Background Briefing

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III. Threats and General Political Repression

Human Rights Watch has conducted research in Kabul and almost every region of Afghanistan, consisting of interviews with political organizers and candidates, women activists, voters, human rights monitors, teachers, university faculty, doctors, medical staff, local journalists, local government officials, and JEMB and UNAMA local and international staff. 

In almost every instance, interviewees have admitted that the political climate in Afghanistan remains factionalized and repressive, and that local military leaders—warlords—continue to post a serious threat to the free exercise of political rights. 

Of course, the situation is not uniform.  In some areas, partial governmental reform has been undertaken, and there are some promising openings around the country for independent political activity.  In Khost city, for instance, some civil society groups and political parties have been able to organize, and journalists generally operate without restrictions.6  And as noted in more detail below, in the city of Mazar-e Sharif, although the Jamiat and Junbish factions have taken control of most governmental offices, several publications, political parties, and civil society groups are operating largely freely, though they have faced some harassment.  And in Kabul itself, there is a large degree of political freedom and free publications, although many political organizers and journalists continue to censor themselves for fear of angering factional leaders. 

In most of the country, however, and especially rural areas, there remains a high degree of political repression, and politically active Afghans in every region reported that they regularly censor themselves for fear that they might face threats or violence at the hands of factional leaders.  The Taliban and other insurgent groups are still considered a serious threat in some southern and southeastern provinces, but most Afghans told Human Rights Watch they primarily fear threats and violence by local armed groups and militias—not the Taliban.  And many Afghans, including many women, told Human Rights Watch that they expect the situation to grow worse before the 2005 elections.

Regional Problems

Jalalabad and Eastern Areas

Human Rights Watch found serious problems in the east of the country.  In the eastern provinces of Nangahar and Laghman, including Nangahar’s capital, Jalalabad, Afghan militia forces remain under the de facto control of military commanders, including Hazrat Ali, who cooperates with U.S. and coalition forces operating in the area, and Haji Zahir, the son of the Haji Qadir, a former mujahidin commander and member of President Karzai’s cabinet who was assassinated in Kabul in 2002.

Hazrat Ali and Haji Zahir’s commanders throughout the Nangahar area operate criminal enterprises and continue to engage in numerous human rights abuses, including the seizure of land and other property, kidnapping civilians for ransom, and extorting money—as Human Rights Watch has previously documented.7  As noted below, U.S. and coalition forces continue to cooperate with these forces in operations against the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

The governor in Nangahar, appointed by President Karzai, Haji Din Mohammad, remains powerless to stop the worst effects of the factional abuses—even those of forces under Haji Zahir, who is allied with him and with the Karzai government.  Two of Hazrat Ali’s most infamous commanders, Commander Musa and Commander Sami (whose abuses have been documented by both Human Rights Watch and the AIHRC) have continued to operate with impunity.  Complaints about militia forces committing land seizures, car thefts, and arbitrary arrests continue to be collected by the AIHRC.8

Hazrat Ali and Haji Zahir’s forces have both been involved in political abuses, including past threats against Loya Jirga candidates and purchasing of votes.  Human Rights Watch received repeated and consistent evidence in 2002 and 2003 about Loya Jirga candidates being threatened during both conventions’ delegate elections, both directly by factional representatives and indirectly, for instance, by receiving anonymous threatening telephone calls.  UNAMA local staff reported during the 2003 election that several Loya Jirga candidates were intimidated by factional agents—some of whom were leaving bullets at the doors of candidates’ houses, or threatening notes.  One female candidate withdrew her candidacy in December 2003 after bullets were left in front of her house.  An Afghan UNAMA official explained that “[The threats are] so that they [the candidates] will understand the message and stay away from the political process.”9 

Political party organizers based in the east, especially women, continue to complain to Human Rights Watch, UNAMA, and the AIHRC about the factions’ dominance.  Most say that they expect the militia forces to instruct persons to vote for the candidate they ultimately support—whether it is a factional leader, or Karzai.  One organizer, O.S., said: 

During the previous two occasions when people had to choose their representatives, for the Loya Jirgas, they were forced or intimidated, in one way or another, to vote for certain individuals.  People had no freedom of expression and we had the worst form of oppression…If this situation continues and if the powers of warlords such as Hazrat Ali here [in Nangahar] are not curtailed, the elections will mean nothing.  People will see them as an effort to perpetuate the current power arrangements and not as a golden opportunity to get rid of some of the bad people now in power. 

In politics here today whatever the gunmen want ultimately happens. We don’t know what kind of democracy this is.10

The UNAMA official also believed that there would be abuses during both elections:

Elections are being held in an atmosphere of near complete lack of rule of law. Warlordism has grown stronger and they [the local factions] are now attempting to sabotage the process of democratization so they can stay in power.  The rule of the gun continues, and warlords and lower and mid-level commanders continue to commit human rights violations with impunity.11

In late September, AIHRC began receiving complaints from sources in Jalalabad that local commanders under Hazrat Ali and Haji Zahir were intimidating local elders, warning them to vote for their preferred candidate—for some commanders, Yunis Qanooni; for others, Karzai.12

To be sure, several political parties are now operating in Jalalabad city—some deeply opposed to the local factions or to Karzai.  Some have even been able to hold public rallies.  The commanders have not attempted to dominate completely the political process and stop all independent activity. 

But the overall atmosphere in the east is still clearly marked by fear.  Those who organize remain fearful of criticizing the authorities.  Party leaders can make critical remarks about President Karzai and about warlordism generally, but they still appear to be afraid of openly criticizing local factional leaders by name.  Moreover, many do not feel that can operate openly outside of the city. 

Several independent leaders in Jalalabad said they were afraid to give public interviews to Human Rights Watch or the media.

“The security situation is very bad,” one organizer, I.M.S., told Human Rights Watch. 

Without making it safer for ordinary Afghans to engage in political mobilization, there can hardly be any chances of holding democratic elections…They [the military factions] have a track record of ruling by gun—and with a vengeance—so we do not expect them to become full-scale democrats overnight.

