Treatment of ethnic Pashtuns, particularly in Herat; treatment of perceived supporters of the Taliban and/or the communist party (January 2002 - August 2004) [AFG42818.E]

Treatment of Ethnic Pashtuns

There have been numerous reports of violence and human rights violations against ethnic Pashtuns in Afghanistan during the period between January 2002 and August 2004 (AFP 15 Aug. 2004; RFE/RL 16 Aug. 2004; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 1.f, 2.d, 5; ICG 5 Aug. 2003, 12; Xinhua 12 June 2003; Freedom House 5 June 2003; AI 2003; HRW 6 Mar. 2002; The New York Times 7 Mar. 2002; BBC 9 Apr. 2002). The incidents have involved killings, rapes, gang rapes, physical abuse, torture, looting, extortion and theft (AFP 15 Aug. 2004; RFE/RL 16 Aug. 2004; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2.d, 5; ICG 5 Aug. 2003, 12;Xinhua 12 June 2003; AI 2003; HRW 6 Mar. 2002; The New York Times 7 Mar. 2002; BBC 9 Apr. 2002).

In early 2002, it was reported that a systematic and wide-scale "anti-Pashtun campaign" was being carried out in northern Afghanistan, stretching from Herat to the outskirts of Kabul (The New York Times 7 Mar. 2002). "Thousands" of Pashtuns reportedly fled their homes due to the ongoing "persecution" of their community members by the dominant, non-Pashtun groups, who were "exacting their revenge" and "settl[ing] old scores" for their mistreatment by the Taliban when it was in power (ibid.; see also ICG 5 Aug. 2003, 12, 16). Before it was ousted, the Taliban was composed of "ethnic Pashtuns drawn mainly from the south and inspired by a vision not only of extreme Islam but also of Pashtun supremacy" (ibid.). In August 2002, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in Kabul, noted that "'Pashtuns are being driven out by the majority populations in the North because they are of the same ethnic group as the Taliban'" (The Christian Science Monitor 30 Aug. 2002; see also BBC 7 Dec. 2002). It was also noted that Pashtun "fears of harassment are well-founded" (ibid.).

Amnesty International reported that incidents of violence against Pashtuns were reported in Balkh, Samangan and Sar-e-Pul in January and February 2002, and that

Pashtuns were also reportedly attacked in Badghis and Kunduz and in Herat province. Numerous attempts by the authorities and the UN to bring peace and security in the north were undermined, and Pashtun communities and displaced families remained vulnerable to persecution (2003).

In 2003, violence between Ismail Khan and Juma Khan, a Pashtun commander, erupted in Badghis province, resulting in "grave human rights violations against the Pashtun population in the village of Akazi," the death of 38 civilians and 26 of Juma soldiers, and the looting of 761 homes and 21 shops (IGC 5 Aug. 2003, 13). Violence had also erupted in Oruzgan province between Pashtuns and Hazaras, reportedly for the first time since late 2001 (Xinhua 12 June 2003). The violence killed twelve people and injured four others (ibid.).

According to an August 2003 report on Pashtuns in Afghanistan by International Crisis Group (IGC), Pashtuns have lost power, have been displaced and have become targets of violence since the ousting of the Taliban, and now, have not been appropriately represented in the political forum, all of which has led to a "growing sense of Pashtun alienation" (IGC 5 Aug. 2003, i, 2,9). One 2003 news report indicated that the Taliban militia in Afghanistan is largely composed of Pashtuns (Centre Daily Times 20 July 2003). Another news report indicated that "[s]ympathy for the Taliban runs high among the religiously conservative Pashtuns, coupled with anger that they are not sufficiently represented in Afghanistan's central government, which is dominated by the country's ethnic Tajiks" (AFP 19 Sept. 2003).

