The restrictions and intimidation documented here have severely affected the political and social environment of Herat and its neighboring provinces. Most residents in Herat city live in fear of authorities-either of arbitrary harassment or targeting because of some sort of disfavored conduct. The fear cuts through social and economic backgrounds, from university professors to bazaar shopkeepers. The stifling environment has shut down almost all political, social, and cultural activity-in short, nothing is happening.
Many people cited the arrest and beating of Rafiq Shahir, documented earlier in this report, as reason why they would not challenge the government or Ismail Khan. An educated Herati who had recently left Herat told Human Rights Watch:
When asked how one could be certain that one would be arrested if he or she criticized the government, the same person replied: "We know through our experience and deduction that if we throw ourselves in front of a high-speed train, we will be crushed, without a trace. But just because no one has been crushed yet, it doesn't mean that this is not still true."263
The pessimism was especially disheartening among youth. One student of journalism told Human Rights Watch that she had "given up":
An eighteen-year-old woman told a Human Rights Watch researcher: "I think it is too late for me. The government will change but not in time for me."265
262 Human Rights Watch interview with N.N., Kabul, September 22, 2002
264 Human Rights Watch interview with M.A., Herat, September 16, 2002.
265 Human Rights Watch interview with S.R., Herat, September 12, 2002.