I.M.S. said he expected both the October 9 elections and next year’s parliamentary elections to be dominated by the factional leaders:

In fact, the elections for the parliament will be worse because, in the absence of credible DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of militia forces] and international peacekeepers, the warlords will yet have another chance to terrorize their unarmed political rivals, and the general public.13

Threats and harassment have occurred though the year.  In November 2003, after receiving threats my mail at her office, a women’s rights activist was stopped in front of her home in Jalalabad by three gunmen in a car, likely under Hazrat Ali’s command.14  Around June 2004, a human rights NGO researcher was arrested by Sami, a relative of Hazrat Ali, and interrogated by him and approximately seven or eight other police, who asked the researcher, among other things, what he was doing in Jalalabad, who he worked for, and what kind of information he was gathering.  He was released after a few hours, after UNAMA officials intervened and high level government officials called Hazrat Ali from Kabul.15

Afghan journalists based in Nangahar told Human Rights Watch in June and August of specific threats made against them by factional commanders after they wrote critical stories about military and police forces in Jalalabad, and about being threatened not to report on news stories involving abuses by local Afghan forces.16

Human Rights Watch received evidence that at least two openly active political parties and their members have faced threats in Jalalabad in 2004: the Nehzat Hambastegi Melli of Sayyid Ishaq Gilani, and the Afghan Millat party and Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi (a Karzai supporter and the head of the Afghanistan Central Bank).  According to credible sources who refused to be identified for security reasons, posters of Gilani’s party were illegally torn down in April by local police forces and some of the persons displaying them were threatened not to display them in the future.  Around the same time, anonymous letters were distributed in Surkh Rod district in Nangahar alleging Ahadi was a “western crony” and warning locals not to associate with the Millat party or “otherwise face consequences.”17

Gilani and Ahadi are well-established and powerful political figures in Afghanistan. The fact that their parties are facing harassment suggests that the conditions facing smaller parties are likely even worse.  Human Rights Watch confirmed that as of August, some political parties are still organizing clandestinely in Jalalabad, afraid of the local factions.18

Some organizers in the east have already given up.  Human Rights Watch interviewed some politically active men and women from the east who had stopped organizing altogether or decided there was no point in standing as candidates in the parliamentary elections.  One activist described the hopelessness of the political scene as he saw it: 

Suppose I want to be a candidate [for parliament] and have the best of the credentials, backed by extensive popular support.  I can never expect to win against [for instance] the brother of a local commander, who can intimidate everybody, and will eventually win by using a mix of intimidation and purchasing votes.19

The presence of a local PRT, operated by the United States, has done little to improve the situation.  The PRT has helped the overall security situation, and some progress has been made on disarming local militias and cantoning heavy weapons.  PRT representatives have also intervened to assist vulnerable groups and persons in some cases.  But several Afghans in the east told Human Rights Watch they were skeptical about the relationship between U.S. forces stationed in the east and Hazrat Ali and Haji Zahir.  According to several sources, sub-commanders around Nangahar have threatened locals that they can be arrested and sent by U.S. troops to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba if they do not comply with their demands.  O.S., quoted above, told Human Rights Watch:

One of the major sources of power and authority for Hazrat Ali and his gang is his close relations with the U.S. military and intelligence.  He has successfully used this relationship to harm and intimidate his political rivals. He has arrested people and constantly threatens them with sending them to Guantanamo. Al-Qaeda has become a source of blackmail in the hands of these individuals.20

Several districts in the east have also suffered from irregularities during the voter registration process.  The joint UNAMA and AIHRC political rights verification team in the east received complaints in July about government officials in Jalalabad city and Shinwar district confiscating voting cards by force, presumably to use for nominating political candidates in the future.  The team also documented cases of commanders in Laghman province, near Jalalabad, pressuring local mullahs to issue directives that women could not register to vote.21

Of course, all of the problems outlined above have been exacerbated by ongoing threats against the election process by insurgent Taliban and other anti-government forces operating in the east.  A prominent woman government official traveling with supporters by car was attacked on a road outside Jalalabad on July 13, 2004.22  Insurgent groups have continued to carry out attacks on election workers, aimed at intimidating voters and election workers—including a June 25 attack on a bus carrying female elections workers near Jalalabad which killed three and wounded several others.23  

Mazar-e Sharif and Northern Provinces

The northern city of Mazar-e Sharif has a relatively freer political environment, but there are still major problems in rural areas around the city and some abuses in the city by military factions.  For the most part, military, police, and intelligence forces in the north are allied with the leader of the Junbish faction, General Rashid Dostum, or to a lesser degree with the Jamiat-allied commander Atta Mohammad or the Hezb-e Wahdat commander Mohammad Mohaqqiq.  (For more on these factions, see Appendix A.) 

All three of these forces have been implicated in widespread abuses against ethnic Pashtun villagers in the north in the wake of the Taliban’s defeat in 2001, as Human Rights Watch has documented in a previous report.24  All three—and especially the forces of General Dostum—continue to engage in abuses.

Human Rights Watch has received recent evidence of forces in several districts engaging in land and property seizures, looting, and extortion or “per capita tax.”25  Abuses are reportedly particularly bad in the Junbish controlled districts of Jawzjan, Sar-e Pol, and Faryab, where local commanders have repeatedly defied the Karzai government and prevented Karzai’s appointed governors from taking up their posts.

The three factions are also engaging in ongoing political repression.  According to numerous observers with the joint UNAMA-AIHRC political rights verification team, as well as NGO and U.N. officials, Junbish, Jamiat and Wahdat (Mohaqqiq) commanders have already threatened local leaders to ensure that local populations vote as they command.26  Representatives from several areas confirmed this.27  The UNAMA-AIHRC team has also confirmed several cases of commanders using false pretenses or outright force to compel registered voters to hand over their cards to the factions, presumably so they could be photocopied for use in nominating factional candidates.28

JEMB, UNAMA, and AIHRC staff working in Sar-e Pol, Faryab, Jawzjan, and Samangan provinces confirmed cases of voter card confiscation and of local leaders being instructed how to vote.29  Observers familiar with Samangan said that the local commander there, Ahmed Khan, would deliver votes for Junbish, while in Sar-e Pol the votes would be controlled by a local warlord there, Commander Kamal.30  A politically active organizer from Jawzjan, describing the abuses there, said the local Junbish commander there, Commander Fakeer, would likely control the process.  He added that most voters and organizers were unable to publicly complain about the situation or raise confirms with media or observers:

