Situation in, or around, Aqcha (Jawzjan province) including predominant tribal/ethnic group and who is currently in control [AFG31076.E]

The Vice-president and co-founder of the Afghanistan Relief Committee, and a professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, both stated that persons of the Turkoman ethnic group live in the town of Aqcha (16 Feb. 1999; 19 Feb. 1999). The professor said that a large number of Uzbek people also live there. Both sources said that northern Afghanistan is characterized by a mixture of ethnic and tribal groups and that there is a history of conflict with the Pushtuns from whom the Taleban come. A professor of Political Science at Portland University, who specializes in Middle East Studies, stated that that the Uzbek and Turkoman are the dominant groups in Jawzjan province, but that the Turkoman are much smaller in numbers (16 Feb. 1999). The Vice-president, who also frequently acts as a consultant on Afghanistan, stressed that there is strong local animosity toward the Pushtun as a result of "thousands of years" of their domination. The professor of Anthropology, who is himself Uzbek and grew up in northern Afghanistan and whose work focuses on conditions in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey, also referred to a long history of Pushtun rule that is resented by the local peoples.

The professor of Anthropology stated that since the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif in August 1998, the province, including Aqcha, has been "absolutely under control of the Taleban." He said that the opposition forces are located in the frontiers and in the mountains. He stated that Taleban control has meant the arrest of many young males and their deportation to the south; the leading away of many people from their villages to unknown destinations; the influx of Pushtuns from southern Afghanistan and refugee camps in Pakistan; and "a lot of killings, arrests, and tortures." He described these events as the "last phase of Pushtun colonization." According to this professor, Uzbekistan has closed its border to refugees while Turkmenistan has allowed a few people in but "is not amenable to accepting large numbers" (19 Feb. 1999).The Vice-president said the people of Turkmenistan are of the same ethnic group as many people in Aqcha and that this would be a natural sanctuary for those fleeing Taleban "persecution" (16 Feb. 1999).

The professor of Anthropology explained that "persecution" by the Taleban is, first, "directed more against Shia Hazar people" and secondaly against "the Turkish speaking supporters of General Dostam" who is now outside the country. He clarified that the Uzbek and the Turkoman are Sunni, as are the Taleban, and thus the conflict between them is one of ethnicity, politics and economics, rather than religion. The professor also said that the opposition group led by Ahmad Shah Masood, who is Tajik, is "now basically the only major organization opposing the Taleban" (19 Feb. 1999).This statement is supported by documentary sources (VOA 29 Oct. 1998) with Dawn reporting the United Nations Secretary-General as offering a similar analysis (2 Dec. 1998).

The current situation in northern Afghanistan is confused due to continued fighting between the forces of the Taleban and opposition forces of Masood. There was no mention of Aqcha in the documentary sources consulted by the Research Directorate, but the following brief chronology, beginning with the Taleban takeover of Mazar-i-Sharif, Jawzjan province, in August 1998, may be of assistance.

Just prior to capturing Mazar-i-Sharif, the Taleban took Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province (TASS 3 Aug. 1998; Interfax News Agency 3 Aug. 1998; DPA 8 Aug. 1998). Thousand of ethnic Hazaras were reportedly targeted by the Taleban and killed during the takeover of Mazar-i-Sharif, "the headquarters of the three-party Norhtern Alliance opposting the purist Taleban government (The Middle East Nov. 1998, 15; The Boston Globe 6 Nov. 1998; HRW 14 Sept. 1998). HRW stated "the Hazaras' Shia faith is anathema to the Taliban, which is seeking to impose its version of a Sunni Muslim theocracy" (ibid.). Dawn reported on 7 October 1998 that the Taliban had executed three of its soldiers for "sexual offences and extortion" after the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif.

On 29 October 1998 NNI reported a radio broadcast from Tehran that stated that the opposition United Islamic Front for Salvation of Afghanistan had intensified its campaign against the Taleban following "recent military success" in the northwest part of the country. The broadcast also reported on "the Taliban militia continued massacre of minorities in Mazar-e-Sharif and areas in vicinity of Taloqan city in northern Afghanistan" (ibid.). On the same date VOA and Dawn reported on an agreement between the Taleban and opposition leader Ahmad Shah Masood to free 1,000 prisoners each. Dawn stated that this followed a week-long truce that began on 26 October 1998, as well as the freeing, earlier in the week, of 500 Taleban soldiers by the opposition. VOA reported that the opposition had recently made advances in the northeast (29 Oct. 1998). The Tribune reported on 10 November 1998 that the Taleban had offered to extend the ceasefire, but did not report information on Masood's response.

On 25 November 1998 The News International reported on a claim by the "Pakistan-based" Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) that the Taleban had recaptured Darzaab district in Faryab province, which it had lost the previous week to Masood's forces. The AIP referred to Darzaab as "a mountainous district bordering Jowzjan province where supporters of Masood and the Iran-backed Hizb-e-Wahdat are present" (ibid.). The News International stated that there was no "independent confirmation" of the report (ibid.). However, on the same day NNI reported that "the latest advances of the Afghan opposition in Northern Afghanistan are reportedly the result of the increasing strain[ed] relations between the Taliban and local commanders" and that these local commanders frequently switch allegiances (25 Nov. 1998).

