Created on Wednesday, 07 February 2007 03:58
Written by Ehsan Azari
by Ehsan Azari
Afghanistan is one of the countries that war criminals and human right offenders
enjoy inexorable impunity as long as they are on the sides of the winner. This
is a formula being played out in Afghanistan, the unconscious of the world,
a cauldron with the boiling killing and death instincts. This is a place where
the East, the West, and Afghans themselves have done for centuries their worst.
On Thursday 1st of February, the Afghan Wolesi Jirga Lower House passed a legislation
that grants amnesty for any militia or party member accused of human right abuses
in the past quarter of a century. The cruel irony is that some of the legislators
themselves are on the Human Rights Watch list accused of war crimes and other
human right violations. The legislation of amnesty has to be approved by Mishranu
Jirgah Upper House and signed by President Karzai. Even if this never takes
place, there is a lot more to it than that. War crimes and human right violence
in Afghanistan places a heavy burden on the conscience of the international
Even though Ms Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner of Human Right, expressed
concerns on this legislation, it is most unlikely that the victims of very serious
human right violations in Afghanistan will ever see justice done to their torturers.
This controversial law has been voted in under the nose of tens of thousands
of NATO troops serving in the country to fight the Taliban-led insurgency, calling
into question the alliance mission. Whereas In 1999 NATO vigorously began arresting
scores of Serb and Croat military officers accused of human-right violations
to stand trial at the Hague Tribunal. Besides such a law that grants impunity
for war criminals and human rights violations, is a flagrant breach of the declaration
of universal human rights that should belong to everyone, everywhere.
Crime against humanity in Afghanistan is a tale that has to be told for a thousand
and one nights beginning with the communist coup in 1978. The communist regime
unleashed gruesome human-right abuses, leaving thousands of Afghans executed
en mess. The Russian invasion in the following year opened the gates of hell
and put an entire society on trial. It is estimated that one to two million
Afghans had been killed during the Russian occupation (1979-1989). The communist
intelligence named Khad had flourished a reign of terror, which killed thousands
of innocent Afghans, most of them young anti-communist school and university
students, government officials, intellectuals and professionals living in cities.
In the countryside, peasants, clergymen, and labourers were the main victims.
According to Dutch sources, as many as 200,000 people were tortured in different
branches of Khad many of whom died.
It is noteworthy that in Pakistani cities, especially Peshawar and Quetta many
Afghans, nationalist, monarchist, and intellectuals who fled from the communist
clutches had been killed and disappeared under the shadow of Pakistani notorious
Inter-State Intelligence (ISI). However the murders and kidnappingsâ€”never brought
to exposureâ€”were carried out by the extremist Islamic groups.
The second stage in terror began with the exit of the Russians, when in 1992,
some groups of the former Mujahideen and the communist top brass in Kabul overthrew
the regime. In exchange for their collaboration many of communist polit-bureau
and central committee members, generals of Khad, and other bureaucrats managed
to flee under the protection of the new government. Some of whom were provided
almost a red-carpet treatment in Europe and North America, where they are rubbing
shoulders with their victims. A large number of the Afghan reds, especially
stubborn Moscow loyalists followed a bee-line to Kabul to join Mr Karzaiâ€™s government.
Karzaiâ€™s army, police, intelligence, parliament, foreign ministry, and foreign
missions are their new homes. Afghan intellectuals are eating their hearts
when ex-communist bureaucrats give lectures about liberation, human rights,
The overthrow of the communist regime resulted in a civil war, in which, according
to media report as many as 50,000 civilians had been killed. The protracted
civil war and political stalemate offered Pakistani generals and mullahs to
spawn a new brand of ultra-conservative Taliban with an aberrant religious ideology.
The third round of gross human right abuses begins with the rise of Taliban.
Taliban killed thousands of ethnic Tajiks and Hazaras, and razed to the ground
their lands and orchards in the north of the country. Afghan women paid the
utmost price for the tyranny of the Taliban. They were virtually taken under
house arrest and subjected for five years to all kinds of inhuman treatment.
Taliban called themselves students of Islam, but in reality remained foot soldiers
of Pakistani generals, mullahs and al-Quada. During their heyday the shaved
ISI officers were roaming about in luxury Pajeros on the streets of Kabul, where
the bearded Taliban were lashing men for not growing beards and women for wearing
high-heel shoes. Talibanâ€™s ministry of the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion
of Virtue forcefully make people to say prayer, and tortured men for not growing
a trade make beard with a fixed length. Officials of the ministry once shaved
the heads of the members of a Pakistani football team who wore shorts in a game
in Afghanistan. Taliban recklessly vandalised Afghan culture and the warlords
of the Northern Alliance sold them out. They blew up 1,600 year old Buddha
statues. Over 55,000 priceless artefacts have been looted since 1980.