In Jawzjan, everyone says they support Dostum in public.  In private they know he has done many criminal things and buried many people in the ground.  So they say one thing in public and another thing in private.  They say they support Dostum but really they despise him.31

Observers also expressed concern to Human Rights Watch that Jamiat and Wahdat commanders in the north would threaten or bribe local elders and voters in rural areas they control, to ensure they would vote as told.32

Numerous staff and officials in the AIHRC and UNAMA political rights verification team stated that in most villages people would vote as told.  And NGO workers conducting election awareness programs say that most voters simply did not understand the secrecy of the ballot.  One trainer told Human Rights Watch, “In seminars, we emphasize a lot, that if commanders give you money say, yes, you will vote for them, but when you go in the voting room, do what you like.  Vote according to your heart.”33  But in most areas, voters have not received adequate information about voting, do not believe the ballots are really secret, or simply do not understand the concept of secret ballots.  “In the villages, there are serious problems,” said one official.  “Some Afghans understand what their political rights are, but others don’t, and will vote as theiy’re told to vote.”  A senior official in UNAMA said:

In many villages, people will follow their elders and vote as the elders tell them.  The factions have spies and representatives who can pay the elders in all these areas and can figure out what is going on, and easily verify what the elders say and do.  Junbish’s intelligence agents are especially good at this.  When the elders are given a choice—taking a little money or risking their life, the elder will take the money.  Even Karzai could benefit from this system.  Since some of the Jamiat commanders in this area will probably support him, their intimidation will get him votes.34

Even in the city of Mazar-e Sharif, where political parties and journalists have been freer to organize, problems persist.  Several parties non-aligned with the factions have local representatives in the north, but these parties keep a relatively low profile.  Several party representatives told Human Rights Watch that they were harassed by factions in 2002 and 2003, threatened with death if they publicly criticized faction leaders.  Party leaders said they could not criticize local factional leaders openly now, and that if they did, their lives would be in danger. 

S.S., a local civil society organizer, told Human Rights Watch:

There is no political freedom here because people are afraid.  In the past, the commanders committed many crimes against the people.  If I asked publicly, for instance, on a local television show, “Why aren’t Mohaqqiq, Dostum, and Malik [an autonomous commander west of Mazar-e Sharif] arrested and put on trial, the commanders would kill…There is no real policing here.  Anyone can kill anyone at any time, and the crimes would never be solved.35

“Outspokenness can only lead to assassination,” a U.N. political rights verification official in Mazar told Human Rights Watch.36 

An Afghan journalist who earlier faced threats from both Jamiat and Junbish forces for critical reporting on abuses, summed up the atmosphere of fear:

They say: “Nobody has been killed, nobody has been arrested, nobody has been threatened.”  Why?  Because nobody is challenging the factions.  Everybody knows that they will be—be killed, arrested, or threatened—if they do.37

Even supporters of Karzai are afraid.  The same journalist said that he had attempted to interview several supporters of President Karzai who refused to speak openly to him for fear they would face threats: “The spokesman for one party told me:  ‘If I talk to you, my life will be in danger.’”

Women have also faced abuses and harassment.  In March, Massouda Jilal was prevented from speaking at Balkh University in Mazar-e Sharif by the dean of the University, Habibullah Habib.  She was also barred from speaking at an Afghan New Year celebration at the central shrine in Mazar-e Sharif, the Rowza Hazrat Ali, though government officials and other potential political candidates spoke, including Defense Minister Fahim.38

Women organizers based in the north told Human Rights Watch that the local atmosphere was politically stifling and threatening, and said they would face threats if they challenged local leaders.  One woman, who was investigating a humanitarian aid project for women whose center had been taken over by local leaders, was threatened by telephone repeatedly in April 2004 and had to flee the country temporarily.39  It is possible that some politically active women in the north have joined various factions, Wahdat, Junbish, Jamiat—even those women who might be wary of the factions’ militarization—believing that they might be able to pursue their political aims from within those parties.40

A politically active woman from Kunduz said the elections would be marked by abuses, and blamed the poor political situation on failures to disarm militia leaders in the north:

I do not think the elections will be very fair.  It will be unfair, because the DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration] has failed in Afghanistan.  Some guns were collected from people but that was symbolic, not real.  These elections will also be symbolic, not real.  It will just teach them about what elections are, but it will not be real.41


The human rights and political situation has been particularly poor in the western province of Herat.  Human Rights Watch has previously reported extensively on political abuses in Herat and has called repeatedly on the Afghan government and its international supporters to make better efforts to stop abuses there by the local governor, Ismail Khan, and to remove him if the situation did not improve.42  These calls went unheeded through 2003 and for most of 2004.  Ismail Khan continued to maintain his own governmental administration in Herat, and defied the Karzai government repeatedly, refusing to allow local Karzai appointees to take up positions in Herat city and disobeying several of Karzai’s decrees on customs revenue. 

Human Rights Watch received consistent and repeated testimony through August 2004 that local military, police, and intelligence forces under Ismail Khan were continuing to threaten independent political activity and stifle free speech.

On September 11, 2004, Karzai appointed a new governor for Herat, Sayed Mohammad Khairkwa, and relieved Ismail Khan of his post (the United States had apparently refused to support a 2003 plan by Karzai to remove Ismail Khan).  The same day the new governor took office, September 12, supporters of Ismail Khan attacked, looted, or burned five U.N. offices, including the headquarters of UNAMA, and AIHRC.  The situation has stabilized, but Ismail Khan still controls some militia forces around Herat, and it is unclear who holds real power in Herat.

Khairkwa has already promised changes to improve political rights, but it is too soon to judge whether he has either the will or ability to allow this to happen.  In any case, an overall sense of political freedom can hardly be created in four weeks before an election, particularly with Ismail Khan still resident in the city. 

The repression in Herat under Ismail Khan over the last two-and-a-half years, and continuing worries about his presence in Herat, mean that many would-be political actors have good reasons to fear open and active involvement in politics.  Since he was installed in power, Ismail Khan has not allowed political parties to organize or meet freely.  Ismail Khan blocked two political parties from opening offices there and harassed a youth group that was attempting to organize politically.  There were some small successes: The U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) started a political party capacity-building project in Herat, and a handful of parties had started to use their facilities and attend training.  But the overall atmosphere remained stifling through 2004.