Referring specifically to the situation of Pashtuns in Kabul, ICG indicated that

Pashtuns in Kabul have not faced systematic violence but they recount harassment and discrimination by local police and intelligence officials. "After the fall of the Taliban, keeping a beard and speaking Pashto can often turn out to be a nightmare in the capital," says one local Pashtun. "There is an instant assumption on the part of the Tajik security services that you are a fundamentalist Talib. You are guilty without proof" (5 Aug. 2003, 14).

The report also added that violence against Pashtuns remained "acute" in the provinces of Herat and Badghis (ICG 5 Aug. 2003, i).

A May 2004 news report by United Press International (UPI) noted that over 600 Pashtuns and Afghan and U.S. soldiers have perished in incidents of violence that occurred in the Pashtun communities of northern Afghanistan between the summer of 2003 and May 2004 (3 May 2004).

Treatment of Ethnic Pashtuns in Herat

An October 2002 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) described that Ismail Khan, the governor of Herat province, has established a "virtual mini-state in [the province], with little allegiance to Kabul," and conditions that remain similar to those that existed under the Taliban. The province was described by HRW as "a closed society in which there is no dissent, no criticism of the government, no independent newspapers, no freedom to hold open meetings, and no respect for the rule of law" (Oct. 2002). The report added that detained criminals were "held for days, beaten severely or tortured, intimidated, and insulted" and that the documented "pattern of arbitrary arrests" was particularly common against members of the Pashtun community (HRW Oct. 2002). In addition, Pashtuns were "especially targeted for military and police brutality-particularly on the streets and roads around Herat" (ibid.). According to an Associated Press (AP) news report, Khan is a former governor who regained control over Herat after the Taliban government was ousted, however, "local Pashtuns have complained [that] his forces have looted and oppressed them" (2 Nov. 2002). In March 2003, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that Khan has "a history of attacks against Pashtuns" (26 Mar. 2003).

There were also reports that armed conflicts, which resulted in the death of numerous civilians, were ongoing between Ismail Khan and Pashtun commanders in western Afghanistan in 2002 (HRW Oct. 2002; Xinhua 4 Dec. 2002; AFP 3 Nov. 2002; AP 5 Oct. 2002; ibid. 2 Nov. 2002; ibid. 2 Dec. 2002). The conflict between Khan and Karim Karmez, a Pashtun commander, resulted in a military operation that killed Karmez (HRW Oct. 2002). However, in addition to the arrest of Karmez's troops during that military operation, Khan also arrested "a number of Karmez's relatives, civilians whose only connection to the commander was as family, along with Pashtun elders, whom the troops associated with Karmez, presumably because of their common ethnicity" (ibid.).

In late 2002, various clashes were reported in Zer-e-Koh district, approximately 25 kilometers south of the city of Shindand, between Ismail Khan and Ammanullah Khan, also a Pashtun commander (AP 5 Oct. 2002; ibid. 2 Nov. 2002; ibid. 2 Dec. 2002). In October 2002, the two groups were engaged in fighting for four days after Ammanullah's forces refused to hand an Iranian citizen that they arrested over to Khan (ibid. 5 Oct. 2002). In November 2002, the groups engaged in fighting for one day after Khan's forces launched an attack on a crowded market in Zer-e-Koh district (ibid. 2 Nov. 2002; AFP 3 Nov. 2002). In December 2002, several small villages in the Zer-e-Koh district were subject to armed conflict for approximately three days after what Ammanullah described as "a racially motivated offensive" by Khan (ibid. 2 Dec. 2002; AP 2 Dec. 2002; Xinhua 4 Dec. 2002).

The two groups were in conflict again in mid-August 2004, after a coordinated attack by Ismail Khan on the entire province (AFP 15 Aug. 2004; RFE/RL 16 Aug. 2004). Numerous Afghan government troops were flown into the area to end the violence (ibid.; AFP 15 Aug. 2004).

