Eyewitness accounts of Taliban massacre in Yakaolang
By RAWA reporters, June 2001
The massacre of around 300 people in Yakaolang, which took place on 9th January 2001 by the Taliban, has been observed without much ado by the governments and media of the world. In a situation where our country has been besieged politically and economically by regional and global powers, the voice of our nation is bound captive in the claws of fundamentalists and their foreign guardians, thus remaining unheard. RAWA, which considers itself the loyal ally to the desires of the people of Afghanistan, and especially the deeply pained women of the country, takes as its revolutionary duty to break the fundamentalists' and their foreign allies' blockade of silence and to carry the just voices of our oppressed people to every nook and corner of the world.
The eyewitnesses interviewed by RAWA had been war captive of the Taliban, Arabs and Pakistanis; they recall the depth of the matter in this way:
"Sufi Gardizi the military commander and representative of Taliban in Yakaolang is a very sick man, fanatical and factionalist. Before the day of the massacre of the people of Yakaolang, Sufi Gurdizi fanned a policy of discord between the tribe of Sadat and Hazara. He gathered supporters amongst Khalqis, Purchamis (Khaliq and Parcham were two fictions of PDPA a puppet party of Russia) and Nasries (members of a pro-Iran party called Nasr) who were enforcing his commands such as Gulam Ali, General Hayat Ullah Khalqi, Sheikh Raza Saeedi, Syed Jawad, Syed Abdullah and others. One month before the tragedy of Yakaolang rumor spread that Karim Khalili was making preparation for an assault against the Taliban. Taliban and Jawadi (on behalf of the Nasries) gave assurance to the people that on the basis of the agreement between Taliban and Khalili at the Suof valley, they would not attack Yakaolang. At the middle of December the forces of Khalili started to move from the area of Suof valley towards Bameyan. Preparation was made by Sufi Gardizi, his assistant (Niaz Muhammad) and General Khadim Khalqi against the possible attack of Khalili.
The first clash took place at the Gum Aab. General Khadim and Hayat (Khalqi) lost the battle to Khalili, but the fighting continued both sides moved towards Yakaolang. After some clashes the forces of Khalili entered Yakaolang on 2nd of January. Six days later Khalili and Co. gathered the people of different villages and a man known by the name of Khuda Dad Urfani, who introduced himself as the welfare minister of the government of Rabbani, gave a speech in which he said: "This time we will not act like in the past. We will not sell lice (fighters of Hezb-e-Wahdat were used to block the roads in areas under their control and forcibly sell their lice on passengers and get huge amount of money from them); will not show the dance of the death (one of the brutal crimes committed by Hezb-e-Wahdat was to chop off the head of their victims and then put boiled oil on it to stop the bleeding and then they enjoy the movements of the victims till he breaths his last. They were calling it "Dance of the death". There are many reports of this wild act by them), we will not sell opium to the fronts. We have read these things in Payam-e-Zan and it is shameful for us to record what went before once again in the books of history".
On 7th of January Taliban started their counter attacks towards the sub-province and after two days of war, the armed men of Khalili escaped and the district of Yakaolang once again came under the control of Taliban.
On 9th of January Taliban surrendered the center of the sub-province and Dra Ali which contain the following villages: Bugandak, Nazar Shah, Qala Shah Nang, Mandeek, Gubandi, Kushkak, Akhundan, Dahan Shorab, Sar-e-Asyab, Khata Khana, and Bedmishkin. The Arabs and Pakistanis were in charge of searching house by house. A very horrendous and intimidating atmosphere prevailed over the area. Women and children were mourning loudly. Blood flowed in the eyes of young and old men, as their hands were tied behind their backs with their turbans. No one was there to come to the relief of those innocent and hapless people. Khalili had escaped and empty-handed people left to wait for punishment of Taliban. A very small number of people succeeded to take their families to the nearby mountains and remained secure. The decree of Mullah Omar and Arabs had been issued as such: "Behead all men whose age is greater than 12, let it be a warning lesson for the Sadat and Hazara survivors of the Yakaolang". The command of massacre was carried out within three days. They tied the hands of people on their back immediately after their arrest and carried them to the sub-province under the watchful eyes of Arabs and Pakistanis.
They had chosen the place of mass execution on the back of the building of Oxfam, a hospital near Shor Aab (back of the house of Syed Hasan Karimi). They lined up the victims of such horrible crime against each other and then fired in turn on them. Brother was watching the death of his brother and uncle was watching the death of his nephew who himself was about to be shot dead in a moment.
Syed Hamid Ullah, Syed Muhammad Bakhsh, Haji Gulam Hasain and Syed Muhammad (eye witness of the massacre of Yakaolang) unbelievably and miraculously survived this slaughterhouse. They have witnessed the killing of their relatives by the Taliban. Syed Habib Ullah a teacher was trapped in the snare of Taliban, recall his story like this:
Mass graves in Bedmishkin village where the victims are buried.