A political rights verification official in Herat described the environment before Ismail Khan was fired: “There is a natural engrained fear that already exists because of past repression.  I have found a lot of reluctance, a lot of fear.”43  A senior UNAMA official said the same:  “Herat is the worst area.  There is nothing there, no political freedom, no free expression, no political activity.”44

Specific complaints were made to UNAMA and AIHRC officials in July that Ismail Khan’s officials in at least two districts confiscated registration cards from voters, presumably to photocopy them for later use in nominating candidates for president or parliament.45  Said Hossain Hossaini, one of Ismail Khan’s officials in Herat and the director of the Labor and Social Affairs office, also repeatedly threatened female teachers and other government workers in June, telling them they would have to vote as he instructed in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections or they would be dismissed.  He also forced them to give him their voter registration cards.46

While Ismail Khan had publicly supported the right of women to vote, he and his forces threatened and harassed politically active women.  Several activist women were forced to flee Herat, and one woman who was planning to run for parliament faced so much harassment from Hossaini and Ismail Khan that she was forced to drop her plans for a candidacy.47

Not surprisingly, there has been little free media activity in Herat from 2002 to now.  An Afghan political verification official, speaking about the situation before Ismail Khan was fired, told Human Rights Watch: “There is little media freedom there, almost no independent newspapers.  Even stringers for international media have faced threats.”48  Human Rights Watch documented numerous specific cases over the last two years in which officials working under Ismail Khan threatened journalists.49  Journalists in Herat were continuing to face threats from Ismail Khan’s forces through August, and were regularly refraining from reporting stories which might get them into trouble with the authorities—for instance, stories about local corruption or troops engaging in human rights abuses.50

It is still unclear what effect Ismail Khan’s dismissal will have.  Several sources in Herat have told Human Rights Watch that most activists are not yet comfortable politically, still fearful that Ismail Khan can, somehow, return to power.

Kandahar and the Southern Provinces

The security situation in Kandahar and southern areas continues to suffer from ongoing attacks by Taliban and other insurgent groups.  The insurgents, using roadside bombs, grenade attacks, and ambushes, have killed scores of aid workers, election workers, and local government staff, as well as international coalition personnel.  Many rural areas remain “no-go zones” in which military operations continue against the insurgent groups.  Pamphlets and so-called “night letters” are being left in many areas, presumably issued by the Taliban, threatening residents not to vote.  Many voters fear continuing attacks during both the October 9 election and next year’s parliamentary election.  Because of security concerns, Human Rights Watch could not travel in many parts of this region and cannot report in great detail about Taliban abuses.

Abuses are not only carried out by the Taliban.  There are also problems with local commanders and factions allied with the government.  In the Kandahar area and southern provinces, the main military commanders from Pashtun Durrani subtribes—the Popalzais (the tribe of the Karzai family); the Alikozai, the Noorzai, and the Barakzais—continue to dominate both military and police forces and local politics.  Numerous and separate sources in Kandahar, including political organizers, journalists, and U.N. and Afghan human rights monitors, told Human Rights Watch in August that local commanders and leaders have intimidated or threatened political organizers who do not support Karzai’s candidacy.51

Some political activities have been allowed in Kandahar, but persons who have spoken critically about Karzai or the Kabul government have been threatened afterwards.  Political party representatives in Kandahar told Human Rights Watch about receiving anonymous telephone calls after they criticized local leaders or Karzai, threatening them with death if they did not support Karzai.52  Party workers said that they must organize in secret to avoid harassment, or not engage in open activities critical of the local factions.  As in other areas, many organizers told Human Rights Watch they avoided critical activities that might put them in danger.53

Human Rights Watch also received reports in September that Commander Muzaffruddin, a military official in Wardak province, called a meeting of elders in Wardak during the week of September 13-17 and warned them to vote for Karzai.  According to an observer in the joint political rights verification project: “He told them, ‘If you don’t vote for Karzai, and then something happens to you, it will be your responsibility.’  To the elders it was a threat, a clear threat.”54

Several observers said they expected local forces in Kandahar to use their influence during the presidential election to ensure people voted for Karzai, and would then use the same tactics to ensure that their representatives are elected to the parliament in 2005.  A journalist in Kandahar, familiar with the political situation, told Human Rights Watch:

There is an atmosphere of fear in Kandahar.  If you take part in political activity against the authorities you will face threats.  A lot of people who have some popularity—for instance, people from important families—will nonetheless not put themselves forward as candidates because of the warlords.  If they put themselves on the ballot for election, their lives will be in danger.  Today, six months before the parliamentary elections, I can tell you that across the nation the main candidates will be warlords or people supported by warlords.55

Officials with the UNAMA-AIHRC political rights verification team project in Kabul offered a similar assessment.56

Women candidates, who are already struggling against societal and cultural biases, are also facing problems from the factions.  A politically active woman planning to run for parliament told Human Rights Watch that she had been threatened several times and expected further harassment in the future:

[Before,] because of my independent pro-democracy and monarchist stand [support for the former King Zahir Shah], I was threatened many times, mostly through anonymous telephone calls.  When I formally announce my candidacy for the parliamentary elections, I am sure that I will be pressured.  I feel that I will face a lot of intimidation from those people whose power comes from the barrels of their guns.  In the past the local administration here, including Karzai’s brother, applied pressures to direct the political process in a certain way, and I do not expect that will change.57

Human Rights Watch also interviewed several female election workers, who expressed frustration at the poor security situation in Kandahar and said that threats of Taliban violence and rivalries between local commanders were impeding civic education and voter registration efforts.  The insecurity, they said, had had a particularly negative impact on the registration of women.  And according to JEMB data, the levels of female registration in southern provinces are particularly low—especially in the southern provinces of Uruzgan and Zabul, where levels were lower than 10 percent.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented repression by local commanders in southern provinces during the 2002 and 2003 Loya Jirgas.58  It appears that the past abuse has served as an effective warning to politically active Afghans not to organize now against the factions in Kandahar.

