Soldiers and commanders in some areas are harassing or abusing persons to comply with restrictions on dress and social activities—vague “rules” based on conservative interpretations of Islamic law. These restrictions include extra limitations on women’s and girls’ freedom of movement and dress. These are detailed in section “Denial of Basic Freedoms to Women and Girls” below.
In two districts near Kabul city, Paghman and Shakar Dara, Human Rights Watch documented soldiers and police beating or arresting musicians playing at weddings, people playing cassettes, and people dancing. Several residents in Paghman district in particular complained about general restrictions on social activities there, especially weddings.281 “These gunmen don’t let the people even celebrate weddings,” said one.282 “They interfere in the ceremonies, and they don’t let the people sing or play music.”283 One resident brought up the problem while discussing the governor of Paghman, Zabit Musa, a subordinate of Sayyaf:
At Paghman center, the governor’s troops have gone into weddings and ordered the people not to listen to music or play music. Many people talk about this. . . . The musicians have been kicked out or arrested. Some grenades were thrown into one wedding—in Murgh-Giran [on the border between Paghman and Kabul city province].284
The resident said he witnessed Musa beating shopkeepers in the district center in early 2003 for listening to music on cassette players.285
[T]he governor of the district, Zabit Musa, who is an Ittihad commander under Sayyaf . . . went out with his troops to the bazaar, and went up to the shopkeepers who were listening to music, and broke their cassettes and beat them.
I was there—I saw the whole thing. It was morning. . . . He had three or four soldiers with him. When he got to the bazaar, he went toward some shopkeepers who were listening to tape recorders, to music, and he grabbed them and pulled them out of their shops.
He yelled at them: “Why do you listen to this music and with the volume so high?”
A shopkeeper said, “Well, it is not the time of the Taliban. It is our right to listen to music!”
But the governor got angry and he said, “Well, the Taliban is not here, but Islam is here. Shariat [Islamic law] is here. We have fought for Islam—this fight was for Islam. We are mujahid. We are Islam. We did jihad to uphold the flags of Islam.”
And then he took them out of their shops and started beating them with his own hands. He beat up two people himself, along with his troops, slapping them, kicking them. And the others were beaten just by the soldiers. Then they closed the shops, locked them.
Many people were there. It was not the first time these sorts of things had happened.286
A farmer in Paghman told Human Rights Watch about a wedding in October 2002 during which army troops loyal to Sayyaf and the governor of Paghman detained and beat musicians and guests, and abducted a young man (this aspect of the incident is discussed in the above section, “Rape of Boys”).287 The farmer described what happened:
[T]here was a wedding in Lachikhel [a village near Paghman center]. I went there with some friends. We were at the wedding party [for the men], and there was music and some dancing. Around twelve midnight, some soldiers came in, and they broke it all up.
The soldiers said they were looking for a member of the Taliban, but it soon became clear that was not the case:
There was this one young guy dancing, a handsome guy, and they grabbed him and started beating him up. And they also beat the groom, and the father of the groom, and some other wedding guests. . . .
They beat up the musicians, who had come from Kabul. They made them lie down, and put their noses on the ground, and swear that they would not come back to Paghman to play music. Then they destroyed their instruments. They destroyed the harmonia, and the drum, and the music drum.
The armed men dragged the young man out and reportedly took him to the governor’s house. Then the soldiers started to beat the other guests:
They took all the people at the wedding, and they made a list of the people, and the people who had connections with the soldiers were released. They beat the rest of us. They were kicking, punching, and hitting us with rifle butts. They also made a mockery of us, even the old men, yelling at us and humiliating us. The old men were beaten even worse than the others because, they said, “They should be more pious, because of their age.”
They made the groom and his father and his close family sit in the yard with other guests who were close to the family, and did not allow them even to lie down or sleep, but kept us there the whole night until the next morning.
