbek warlord, Abdul-Rashid Dostum, who controls Northern Afghanistan, was notorious for human rights abuses even before the US- led war against the Taliban. His role in that war as the main US ally in the north added to his evil reputation. To cite one of the worst examples of his cruelty: several hundred Taliban fighters were killed by tank fire after they had surrendered at a school in Mazar-e-Sharif. It was Dostum's forces who escorted the Taliban prisoners to Sheberghan. Bearing in mind the war crimes the Dostum forces appear to have committed, the act of packing the POWs into airless containers came as no great surprise.


Meanwhile, Karzai is in no position to force Dostum's compliance. He might be president of Afghanistan, but everyone knows that the real power rests with the Northern Alliance. So far, they are working with the president, but if Karzai were to press them on this issue, it could lead to the withdrawal of their support for his fragile government, its collapse and open conflict. This is where the moral dilemma comes in for both Karzai and the UN: is rebuilding more important than justice?

Al-Ahram Weekly 5-11 September 2002

Dostum, who is deputy defence minister in the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, was unavailable to respond to the allegations and two of his commanders refused to comment.

General Abdul Saboor, a deputy of Ustad Atta Mohammad, also said 180 families had been forced to flee their homes by Dostum's men.

"The attacking force threatened villagers out of their houses and also pillaged some of them," he told reporters in Mazar-i-Sharif, the key city in northern Afghanistan.

"The women refused to return after we tried to assure them it was safe for them to do so," he said, when asked about the rape allegations.

The villagers have taken refuge in villages in the Khulm district to the north of Pir Naqshi.

Last week's fighting broke out after Khan's forces attacked Atta's men holding Pir Naqshi. The fighting was ended by a truce, the second in two weeks agreed by Dostum and Atta officials.

Since the ouster of the Taliban militia last year, thousands of Pashtuns, who are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan but a minority in the north, have faced harrassment and displacement by Uzbek soldiers and those from the smaller Hazara ethnic group.

The Taliban drew the bulk of its support within Afghanistan from the Pashtuns, based mainly in the south.

Hundreds of Taliban prisoners died on their way to jail in northern Afghanistan last year after being herded into airless shipping containers having surrendered to Dostum's forces.

Dostum and Atta's fighters have clashed in several areas of northern Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, which itself stands accused of killing and harassing Uzbek and Hazara families during its rule.

The two commanders were bitter rivals in factional fighting in the 1990s but now both are members of the interim government that replaced the Taliban.

Many residents in the north believe Atta is trying to weaken Dostum by consolidating his own positions in the north and linking them to Jamiat's traditional bastion in the northeast of Afghanistan.

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