Central Highlands

Political problems are reported in the central regions of Afghanistan as well, although not as serious as in other areas.  Human Rights Watch heard several complaints that commanders allied with Wahdat and Harakat factions and sub-factions have generally dominated the local political scene, ensuring that they control voting blocs for the presidential candidates Mohammad Mohaqqiq and Karim Khalili.59 

Numerous international and Afghan observers told Human Rights Watch that human rights conditions were especially poor in Dai Kundi and Sharistan districts, where numerous complaints have been made with both UNAMA and President Karzai about local commanders allied with Karim Khalili, a member of President Karzai’s cabinet and Karzai’s choice as candidate for second vice-president. 

According to political party representatives and U.N. officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch, the military forces under two commanders, Arif Dawari and Abdul Ali Touran, linked with Khalili are implicated in extortion, land and property seizures, arbitrary arrest and detention, disappearances; murders, physical assault and intimidation, and sexual abuse of women.  They have also clashed with other factions.60  A U.N. security officer described the situation in Sharistan and Dai Kundi to Human Rights Watch as a “human rights nightmare.”61  U.N. and Afghan human rights monitors have gathered evidence of the abuses and presented complaints to Afghan officials in Kabul, but—according to international officials—Khalili blocked efforts to sideline the commanders.62

According to reports received by Human Rights Watch, confirmed with international observers in the region, in June some of Dawari’s men severely beat up a Sharistan representative of the Labor and Development Party, a political party which opposes Dawari and his faction, and ransacked and closed the party’s local office in Sharistan.63  Two other party members were harassed and pushed around by troops.

Kabul and Surrounding Areas

The Kabul area, and the nearby cities of Gardez and Khost to the southeast and the city of Kunduz to the north, has fewer problems than most other areas.  Political parties are organizing and opening offices in Kabul, and numerous independent and critical newspapers are operating (although not entirely freely, as shown in more detail below).  Women activists and political organizers especially enjoy greater freedoms than in other areas, and have been able to meet in open forums and organize freely.

However, there are still major causes for concern.  Several political parties and journalists have told Human Rights Watch about ongoing threats and harassment (in addition to fears of attacks on the election process by Taliban and other insurgent forces).  Several presidential, vice-presidential, and potential parliamentary candidates have received anonymous death threats by telephone telling them not to challenge factional leaders or “the mujahidin.”64  (More information on threats to presidential candidates is listed in the following section.)

As in other areas, election observers are concerned that voters may not understand or believe in the secrecy of the ballot.  And there are signs that tribal elders in rural areas, under threat or in agreement with military factions, are ordering people how to vote—for instance, for Yunis Qanooni or Karzai.  On September 22, representatives of the Terezai tribe in Paktia province recorded a threatening announcement for local Khost radio in which a representative stated:  “All Terezai tribespeople should vote for Hamid Karzai . . . if any Terezai people vote for other candidates, the tribe will burn their houses.”65

Political organizers and journalists have made numerous complaints about Sayyaf’s Ittihad faction and the Jamiat-e Islami/Shura-e Nazar/Nehzat-e Melli faction in particular.  In one case, R.G., a politically active writer and critic in Kabul, until recently, published critical articles and took part in political meetings in Kabul.  But he started receiving threats and warnings from friends that he was to be targeted for assassination by Sayyaf’s Ittihad faction: 

A friend came to me and told me: ‘You will be a target soon.  We have learned from several sources that assassins are assigned to kill you.  Stop your articles, stop your writing, stop your advocacy.’”66 

R.G. confirmed the threat against him from other sources as well.  He has since toned down his activities and is writing articles anonymously:  “I do not write articles under my name anymore…I have no power against these people.”67 

Another writer told Human Rights Watch that he could not publish some of his articles, critical of commanders like General Fahim, even in Kabul’s freest newspapers.  He said one editor asked him, rhetorically: “Do you want to get us all killed?”68 

Many complaints have been made by political organizers about anonymous death threats made by telephone, in most cases believed to be from troops or police associated with the dominant factions in Kabul—Jamiat, Shura-e Nazar, and Ittihad.  One organizer, E.H., said he has received about “twenty or thirty” threatening calls in the last few months from people he suspects are members of factions, likely Jamiat or Ittihad.  He described a typical call: 

People call me on the phone, people I don’t know.  A few months ago, for instance, someone called me…The person on the phone threatened me, and said, “This is the call of death.  [Zang ga marg.]  You should get out of Kabul in 24 hours.”…They say things like, “Why are you doing what you’re doing?  Why do you oppose the mujahidin?  Why are you writing articles calling us warlords?  These articles are endangering your life.”  These threats are from people who can’t even come to see me.  They don’t have the balls to do anything.  But I worry about Paktia [his home province].  In rural areas I carry a pistol with me.69

In another case, unidentified gunman fired gunshots into the window of a woman activist’s home in Kabul after she had made several public statements criticizing military commanders in and around Kabul, calling for greater political participation of women in Afghan politics, and condemning several incidents of rape near Kabul and cases of trafficking of women.  She plans to continue her activities, as she told Human Rights Watch:  “To fear losing your life is part of living in this country.”70

Other organizers are pushed to curtail or stop their work.  Human Rights Watch interviewed one prominent organizer in Kabul who had gone into hiding after various threats made against him—he believes by Ittihad and the Jamiat or Shura-e Nazar military commanders.71

Even officials in the government are at risk.  In early August, military troops entered by force into the Kabul home of O.L.K., a senior official in the Ministry of Information and Culture, to harass, arrest or possibly kill him.  Based on interviews with witnesses, Human Rights Watch believes the troops belonged to Sayyaf’s Ittihad faction.  O.L.K. himself said:

It was Sayyaf’s men.  This was after I had written [an article].  I wrote that the coalition with the warlords is killing chances of democratization in Afghanistan, and killing human rights.  I wrote about Kabul ten years ago, about how Sayyaf had destroyed Kabul, killed 65,000 civilians, and about how his troops had forced young women into marriages.72

O.L.K said he had started carrying an automatic pistol with him, though he had never owned a gun before.  While showing the pistol to a Human Rights Watch researcher in his office in a government building, he explained: “I have to protect myself.  I don’t know who might come through that door.”73

Everyone fears these people [“gunman” and “factions”].  Everyone knows that DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of militia forces] must begin; otherwise there will be no freedom, no democracy.74

The harassment of high-level government officials has ripple effects, contributing to an atmosphere of fear.  As one well-known journalist told Human Rights Watch, “When a minister doesn’t have the right to freedom of expression, what about me?”75

Security of Presidential Candidates

Human Rights Watch spoke with several of the non-aligned presidential and vice-presidential candidates, unconnected to the dominant factions in Kabul.  Many voiced concerns about their safety in the lead-up to the elections—both from attacks by Taliban and other insurgent groups and from warlord factions—and said that they felt their protection was inadequate, even in Kabul.  The Ministry of Interior was supposed to provide security for the candidates, but many did not receive any guards for weeks after they declared their candidacies.  In any case, some said they had little faith that police could protect them from either the Taliban attacks or threats from factional groups.