The guests were detained at the house through the night, the witness told us. At 10:00 the next morning, the governor of Paghman district, Zabit Musa, arrived. He reportedly ordered younger men to be released, but chose to berate and beat the older men with “long beards”:
They let the young people go because they said to us, “You are exonerated. You are young and you like music—that’s all right. But these old people, they should pray instead of watching some young guy dancing.”
When it came to the old men—those who had long beards—they sent them back into the yard. And after that, the governor entered the yard, and he beat these old men again.
He made them stand in a line, and he walked down the line, looking at each in the face. He would look at them like he was deciding, and then he would start slapping them in the face. And as he slapped them, he would say things like, “Be ashamed of your acts! Look at your beard! At your age, how old you are! You should be ashamed!” And so as he beat them, he insulted them with bitter words.
Another old man who was present and said he was beaten confirmed this account.288
The younger farmer noted: “It had been the first time there was music in Paghman in a long time. There was no music when the Taliban was in power.”289 He said that the incident had angered many residents in Paghman:
The majority of the people hate the governor, and his meanness, and his people. They are hypocrites. They have weddings! They have music at their weddings! But they prosecute us for having the same. Well, perhaps we disagree about whether Islam allows music at a wedding , but look: they have music. If the gunmen have music, why can’t we?290
In another case in October 2002, police troops in Shakar Dara district, north of Kabul, allegedly arrested and beat musicians at a wedding party. A journalist who interviewed the musicians immediately after they were released described what happened:
It was this weekend, on Saturday night, October 12, 2002 . . . . The host, the father of the bride, invited some musicians to come to the wedding to provide some music. During the wedding party, an armed group of three people came into the party and intimidated the music group, and specifically said to the head of the group, “Playing music is forbidden here.” The host came to the men and gave them 3,000 [Pakistani] rupees [U.S.$52], a bribe to them to leave, and they left.
Half an hour later they returned, and this time, without exchanging any words with anyone, they started beating the musicians. It was about half past eight in the night.
There were five or more in the [music] group. Some escaped, but they arrested three of them. They took these people into police custody, and some policeman tied their feet together, laid them down on the ground, and another policeman beat the men with sticks. And they were beaten all night, many times, repeatedly. They police were saying, “Why are you playing music in Shakar Dara?”
Gul Bahar Khan—a commander in Jamiat [Jamiat-e Islami] and the head of the police department in Shakar Dara—was the one who arrested them and was involved in the beating.291
Human Rights Watch interviewed two witnesses to these incidents who confirmed this account.292
281 Paghman residents said there were no official restrictions on men’s dress or appearance in Paghman, but troops sometimes harassed men based on their dress or grooming of their beards. A man from Paghman described the atmosphere: “[Many people are] complaining about Paghman. They say that the gunmen make trouble for the young people if they don’t put a hat on their heads or grow beards. They say to them, ‘You are not a Muslim, and you do not believe in Islam and do not obey Mohammad’s tradition.’” Human Rights Watch interview with F.S.G., resident of Paghman, Kabul, March 15, 2003. Another said: “[T]hose who have long beards get more respect from the gunmen. They will degrade you in public, if you don’t have a long beard.” Human Rights Watch interview with D.D.F., resident of Paghman, Kabul, March 18, 2003. Women from Paghman told Human Rights Watch that troops (and the women’s families) require them to wear burqas; this is discussed in the section “Denial of Basic Freedoms to Women and Girls.”
282 Human Rights Watch interview with F.S.G., resident of Paghman, Kabul, March 15, 2003.
284 Human Rights Watch interview with A.B.S., resident of Paghman, Paghman, March 16, 2003.
287 The following account, including all quotations, is from a Human Rights Watch interview with R.U.K. in Paghman on March 16, 2003.
288 Human Rights Watch interview with F.M.P., resident of Paghman, Paghman. March 16, 2003.
289 Human Rights Watch interview with R.U.K., Paghman. March 16, 2003.
291 Human Rights Watch interview with E.G.R., journalist, Kabul, October 16, 2002.
292 Human Rights Watch interview with F.D.D.K and G.R.T.K., Kabul, October 18, 2002.