Hazrat-i Sultan District
G.S. explained that the village had continuing problems with a local Junbish commander called Azim. According to G.S., Azim had looted some 500 sheep from the village when Junbish had controlled the area prior to the Taliban period. When the Taliban came to power, the villagers managed to recover seventy sheep from the brother of Azim, after Azim had fled the area. When Commander Azim returned following the fall of the Taliban, he forced the villagers to hand over seventy sheep to him. Commander Azim also came to the home of G.S., and took away 170 sers [1,200 kilograms] of wheat from his compound.141
Another commander, Najmuddin of Junbish, had also forced the villagers of Shurkul to hand over sheep. Commander Najmuddin came to Shurkul, and complained that a Taliban commander who lived in the neighboring village of Shuluktoo had severely looted Uzbeks. Because he could not find the Taliban commander, he demanded that the villagers provide fifty sheep: "We argued that he [Najmuddin] had to deal with [the Taliban commander]. But we were forced to hand fifty sheep to him."142
A., a female villager of Shurkul, told Human Rights Watch that when the Junbish soldiers came soon after the fall of the Taliban, they gathered many of the men of the village in one room and beat them: "When they came they collected all of the men and put them in a room, like they were jailed. ... They beat my husband so badly that they fractured his skull and [injured] his shoulder."143 Later, around December 20, 2001, about seven armed men came to the village in large Toyota Land Cruisers, and demanded 100 lakhs [about U.S. $140] before beating ten villagers: "Ten of the villagers were beaten with heavy cables and guns. Three of them were beaten so badly that they couldn't walk. They were sent to the hospital."144
On the morning of the Human Rights Watch visit, Junbish commander Mohammadi came to the home of an elder of Khoja Pirshan, A.H., with nine soldiers. He confiscated twelve sheep from A.H., and took them to the market in Aibak, the provincial capital, to sell. Ten days earlier, a second group of armed men had come to A.H.'s home and confiscated two cows.145
A second villager, B., told Human Rights Watch that Commander Mohammadi and some of his soldiers had come to his home four days earlier, demanding 300 lakhs [about U.S. $420]: "No reason was given. I said I was hungry, that I didn't even have enough money for my personal consumption." Unable to raise the money demanded, B. ultimately was forced to hand over some of his sheep to Commander Mohammadi.146
B. also explained that intimidation prevented the Pashtun villagers from participating in recent humanitarian aid distributions. A local Afghan NGO had been contracted to distribute international humanitarian aid in the region, but Pashtuns did not get their share. According to B.: "We have to go to the district center [to receive the aid]. A Pashtun man was on the list of beneficiaries. He went to the distribution point. He was arrested on the spot: the Uzbek soldiers said he was a Taliban, and didn't deserve assistance. No one feels like they can go there now."147
After receiving reports about abuses in the area of Aibak city, Human Rights Watch researchers visited two Pashtun villages located with an 8-kilometer radius of that city, Hassan Khel and Ghazi Mullah Qurban.
The extent of the looting was confirmed by M., a sixty-two-year-old female resident of Hassan Khel, who also described widespread beatings. She estimated that some 3,000 sheep and 200 cows and donkeys had been taken from the village, in addition to motorcycles, tractors, sewing machines, clothes, televisions, and radios: "We are like the displaced. Everything has been robbed from us, including our motorbikes, machines, sheep, and cows. We are from this area and this is our land, but we are now living like the displaced."149 M. also said that men continued to be arrested and beaten: "We don't know where the men disappeared to, but they come back and tell us they were beaten."150
Not only men in Hassan Khel suffered beatings: forty-six-year-old J.B. told Human Rights Watch that she had been taken from her home and beaten, together with her two sons: "I was taken outside the village and the men were beating me. They took my silver jewelry by force. They also beat up my two sons, who are aged sixteen and eighteen. I escaped when they brought another woman."151
According to S.G., Junbish troops had set up a permanent position in the village, and continued to harass the villagers. A number of young men had been arrested for "investigation" by Junbish troops. While some of the arrested men had been released after the paying of ransoms, at least three men from the village remained in Junbish custody.152
M.K. was one of the men arrested by the Junbish troops. In late December, he and a friend went to the market in town. When they were leaving the market, they were arrested by Uzbek soldiers. They were kept in detention for a week, beaten, and only released after they paid 500 lakhs in ransom:
M.K.'s twenty-five-year-old son was also arrested in a different village, Chawghay, where he spent two days in detention. "He was beaten a lot, with a stick, not a cable." The son had to pay 130 lakhs [about U.S. $180] to secure his release.154 The arrests and extortion were continuing even as Human Rights Watch was visiting the area: as the research team got ready to leave, an agitated man came up to report that his brother A.G. had just been arrested at the market by two armed men.155
Ghazi Mullah Qurban
Like many other villages visited by Human Rights Watch, Ghazi Mullah Qurban had been thoroughly looted. Most of the looting took place right after the fall of the Taliban, when most of the villagers fled to a neighboring Uzbek village out of fear of the Junbish troops. As explained by one woman in the village, sixty-year-old B.K., "During Ramadan, a [Junbish] commander came into the village, and we left our homes because we are Pashtuns. We went to an Uzbek village close by. All of the women and men left. They stole all of our things [while we were gone.]"157 According to villagers, at least three cars had been stolen from the village by a Junbish commander and were now being used by Junbish commanders.
140 Human Rights Watch interview with G.S., Shurkul, February 21, 2002.
143 Human Rights Watch interview with A., Shurkul, February 21, 2002. A., like many Afghans, uses only one name.
145 Human Rights Watch interview with A.H., Khoja Pirshan, February 21, 2002.
146 Human Rights Watch interview with B., Khoja Pirshan, February 21, 2002. B., like many Afghans, uses only one name.
148 Human Rights Watch interview with S.G., Hassan Khel, February 21, 2002.
149 Human Rights Watch interview with M. aged sixty-two, Hassan Khel, February 21, 2002. M., like many Afghans, uses only one name.
151 Human Rights Watch interview with J.B., aged forty-six, Hassan Khel, February 21, 2002.
152 Human Rights Watch interview with S.G., Hassan Khel, February 21, 2002.
153 Human Rights Watch interview with M.K., Hassan Khel, February 21, 2002.
155 Human Rights Watch interview with M.A., Hassan Khel, February 21, 2002.
156 Human Rights Watch interview with anonymous, Ghazi Mullah Qurban, February 21, 2002.
157 Human Rights Watch interview with B.K., aged sixty, Ghazi Mullah Qurban, February 21, 2002.