Massouda Jilal and her supporters have faced harassment in some districts and received threatening telephone calls in Kabul.  Dr. Nelab Mubarez, a female vice-presidential candidate with the presidential candidate Homayoun Shah Assefy, told Human Rights Watch in August that she had significant fears about her security.76

Another candidate, Latif Pedram, told Human Rights Watch that specific threats were made against him by Sayyaf’s Ittihad faction.  Sayyaf clearly does not like Pedram, either because Pedram embraces relatively liberal political views or because he maintained connections in the 1980s to the communist government before joining the mujahidin.  Sayyaf issued a letter around April 2004 to Ittihad members stating that Pedram was an infidel.  Pedram told Human Rights Watch that Ittihad troops have come to his office twice and harassed his supporters.77  Pedram told UNAMA staff in September that he fears driving through parts of Kabul and nearby areas which are in the control of commanders and police officials loyal to Sayyaf.78

In late August, judges allied with Sayyaf on Afghanistan’s Supreme Court wrote to the JEMB, demanding that Pedram be disqualified as a candidate because of remarks he made to the effect that polygamy was incompatible with social justice for women, which the court claimed were blasphemous.  The JEMB did not respond, and they received another letter in mid September demanding that they implement the Supreme Court’s order.  The JEMB responded by questioning the legal grounding of the Supreme Court’s demand.  The affair may not proceed further, but the incident serves as another indicator of how factions in government can use their power and influence to try to stifle free political activity.

President Karzai is also still in danger.  He continues to be guarded by private foreign security guards—a sign they he does not trust Afghan guards who could be provided, either because they could be infiltrated by Taliban agents or by agents of factional leaders.  On September 5, 2002, he narrowly avoided being shot in an assassination attempt in Kandahar.  On August 29, 2004, a bomb exploded in front of the American private security company, DynCorp, which provides bodyguards for Karzai, killing three DynCorp staff.  More recently, on September 16, 2004, a rocket was fired at a compound in Gardez as Karzai’s helicopter was approaching for landing, causing his trip to be cancelled.

Structural Electoral Problems

Human Rights Watch uncovered significant shortcomings in the registration and election administration process, as well as with international monitoring efforts.


The registration of voters in Afghanistan is being widely touted inside and outside of Afghanistan as a success, as up to 11 million people are expected to register by election day, including refugees in Iran and Pakistan.  But the overall numbers are almost certainly inaccurate.  As the non-governmental organization Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) noted in a recent report, the number of registered voters in several provinces is significantly larger than the estimated population of known eligible voters.79  While population estimates in Afghanistan, which are not based on a comprehensive census but on sampling and projected growth rates, are a source of controversy and differing opinion, the phenomenon of over-registration has occurred in several different areas in Afghanistan and exists even when measured against the highest population estimates for those areas.  No data is yet available to estimate the number of multiple registered voters, but many officials in UNAMA, JEMB, AIHRC and Afghan and international NGOs told Human Rights Watch that they believe the overall number of registered voters is vastly inflated.  Several election officials in Kabul told Human Rights Watch in late September that the number of Afghans expected to vote on October 9 could range as low as 5 to 7 million.80

Human Rights Watch, as well as other observers and journalists, have found that in most provinces it is easy to find men and women who admit that they have registered more than once.  The motives vary.  For instance, some students at Kabul University told Human Rights Watch they registered a second time in Kabul after registering in their home provinces earlier.  (One student said she got a second card because she did not like the photograph on her first one.)  Observers around Mazar-e Sharif told Human Rights Watch of women voters in rural areas who thought the voting card was a ration card, and registered multiple times believing they could get multiple rations of food aid.  UNAMA, JEMB, and AIHRC also received numerous complaints from provinces of people registering multiple times believing they could sell their cards to political parties, who would then presumably photocopy them for use in nominating candidates (a potential presidential candidate needs 10,000 photocopied voter cards; a parliamentary candidate needs 500).  It is also possible the factions themselves encouraged supporters to register multiple times, under different names, to obtain more cards, to use for nominations in the future.

The Afghan government has publicly underplayed the problem.  When asked about multiple registration at a press conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Kabul the August 11, Karzai said:

As a matter of fact, it doesn’t bother me.  If Afghans have two registration cards and if they would like to vote twice, well, welcome. This is an exercise in democracy.  Let them exercise it twice.  But it will not have an impact on the elections.  If somebody gives me three cards, I will take it and will go and vote.  But my choice in voting will be the same.  We are beginning an exercise.  We cannot be perfect.

He correctly noted later, at the end of the same press conference, that voters’ hands would be marked with an indelible ink when they voted, and that persons with ink already on their hands would not be allowed to vote again.

It is not clear how much multiple voting may occur on election day.  Voter registration is one safeguard against voter fraud, and the voting card one of the tools.  But now the only remaining safeguard left against multiple voting will be the marking of voters’ hands with indelible ink when they vote.  Unfortunately, there may be ways around this safeguard as well—from bribing officials to allow voters with marked hands to vote again to various methods allegedly available to remove the ink from voters’ hands on election day.

Monitoring and Election Administration

The presidential election is going forward with inadequate international election monitoring and staffing for polling sites.  The election is certain to be affected by a serious shortfall in staffing for the approximately 5,000 polling sites.  It was originally estimated that 125,000 staff would need to be hired.  As of early September, a month before the elections, almost 100,000 poll workers still had to be hired and trained—an essentially impossible task.

