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Information gathered by Human Rights Watch indicates that assaults on women also featured in the Taliban’s takeover of Mazar-i Sharif. Although the Taliban in general have, in contrast to most of the opposition parties, refrained from assaulting and raping women during their military campaigns, Human Rights Watch received consistent reports that young women were abducted by the Taliban from a number of neighborhoods in Mazar-i Sharif and that their whereabouts remain unknown. While such abductions do not appear to have been widespread, certain neighborhoods appear to have been targeted. Human Rights Watch was not able to locate witnesses who were willing or able to describe specific incidents in detail, but we believe the allegations are serious enough to warrant special attention in any formal investigation into assaults on civilians during the takeover of Mazar-i Sharif.

A witness living in Kamaz camp stated that some of the Taliban took away young women from the camp at the same time that they were arresting men. She knew of four or five girls who were taken from the camp, all in their early twenties. A witness from the neighborhood of Karte Ariana told Human Rights Watch that she had seen teen-age girls in the area being pushed into the Taliban's Pijaro cars and taken to an unknown destination.

A male medical student who worked and lived in one of the city hospitals for twenty days straight after the takeover stated that he saw one rape case during that time. A Hazara woman, who was a nurse, and her sister had walked to the hospital from Ali Chopan.

The nurse was in a very bad shape, she had sharp stomach pains. I could not examine her because the hospital was full of Talibs. This was a day before they segregated the hospital and put women in the children’s building. I just asked a few questions and finally she said that she was raped by the Talibs. She did not say which ones. We could not talk long with the Talibs watching. I could not do much, I just gave her analgesics.

Another witness described an encounter with a nurse who had been raped who may have been the same woman.

An acquaintance of ours came to our house seven or eight days after the takeover. She became ill in our house because she had taken over twenty pills to kill herself, I don’t know what kind. We called doctors from the neighborhood who gave her something to wash out her stomach. She lived in Ali Chopan, but her family was staying elsewhere, and she had gone back to check on the house when she was picked up by the Taliban. At first she did not want to tell us anything, but then she said that when she went to their house, the Talibs abducted her and locked her up in a house with twenty to twenty-five other young girls and women. They were raped every night. They were all Hazaras. She was the only one released. One Talib told her that now they are halal [sanctified], and she should go to his parents in Qandahar and wait for him to come and marry her. He gave her a pass and his own identity card and told her to go to the Taliban’s headquarters and from there to Qandahar, but instead she escaped.

The difficulties inherent in documenting such attacks on women are many. The refugees from Mazar-i Sharif are scattered throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rape victims are unlikely to seek medical attention unless their injuries are severe. The whereabouts of abducted women and girls remain unknown. Rape victims are often reluctant to report their assaults because of the shame and stigma that they may bear as a result. And Afghan women coping with upheaval and the loss of family members in particular may fear the added worry of being identified as rape victims. Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch received consistent and reliable reports of abuses against women. We thus underscore the need for an investigation that is prepared to examine the full range of reported violations, including sexual violence.

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