IV. Civilian Perceptions

The attacks documented in this report have had wide-ranging social, political, and psychological consequences.

Many of the survivors, victims, and witnesses to the attacks detailed in this report told Human Rights Watch that insurgent attacks greatly affected their perceptions of the security situation in Afghanistan, the Taliban, the international community, and the Afghan government.

Habibullah, the brother of one of two civilians killed in a May 21, 2006 attack by Taliban forces on Jalalabab Road in Kabul (documented in the previous chapter of this report) told Human Rights Watch:

The bastards—they blew themselves up. They did not kill the foreigners. They only killed innocent people. It was like they tried to kill children.

Nobody from the government has come to offer condolences, to say they are sorry, or say they will try to stop these explosions.

But they [the Taliban] should stop this [i.e., attacks in civilians areas]. They killed the innocent; they killed the poor, and hurt the children. They just make us hate them. We felt like we were targeted, not the foreigners.110

Roshan, another Afghan interviewed for this report whose case is described above, was the victim of an insurgent attack on an ISAF convoy in Kabul in late 2005. Roshan’s elder brother was killed in the attack, and Roshan sustained serious injuries. Roshan told Human Rights Watch:

What the Taliban did is not Islamic; no one could ever justify their actions—these actions—in front of God. By their acts, the Taliban make children fatherless and poor families poorer.

They can’t justify that, no one can.

When somebody dies, so do all his dreams. I want the people who commit these crimes to be punished. And I want to tell the people that did this, that what they did is unforgivable and God will punish them. If we poor people are their enemies, and this is how they kill, I would tell them they are cowards for not facing us. They’re cowards, why don’t they face us?111

Almost everyone Human Rights Watch interviewed for this report articulated confusion about the motives and goals of the insurgent attacks. For instance:

Mohammad Yousef Aresh, a survivor of an attack documented above, asked:

What’s my mistake? Why does the Taliban want to kill me? Is just because I shave my beard? I am a worker. I don’t have any enemies. I don’t know any of these Taliban, al Qaeda, etc. I don’t know any of these people. I am not their enemy.

I didn’t see any ISAF people that day near the ministry, I just saw my people; Afghan people. What was the target, the people? The Taliban, they were targeting everybody and nobody. I don’t know what or who was the target that day. I don’t know what their target is.

The Taliban only kill poor people. If they kill poor people did they hit their target? They are just trying to find money to eat and feed their families. If you kill the poor you will go to hell and never see paradise. Poor people, what problems do they cause?

Human Rights Watch also spoke with Ghulam Haidar, who was severely injured in a suicide attack on a civilian bus in Kabul in July 2005. Haidar told Human Rights Watch that attacks on civilians are “absolutely criminal.”

It doesn’t matter which side is right, the Taliban side or the side of the government, the police and army, and the coalition forces. We don’t talk about that, we don’t judge which one is right. But these are the two groups, and they shouldn’t target people like us who are walking on the streets.

I strongly condemn these [attacks on civilians] because this is not something humane. I totally disagree with what they do now. This is not the way of the mujahidin. It can never be acceptable [killing civilians] and they [the Taliban] can never justify that, what they do. They can never justify what they did to us.112

Mir Ahmad, who lost his son in a bombing in Herat, July 11, 2004, said:

The Taliban, they don’t care about civilians on the street. Their aim was to get to the police but they did not. They did not care if they killed innocent people.113

Leila, a woman from Kabul who lost her child in a suicide attack in March 2006:

The people who did this are murderers. They have to pay for the blood of their victims, the blood of the poor children that died. There was another child, a little girl that died that day. People told me her intestines were on the street. Who will answer for this?114

110 Human Rights Watch interview with Habibullah, Kabul, July 29, 2006.

111 Human Rights Watch interview with Roshan, Kabul, August 29, 2006.

112 Human Rights Watch interview with Ghulam Haidar, Kabul, August 28, 2006.

113 Human Rights Watch interview with Mir Ahmad, Herat, September 3, 2006.

114 Human Rights Watch interview with Leila, Kabul, September 6, 2006.