One senior international NGO official working on election monitoring issues told Human Rights Watch in late August:

We are 100,000 staff short.  The elections are only six weeks away and there is no polling manual.  It is a poor process.  You need knowledgeable officials in the polling stations.  If they get a challenge, will they have the knowledge and authority to resolve it?  Lots of people are complaining that their voter registration cards were taken from them…10 million voters registered, how many will show up?  8 million, 4 million?  We don’t know.  Are these inflated figures, will security play a role?  People don’t know.  There are rumors that the voter registration cards are food ration cards.  Are these elections really legitimate?81

As of the last week of September, hiring has accelerated, but election officials admitted to Human Rights Watch that it was likely that significantly fewer staff would be hired than the planned 125,000.82  There are certain to be serious problems at all polling sites that are understaffed or have poorly trained staff.

The staffing problem is especially acute with women.  Each polling site is supposed to have separate stations for women, staffed by female poll workers.  In September, the JEMB gave up on the goal of recruiting the adequate numbers of female staff (half of whom must be literate under election laws), and are now training and appointing elderly men to serve at some of the voting sites for women, on the theory that sensitivities about women mingling with men, in more conservative areas, will thereby be assuaged.  Nevertheless, given those same sensitivities, the shortfall in female staff could seriously undermine women’s ability to exercise their right to vote and participate equally in the election.

Monitoring efforts are also anemic.  UNAMA and AIHRC launched a joint project for “verification of political rights” in June and will monitor the political process through the October 9 election and next year’s parliamentary elections.  This project is not comprehensive, however: it involves less than one hundred staff.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was asked by the Kabul government to help monitor the elections, decided in late July that it could not send an observation team.  An OSCE Exploratory Mission Report by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concluded that “the present conditions in Afghanistan are significantly below the minimum regarded by OSCE/ODIHR as necessary for credible election observation…”  Remarkably, the report recommended that the OSCE should avoid observing the election because it was likely that the monitoring process would uncover substantial flaws and “challenge public and international confidence in the process.”  In essence, the OSCE concluded in advance it would be critical of the process and therefore decided not to send a monitoring team because the criticism might not be “fair, helpful, or constructive.”83

The European Union also decided against sending monitors for the presidential elections, although it will, like the OSCE, send a smaller representative team to observe a few limited posts, in urban areas, and not make a comprehensive report or observe on a national basis.

Part of the problem is security: ongoing threats by the Taliban and insurgents have forced international agencies to lessen their activities in Afghanistan.  But there is also a lack of will and leadership by the JEMB, UNAMA, and among U.S. and international actors in Kabul, to take the lead on organizing monitoring and observation effort.

In October, the final monitoring effort will consist of a patchwork of international observers sponsored by the Asia Foundation, various NGO observers, and representatives sent by various foreign embassies in Kabul.  Afghan observers from registered political parties will also monitor polling sites.  A coalition of Afghanistan-based NGOs are also attempting to organize and train hundreds of domestic poll-watchers; in any case, the observers can only cover about 10 to 20 percent of the approximately 5,000 polling sites and 25,000 polling stations.  The majority of stations will not be observed by independent monitors—Afghan or international.

Thus, the overall international election monitoring effort in Afghanistan for the October 9 elections will be severely shorthanded, and none of the diverse monitoring teams will be in a position to make a comprehensive evaluation. 

A senior JEMB official told Human Rights Watch:

There will be major flaws in the process, and everyone knows it.  The context of this election means that if a real up-to-snuff election observing mission were to come to monitor, this election would be seen as flawed.84 

The implications of this lack of monitoring are clear: In the absence of a proper evaluation, the election may be seen—erroneously—as a success.  No election in a country in transition, with such an international profile and so much international involvement––such as in Cambodia, El Salvador, South Africa––has ever had such an anemic monitoring effort.

[6] However, U.S.-led coalition forces have obstructed local journalists covering ongoing military activities in the Khost area.  A local stringer for Reuters and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was arrested by U.S. military forces in Khost city on September 8, 2004 and interrogated at Bagram military base about his journalistic sources.  (He was released the next day with an apology.)  Human Rights Watch interviews with BBC staff, Kabul, September 9 and 10, 2004.

[7] See “Killing You is a Very Easy Thing For Us”: Human Rights Abuses in Southeast Afghanistan, A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 15, no. 5 (C), July 2003, available at

[8] Human Rights Watch interview with AIHRC official, Kabul, September 23, 2004.

[9] Human Rights Watch interview with UNAMA local staff, Jalalabad, June 1, 2004.

[10] Human Rights Watch interview with O.S., political active leader, Jalalabad, May 31, 2004.

[11] Human Rights Watch interview with UNAMA local staff, Jalalabad, June 1, 2004.

[12] Human Rights Watch interview with AIHRC official, Kabul, September 23, 2004.

[13] Human Rights Watch interview with I.M.S., Jalalabad, June 1, 2004.

[14] Human Rights Watch interview with T.A., Jalalabad, August 29, 2004.

[15] Case report on file with Human Rights Watch.

[16] Human Rights Watch interview with H.J., journalist from Nangahar, Kabul, August 28, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with D.A., media producer managing staff in Jalalabad, August 12, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with A.L.P. and R.W., Afghan journalists from Nangahar, Kabul, August 5, 2003; Human Rights Watch interviews with group of local journalists, Jalalabad, June 1, 2004.

[17] Human Rights Watch interviews with I.E. and L.P.E., Jalalabad, May 31, 2004.

[18] Human Rights Watch interview with A.Q.M., political party leader, August 8, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with M.U., political party leader, Kabul, August 29.

[19] Human Rights Watch interview with N.G., political organizer, Jalalabad, June 1, 2004.

[20] Human Rights Watch interview with O.S., political active leader, Jalalabad, May 31, 2004.

[21] AIHRC-UNAMA Joint Verification of Political Rights, Second Report (July 8 to August 24, 2004), p. 5.

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with A.H., Kabul, August 23, 2004.

[23] “Third Afghan Woman Poll Worker Dies of Wounds,” Reuters, July 4, 2004; “Women Killed in Afghan Bus Attack,” BBC online, June 26, 2004.