On 27 November 1998 Dawn reported opposition claims that "it had made major inroads into the northern Kunduz province during attacks on three fronts against the Taliban." The opposition was reported to be attempting to secure supply routes prior to the beginning of winter (ibid.; VOA 29 Oct. 1998). On 3 December 1998 Dawn reported opposition claims that "a rare and united series of coordinated revolts had erupted across Afghanistan's far north" that included Jawzjan province. However, a few days later other sources reported a decrease in fighting and the release of 118 prisoners, described by the Red Cross as "elderly and frail," by the Taleban, (The Tribune 6 Dec. 1998; The News International 7 Dec. 1998). On 7 January 1999 Dawn reported the "state run radio Shariat" as saying the Taleban had released 264 opposition prisoners who were captured in military operations. On 16 January 1999, the state run Radio Voice of Shari'ah reported the Taleban release of 153 prisoners in Jawzjan province.

On 24 January 1999a Dawn reported that different opposition groups had "set up a Supreme Military Council" under Masood's leadership. The four factions were: "Hezb-i-Wahdat, an Iranian-backed Shi'ite group, Hezb-i-Islami of former prime minister Gulbudin Hekmatyar, the Jaamat-i-Islami faction to which Masood belongs and Ittehad-i-Islami led by Professor Sayyaf" (ibid.). The groups were previously allied before the loss of Mazar-i-Sahrif to the Taleban and the report of their renewed alliance accompanied "fresh reports of fighting in northern Afghanistan" (ibid.). On the same day AFP said the AIP reported that the opposition had formed a joint council, but said the report could not be "independently confirmed." Dawn also reported 24 January 1999b opposition claims to the capture of 410 Taleban members in Faryab province. AP reported on the same day an opposition claim to cutting "a key supply route to neighbouring Jozjan province" which the Taleban denied. This was followed a few days later by a Radio Pakistan report of "fierce fighting" in Faryab province (27 Jan. 1999).

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 to refugee status or asylum.


Afghanistan Relief Committee [New York]. 16 February 1999. Telephone interview with Vice-president and co-founder.

Agence France Presse (AFP). 24 January 1999. "Afghan Opposition Groups Form Joint Council: Report." (NEXIS)

Associated Press (AP). 24 January 1999. "Afghan Opposition Advances Towards Capital of Faryab Province." (NEXIS)

The Boston Globe. 6 November 1998. Colum Lynch. "Report Finds 4,000 Died in Taliban Massacre; UN Watchdog Details Ethnic 'Killing Frenzy'." (NEXIS)

Dawn [Karachi]. 24 January 1999a. "Council Formed to Reclaim Taliban Territories." [Internet] [Accessed 26 Jan. 1999]

_____. 24 January 1999b. "410 Taliban Captured, Says Opposition." [Internet] [Accessed 26 Jan. 1999]

_____. 7 January 1999. "Taliban Release 264 Opposition Prisoners." [Internet] [Accessed 8 Jan. 1999]

_____. 3 December 1998. "Local Rebellions: Taliban Send Heavy Reinforcements to North." [Internet] [Accessed 4 Dec. 1998]

_____. 2 December 1998. "Afghan Opposition Forces 'Largely Eliminated'." [Internet] [Accessed 3 Dec. 1998]

_____. 27 November 1998. "65 Taliban Dead, 150 Imprisoned: Masood Troops Claim Major Advance." [Internet] [Accessed 3 Dec. 1998]

_____. 29 October 1998. "Afghan Rivals Swap 106 Prisoners. [Internet] [Accessed 30 Oct. 1998]

_____. 7 October 1998. "Taliban Execute 3 of Their Soldiers." [Internet] [Accessed 7 Oct. 1998]

Deutshce Presse-Agentur (DPA). 8 August 1998. "Taleban Attack Key Afghan City Mazar-e-Sharif." (NEXIS)

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 14 September 1998. "UN Urged to Prevent More Killings as Taliban Offesnive Continues." [Internet] [Accessed 18 Feb. 1999]

Indiana University. 19 February 1999. Telephone interview with professor of Anthropology.

Interfax News Agency [Moscow, in English]. 3 August 1998. "Russia Voices 'Serious Concern' Over Developments in Afghanistan." (BBC Summary 5 Aug. 1998/ NEXIS)

The Middle East [London]. November 1998. "A Host of Hidden Agendas."

The News International [Karachi]. "Fighting Eases as 118 Afghan Opposition Prisoners Released." [Internet] [Accessed 7 Dec. 1998]

_____. 25 November 1998. "Taleban Claim Recapture Darzaab District." [Internet] [Accessed 25 Nov. 1998]

News Network International (NNI). 25 November 1998. "Taliban Face Dilemma in Northern Afghanistan." [Internet] [Accessed 25 Nov. 1998]

_____. 29 October 1998. "Uprising Against Taliban Intensifies in Northern Afghanistan." [Internet] [Accessed 29 Oct. 1998]

Portland University. 16 February 1999. Telephone interview with professor of Political Science.

Radio Pakistan [Islamabad, in English]. 27 January 1999. "Radio Pakistan Reports Fierce Fighting in Northwest Afghanistan." (BBC Summary 28 Jan. 1999/NEXIS)

Radio Voice of Shari'ah [Kabul, in Pashto]. 16 January 1999. "Taleban Release Opposition Prisoners for End of Ramadan." (BBC Summary 18 Jan. 1999/NEXIS)

TASS. 3 August 1998. "Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan Discuss Afghan Crisis." (NEXIS)

The Times Atlas of the World. 1994. Ninth edition. New York, NY: Times Books, Random House.

The Tribune [Chandigarh]. 6 December 1998. "Taliban Release 118 Prisoners." [Internet] [Accessed 7 Dec. 1998]

_____. 10 November 1998. "Taliban Ready For Truce." [Internet] [Accessed 10 Nov. 1998]

Voice of America (VOA). 29 October 1998. Sarah Horner. "In Afghanistan, the Taleban and the Northern Alliance..." [Internet] gopher:// [Accessed 29 Oct. 1998]