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"I with twelve other men became the prey of Taliban. They tied our hands with the ropes on our back and moved us towards the sub-province. Our guards were Arabs and Pakistanis. When we reached the river, they didn't allow us to take off our shoes. The weather was extremely cold and snowy. After passing the river our clothes and legs changed to a piece of ice. They didn't allow any of us to talk. The distance from the village to the center of the sub-province was about an hour. During the way the humiliation and beating by Arabs and Pakistanis continued.
They kept us in the neighborhood of the building of O.P.S. A man by the name of Adul Hameed who was Tajik and my student, interceded for me and Syed Sharaf. He went to tell Taliban that we belong to the nationality of Tajik and are the true followers of the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They separated three of us from the other twelve people, and took the remaining to the front of the building of Oxfam and positioned them facing the wall. In this massacre the number of Pakistanis and Arabs exceeded the Taliban. A quarrel broke out amongst them, each one of them wanted to do the killing with his own hands and gain the blessing of becoming a Ghazi (According to Islamic traditions a person becomes Ghazi by killing the enemy of Islam, but in Afghanistan people also call anyone who fight foreign aggressors. Tr). Meanwhile they lined up some other men including teacher Syed Amin, targeted their face and hearts and in turn shot them to dead with the Klashnikovs. We saw bodies dieing with great difficulty. Amongst them there were semi-dead bodies that cried for help. The dreadful hours and the nightmare of that day was a deep blow in our heart and soul, which would never be forgotten by us till the end of our lives. They allowed three of us to go to our homes. Next day, they killed my brother in front of the eyes of his wife and children when he left his underground hiding place and tried to escape.
Three village elders who succeeded in escaping from the slaughterhouse of Taliban describe their stories as follow:
"We were taken to the back of the building of Oxfam (British NGO). They separated three of us from the other 24 people. They immediately shot down the remaining ones. The bullet was striking at the head and face of our sons, brothers, nephews, uncles and other relatives. Their blood-smeared bodies covered the ground. After 15 minutes while beating and humiliating us, they dragged us towards the dead bodies of our relatives. Just looking at them closely we were about to lose our consciousness. Whatever the situation was we had to keep our senses. Curses and threats of death by the Taliban continued. Trembling of the hands and feet of our relatives was the indication to help them. At the front side of the ground, a vehicle was ready to carry the dead and semi-dead bodies. Consecutive blows of the stock of the rifles increased the pain of our bodies. How could I help the semi-dead people? With the force of the gun they compelled us to throw them inside the vehicle like stone and wood. With the help of sordid Taliban we carried them to Shor Aab and once again with threat and beating unloaded the car. If we could have helped, some of them could have lived, but the wild slaves stopped us from helping the wounded people. After the end of the work while being exhausted we were allowed to leave and make our way towards the village. On reaching near the village we heard the moan and cry of women and children. We asked an old lady what is the matter? She said: 'they took all men with them and plundered whatever they found'.
"Four days later Taliban allowed us to bury the martyrs. There and in the surrounding villages we had no clue of any man to help us in carrying and burying them". The village of Bedmishkin had 34 martyrs that were recognized by these three men and were carried to the shrine within three days. "Another two days passed till with the help of some old men from Gird Baid village and Khum Astana we prepared a mass grave for the dead bodies. The people of village cannot forget the burning pain of that day forever. For the old mothers, grief-stricken women and miserable children that have seen the dead bodies of their fathers, husband and sons in that freezing cold weather, martyred by the brutal hands of the Taliban and their Arab and Pakistani counterparts on the pretext of being Hazara or Syed, must be the unluckiest day and most probably the end of their lives. The fate of another 165 martyrs also finished in the same way and the survivors sat in sorrow. After this horrible and disgraceful incident took place, the forces of Khalili again took control of the city. Khalili, leader of Hezb-e-Whadat (Unity Party), this infamous servant of Iranian regime, came to pray for the dead on their graves. Everyone including old men and women of the village at the same day reached the graveyard. After finding Kalili there, they all started to shout and cry "why has this man come to the graveyard while he himself had a hand in the killing of our sons?"
One night, before the massacre of the people of Yakaolang in the area of Dah Surk, Aziz Topchi had proposed to attack the sub-province at night because Taliban were not well informed of the area. But Khalili in reply had told him: "Let Taliban come and kill everyone so in the future people react and fight against them". You can very easily judge the personality of this traitor and his feeling for his people, from such sentences, even though he claims himself to be their leader.
"After the massacre of the innocent people of our village, the plundering and looting of the property of people came. Taliban looted the people in the same amount as armed men of Khalili did before and after the massacre. The eyewitnesses said that the gunmen of the two wings searched houses, and took money, jewelry, tape recorders and other expensive things. For example 70 million Afghani in cash was taken from the house of Syed Raheem "Khum Astana", 30 million cash from the house of Syed Asad Ullah of "Bedmishkin village" about one million and sixty hundred thousand from the wife of Syed Ghazfar and etc. Beside looting and plundering, the inhuman act of Taliban and Arabs continued by the raping of women and girls. Violating the honor of Sulatan's daughter is the tip of the iceberg.