[24] Se Human Rights Watch, “Paying for the Taliban's Crimes: Abuses Against Ethnic Pashtuns in Northern Afghanistan,” A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 14, no. 2(c), n. 13, available at

[25] Human Rights Watch interview with senior UNHCR officials, Kabul, August 19, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with L.Z., Afghan journalist who documented “per capita” tax in Sar-e Pol and Balkh, Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004; Human Rights Watch interviews with AIHRC-UNAMA political rights verification team officials, Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with R.G., community leader from Jawzjan, Kabul, August 10, 2004.

[26] Human Rights Watch interviews with AIHRC-UNAMA political rights verification team officials and staff, Mazar-e Sharif, August 15 and 16, 2004.

[27] Human Rights Watch interviews with group of local political party organizers from Jawzjan, Faryab, Sar-e Pol and Samangan, August 17, 2004.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Human Rights Watch interviews with local UNAMA staff, Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with JEMB staff from northern province, August 17, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with R.G., Kabul, August 10, 2004.

[30] Human Rights Watch interviews with UNAMA and AIHRC staff and officials, Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004.

[31] Human Rights Watch interview with R.G., Kabul, August 10, 2004.

[32] Human Rights Watch interviews with UNAMA and AIHRC staff and officials, Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004.

[33] Human Rights Watch interview with T.R., Mazar-e-Sharif, August 16, 2004.

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with UNAMA official, Mazar-e Sharif, August 15 and 16, 2004.

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with S.S., Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004.

[36] Human Rights Watch interview with UNAMA-AIHRC political rights verification team, Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with L.Z. Mazar-e Sharif, August 16, 2004.

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with Massouda Jilal, Kabul, August 13, 2004.

[39] Human Rights Watch interview with U.N. official, August 12, 2004 and Human Rights Watch interview with T.R., September 13, 2004.

[40] Human Rights Watch interviews with UNAMA officials, Mazar-e Sharif, August 15 and 16, 2004.

[41] Human Rights Watch phone interview with R.M., Kunduz, August 30, 2004.

[42] See Human Rights Watch, “All Our Hopes are Crushed”: Violence and Repression in Western Afghanistan, A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 14, no. 7(C), October 2002, available at; Human Rights Watch, “‘We Want to Live as Humans’: Repression of Women and Girls in Western Afghanistan,” A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 14, no 11(C), December 2002, available at

[43] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Joint Verification Team official in Herat, September 8, 2004.

[44] Human Rights Watch interview with UNAMA official, Kabul, August 3, 2004.

[45] AIHRC-UNAMA Joint Verification of Political Rights, First Report (June 15 – July 7, 2004).

[46]  Ibid., and Human Rights Watch interview with AIHRC staff, Kabul, August 3, 2004.

[47] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with AIHRC-UNAMA joint political rights verification official in Herat, September 8, 2004.

[48] Human Rights Watch interview with Joint Verification Team official, Kabul, August 1, 2004.

[49] Human Rights Watch has maintained regular telephone contact with several local journalists working in Herat over 2003 and 2004.

[50] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Z.A.M., Afghan journalist from Herat, August 26, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with F.S., Afghan journalist from Herat, Kabul, August 10, 2004; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Joint Verification Team official in Herat, September 8, 2004.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with N.M.J., political party representative, Kandahar, August 12, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with I.G., political party representative, Kandahar, August 12, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with U.T.K., political party representative, August 13; Human Rights Watch interview with A.G.; women activist, Kandahar, August 13, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with senior AIHRC official, Kabul, September 23, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with Afghan UNAMA staff, Kabul, September 23, 2004.

[52] Human Rights Watch interviews with party leaders and representatives, Kandahar, August 12 and 13, 2004.

[53] Human Rights Watch interviews with party leaders and representatives, Kandahar, August 12 and 13, 2004.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with UNAMA staff, Kabul, September 23, 2004.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with U.A., Afghan journalist, Kabul, August 3, 2004.

[56] Human Rights Watch interviews with UNAMA and AIHRC officials, Kabul, August 1 and 2, 2004.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with A.G., women activist and independent candidate, Kandahar, August 13, 2004.

[58] See “Afghanistan: Return of the Warlords, A Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, June 2002, at

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with A.H.D., representative from Dai Kundi, Kabul, August 12, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with G.H.H., AIHRC-UNAMA political rights verification staff from central highlands, Kabul, August 2, 2004; Human Rights interview with AIHRC staff, Kabul, August 1, 2004.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with senior U.N. officials, Kabul, August 19, 2004; e-mail correspondence with AIHRC-UNAMA political rights verification staff, September 2004.

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with a senior international security official stationed near Sharistan, Kabul, September 22, 2004.

[62] Ibid; Human Rights Watch interview with senior U.N. officials, Kabul, August 19, 2004; e-mail correspondence with AIHRC-UNAMA political rights verification staff, September 2004.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with A.H.D., senior official in the Labor and Development Party, August 12, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with a senior international security official stationed near Sharistan, Kabul, September 22, 2004.

[64] See section on presidential candidates below.

[65] A recording of the announcement was made by Agence France Presse; the representative also stated the same message to a local correspondent for BBC, adding that those who refused to vote for Karzai would be prevented from attending the weddings and funerals of fellow tribesman.  Human Rights Watch interview with BBC staff and officials in the AIHRC, September 25, 2004.

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with R.G., Kabul, August 10, 2004

[67] Ibid.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with F.S., Kabul, August 10, 2004.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with E.H., Kabul, August 9, 2004

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with M.T., Kabul, August 13, 2004.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with M.U., political party leader, Kabul, August 29, 2004.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with O.L.K., senior government official, Kabul, August 11, 2004.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with H.G., Kabul, August 23, 2004.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with Mubarez, Kabul, August 13, 2004.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with Latif Pedram, Kabul, August 17, 2004.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview with UNAMA staff, Kabul, September 23, 2004.

[79] Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, “Free, Fair or Flawed: Challenges for Legitimate Elections in Afghanistan,” September 2004, available at:

[80] Human Rights Watch interviews with UNAMA and NGO observation team officials, Kabul, September 22 and 23, 2004.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with D.L., August 26, 2004.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with JEMB officials, Kabul, September 21 and 22, 2004.

[83] Report of the OSCE/ODIHR Exploratory Mission to Afghanistan, July 21, 2004, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with senior JEMB official, Kabul, August 2004

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