UNITED NATIONS Office of the United Nations Co-ordinator for Afghanistan
NEWS RELEASE - 14 August 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Islamabad: 14 August) The United Nations has confirmed that large scale forced displacement is occurring from the Shamali valley near the front lines north of Kabul. Within a period of less than thirty-six hours on 13 and 14 August, over 1,870 displaced families (an estimated 10,000 people) have entered the Afghan capital. A major influx is anticipated within the next few days.
The United Nations has obtained first hand accounts from the new arrivals representing all ethnic groups that verify that Taliban fighters forced men, women and children out of their houses and told them to walk to Kabul. They have also confirmed earlier reports that the Taliban are intentionally setting homes on fire. Families speak of whole villages being burned to the ground and crops set on fire to deter them from moving back to this once-fertile valley.
Taliban authorities continue to deny any “scorched earth” policy in the area.
International agencies in Kabul are monitoring the arrival of growing numbers of displaced from the Shamali valley, drawing up lists of the displaced, and providing new arrivals with water and high protein biscuits.
Some of the displaced have made the 40-kilometre journey on foot, while others have been conveyed in trucks commandeered by the Taliban authorities. Many of the new arrivals are not only dehydrated from their journey but are also completely destitute and have only what they were able to carry from their homes. A long column of elderly men, women and children, some walking with their livestock loaded with a few possessions, continued to approach the city into the late afternoon today.
"It is a chilling sight," said Jolyon Leslie, UN Regional Co-ordinator in Kabul.
Forced displacement and intentional destruction of civilian homes are clear violations of international humanitarian law. It is also against the stated policy of the Taliban, whose leader Mullah Omar earlier condemned such acts and called on Taliban troops to respect the lives and property of civilians.
Earlier this month, 2,300 individuals forcibly displaced from Shamali were temporarily accommodated in an ex-diplomatic compound in Kabul. An undetermined number dispersed to other areas in the city. Some of these displaced persons reported that men were forcibly separated from their families and detained by the Taliban in Kabul.
The humanitarian impact of the Taliban’s campaign of forced removals and house burning is likely to be dramatic. Tens of thousands of displaced villagers will now be dependent on friends, relatives or external assistance in Kabul. The loss of their homes and crops will deny them the chance to return to their villages in time for winter.
Aid workers also report another sizeable movement of civilians north of the front lines into the Panjshir valley. The United Nations is concerned for their immediate welfare, given the terrain and limits on access to the valley.
The United Nations is greatly alarmed that the latest upsurge in fighting in the Shamali valley is, once again, causing loss of life and intentional destruction of civilian property. The United Nations calls upon the Taliban to immediately halt the senseless campaign against the civilian population. The United Nations calls upon both sides to provide for the immediate needs of families displaced as a direct result of military activity.
"The parties responsible for such disasters cannot, cynically, commit such criminal acts, then turn to the United Nations and the international community as a whole to help save their own people from disasters provoked by those who claim to be their country's leaders," said United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Photos of forced displacement of people by Taliban
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