After all that adversity, the old men and women decided to leave the area. The sad and horrifying tale of their journey in that cold weather, traveling by foot from one mountain to another mountain, by itself is another story that the eyewitnesses have described with tears in their eyes. It is enough to understand that in past winters, people spent six month of the season in their homes, not even thinking of traveling outside the area.
The fact that the world has not heard about nor attended to the atrocities of the Taliban and the massacre of Yakaolang in the depth in which it should leaves the Taliban free to pretend that the matter did not occur. If we pay attention to the Radio Shariat interview with the two Taliban servants by the name of Taqadus and Tawab Hydarey, who themselves are ethnic Hazara we can find out how they want to deny everything by saying, "the enemies of the Islamic Emirate want to make an important matter out of the incident of Yakaolang. No killing has occurred there and we deny it. The people of Yakaolang should consider the rightfulness of the Islamic Emirate."
Behind these acts only one policy is lurking and it is ethnic cleansing. The people of Shamali (northern areas) and other places are also victim of such incidents. The massacre of Yakaolang will not be the end of such measures taken by the Taliban. Unfortunately our people will be waiting for even worse days with more of these kinds of savage and inhuman acts, which are dictated by fundamentalists and their foreign masters.
A Hazara woman "M" from Bedmishkin village describes her sorrowful story:
"We were at our home when Taliban rushed in and started searching the whole house. I pleaded for mercy and showed Holy Quran to them but they threw the Quran into the heater. They destroyed all our possessions even the food items and took the expensive materials with them.
My brother ran away when he was informed that Taliban are patrolling everywhere. He had hidden himself at the back of a wall but he was discovered by Taliban and killed on the spot. After two days we were informed by Taliban to take the wounded body of my brother but we found his dead body in a very bad condition. The freezing weather has stuck his wounded body to the ground.
It had turned to a normal habit that whenever we heard firing we used to cover our children with quilt just to give them a psychological protection against noisy sound of firings and now the children have become used to that so even in Pakistan when they hear some noise they wrap themselves in the quilts.
My mother's cousin, Yahya who was a pretty young boy was killed in the same way by the Taliban. Taliban entered their house and took him out and killed him right across from their gate. This happened early in the morning and the dead body was lying over there till night when his wife and his five children came out late at night to search for their father. His body received several bullets, indicating that he had resisted to Taliban torture. The snow around him had been turned red. Taliban stopped his wife and children while they were trying to take his dead body back home. His wife and two other elder women pleaded a lot with Taliban to release the dead body but the Taliban turned down any plea. Taliban beat Yahya's wife so much that she nearly died. Late at night when the Taliban vacated the area, Yahya's relatives, all women brought his dead body back home and buried him there."
"N.B" widow of a victim (Wali) describes:
"Taliban entered into our houses and set everything on fire. My husband ran away and told me he would not return until a month. An hour later I heard firing near my house but I ignored it as I thought it might be the usual firing. Two days later, a 7 years old boy knocked on our door at night and informed us that Uncle Wali had been killed by Taliban. I couldn't believe it because I thought that Wali had gone to Kabul. He said Wali's dead body is lying at the back of the wall. I couldn't bear that sad condition. Taliban had killed him near the wall while he was trying to flee. His eyes and mouth were open and his teeth had turned blue by the chilling weather. The cruel Taliban have searched his pocket and took his whole belongings. His blood had dried up and had stuck him to the ground. I was alone and couldn't move his dead body and there was no one else in the house to help me. Wali's dead body remained there for one day more until I found two men who brought his dead body to our house and I myself buried him. We stayed there for a week then I along with some other families immigrated to Pakistan. My 6 month-old baby caught a severe coughing-cold on the way and died before reaching Pakistan. The agony of my husband and my baby is still burning in my heart and I remember each and every moment of those disastrous days.
My uncle was arrested by Taliban, who accused him of having hidden weapon. He was a poor peasant who had no link with any armed group. Taliban took him out of his house and shot him before his relatives. His mother and his wife begged Taliban to allow them to bury his dead body but Taliban didn't allow any one to go close to him. His mother was looking after his dead body for three days so that the dogs wouldn't eat him. When Taliban left the place they buried him.
Our neighbor, whose husband had been killed many years ago, was living with her children. When Taliban left the village to patrol and kill the young people in other villages, she took her youngest son along with her and went to mountains and told her other sons to remain in the basement room. After several days when she came back, her elder son had died of cold. For several days she kept the dead body of her son in the house because Taliban didn't allow the people to bury the dead bodies."
"We were at our home when Taliban rushed into our house and searched the whole house. They asked about the men and we told them that all the men were taken by Taliban and we don't have any news of their whereabouts. They took 10,000,000 Afghanis (around US$160) from one house and 800,000,000 Afghanis from another house. Taliban killed my husband, brother-in-law and my sister's husband who were young."
Due to security matters we omitted some names from these reports.
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