While Pashtuns comprise the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, they are a minority ethnic group in Herat, and have "come under repeated attack from Ismail Khan's forces" (ibid. 2 Dec. 2002). When asked in an interview whether Pashtuns are discriminated against in Herat, Khalid Pashtun, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province said that "'[f]ew Pashtuns claimed that they are being discriminated against, but we do not know what the truth is'," adding that:

...the Herat people say, that the people of Zerkoh are former Talebans and are in opposition to Herat Province's administration. But the people of Zerkoh claim that [the Herat people] are treating them badly by discriminating against them and calling them Pashtuns. They beat Pashtuns and even kill them. Both sides make claims but we do not know what the truth is (BBC 7 Dec. 2002).

ICG reported in August 2003 that problems experienced by Pashtun traders and businessmen have been "especially acute in Heart," and have caused Pashtun businessmen to recruit Tajiks to run their businesses in Herat (5 Aug. 2003, 16). The report quotes one business owner as saying: "Herat is a no-go area for Pashtun traders, as Ismail Khan's forces do not tolerate us'" (ICG 5 Aug. 2003, 16).

Treatment of Perceived Supporters of the Taliban

Information on the treatment of perceived supporters of the Taliban could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, there were numerous references to incidents of violence and human rights violations that were allegedly perpetuated by Taliban militia and supporters (Gulf Times 23 Aug. 2004; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 16 Aug. 2004; Channel News Asia 15 Aug. 2004; Guelph Mercury 5 Aug. 2004; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 1.a, b; Freedom House 5 June 2003; see also Le Monde 20 Nov. 2003).

Treatment of Perceived Supporters of the Communist Party

Information on the treatment of perceived supporters of the communist party could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 15 August 2004. "Factional Fighting Grips West as Afghanistan Wraps Up Voter Registration." (Dialog)

_____. 19 September 2003. Herve Bar. "Taliban Fighters Flee Sieged Afghan Religious School." (Dialog)

_____. 26 March 2003. "Seven Killed in 'Taliban' Attack in Northwestern Afghanistan." (Dialog)

_____. 2 December 2002. Barry Neild. "Violence in Afghanistan Overshadows Bonn Conference." (Dialog)

_____. 3 November 2002. Barry Neild. "Afghan Government Officials Sacked in Start of Major Shakeup." (Dialog)

Amnesty International (AI). 2003. "Afghanistan." Amnesty International Report 2003.$FILE/afghanistan.pdf [Accessed 26 Aug. 2004]

Associated Press (AP). 2 December 2002. Mike Eckel. "Fighting Between Rival Warlords in Western Afghanistan Enters Third Day." (NEXIS)

_____. 2 November 2002. "At Least Two Killed, 15 Injured in Western Afghanistan Fighting." (NEXIS)

_____. 5 October 2002. Todd Pitman. "Several Days of Fighting in Western Afghanistan Leaves at Least Six Dead, 20 Injured, Commander Says." (NEXIS)

BBC. 7 December 2002. "Afghan Official Says Mola Omar Unlikely to Come Out of Hiding." (Dialog)

_____. 9 April 2002. "Afghan Pashtuns Threaten Retaliation Against 'Violation of Rights'." (NEXIS)

Centre Daily Times [State College, PA]. 20 July 2003. "Former Prisoners Give Guantanamo Mixed Reviews." (Dialog)

Channel News Asia. 15 August 2004. "Troops to Quell Factional Fighting as Afghan Voter Registration Extended." (Dialog)

The Christian Science Monitor [Boston]. 30 August 2002. Scott Baldauf. "Newest Flood of Afghan Refugees: Pashtuns Fleeing South." (NEXIS)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 27 Aug. 2004]

Freedom House. 5 June 2003. "Afghanistan." Freedom in the World 2003. [Accessed 27 Aug. 2004]

Guelph Mercury. 5 August 2004. "Two Afghan Aid Workers Shot and Killed in Afghanistan." (Dialog)
Gulf Times [Doha, Qatar]. 23 August 2004. "Qatar Daily: US 'Half-Hearted' Commitment to Afghanistan 'Bodes I11' For Future." (Dialog)

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