Then the September 11 attack on the US in New York and Washington took place.
The American B-52 fighter jets and the CIA paratroopers ousted the Taliban
from power in October 2001. Like hordes of Chinghiz Khan, the warlords of the
Northern Alliance, most of them former communist militia and some former Mujahideen
groups marched towards Kabul on Talibanâ€™s dead bodies. We have, in the Western
media, watched the abject scenes of Taliban corpses being kicked and humiliated
by victorious warlords and even locals mobs in the north of the country. The
militia of Dostum, an ex-communist militia leader, and now a military strong
man and an ally of President Karzaiâ€™s government forced an estimated 50,000
Pashtuns to flee their homes in the north of Afghanistan and took refuge in
Pakistan. His militia was nicknamed, Gilamjam (literary rug un-wrappers, meaning
exterminators) who served as Soviet foot soldiers. In the pre-Taliban civil
war, the warlords of the Northern Alliance were fighting the Taliban with a
concerted assistance by Russia, Iran, and India. Their loyalty to the US was
bought over with a bargain of $70 million. â€œThe primary strategyâ€ Chalmers
Johnson writes in his The Sorrows of Empire, â€œhowever, was to reopen the Afghan
civil war by having the CIA spread some $70 million in cash among the Tajik
and Uzbek warlords that the Taliban had defeated.â€
There are nonetheless some unlucky Afghan warlords who will never enjoy impunity
perhaps because they reached the safety of the West. Amazing! When they are
in Europe they are brought to the altar but in Afghanistan they are allowed
to be free like birds. Faryadi Sarwar Zardad, an ex-Mujahideen warlord is one
of them. He was sentenced to 20 year for torture, kidnapping, and killing scores
of civilians in UK. The UK Attorney General said, â€œBoth international convention
and English law allow the trial in England of anyone who has committed torture
or hostage-taking, irrespective of where those crimes were committed.â€
Hessamuddin Hessam, former head of Khad (1983-1991) and Habibullah Jalalzoy,
one-time head of Khadâ€™s interrogation department ended up in prison in the Netherlands.
Hessam was sentenced to 12 years and Jalalzoy to 9 years imprisonment. Under
Dutch law, any one committing war crimes can be prosecuted no matter where they
committed the crime.
The legitimate question is why the British and Dutch troops are not doing anything
now especially when they are present in Afghanistan in thousands? If they can
do it in their respective countries, no reason why not in Afghanistan? God
alone knows how many prisoners are facing what treatment in Bagramâ€”Afghanistanâ€™s
Their American counterparts seem to be more fun-loving: â€œYou go into Afghanistan;
you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didnâ€™t wear a
veil. You know guys like that ainâ€™t got no manhood left anyway. So itâ€™s a
hell of a lot fun to shoot them.â€ Says Lieutenant-General James Mattis who
commanded US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The general may be following W.
Churchillâ€™s advice: â€œI do not understand this squeamishness about the use of
gasâ€¦I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.â€
However, the horrors of Soviet war criminals and human-right abusers in the
1990s would never be exposed.
As common sense suggests, I must emphasise that while the Taliban are being
punished for harbouring terrorism and Osama, why Nasirullah Babur, Pakistanâ€™s
ex-Interior Minister, enjoys impunity in his luxury bungalow in his country.
He once said that the Taliban were his children. It is a pity for a father
seeing his sons being burnt. Furthermore, Pakistani newspaper The Frontier
Post wrote on 11 October, 1991, â€œAfghanistan was ISIâ€™s babyâ€. Babur and even
Benazir Bhutto had been reported in media to have possessed some priceless artefacts
from the Afghan National Museum. The items were brought to their masters either
by former Islamic extremists or Taliban.
This culture of impunity is hurting everyone who has a sense of humanity and
a regard for universal moral values. Will the Afghan war criminals and human-right
offenders burn out their catalogues of crime once and for all? If everything
happens in Afghanistan then the easiest thing will be to punish victims for
what their torturers did.
Afghanistan may be doomed in its fate to become the battlefield of ideologies
that continue from the outside to purloin the Afghan conscience. War crime
and human-right violence have overturned the age-old Afghani humane values.
The appalling human-right situation coupled with criminalised economy based
on opium production and rampant corruption are cancers that eating away at the
lives of innocent Afghans. Many drug lords have strong influence on state bureaucracy.
Afghan way of life and ethical code, Pushtoonwali has been stifled by this
new perverted tradition. Apart from afore mentioned prison in Kabul, Pulicharkhi
is another reminder of the Russian invasion and the Afghani communist dictators.
The Guardian Weekly reported on its January 26-February 1 issue that this notorious
prison currently houses 1,300 inmates. â€œMore recently, it has been the scene
of deadly riots and prison escapes,â€ the GW adds. One inmate told GW that â€œthe
police came after herâ€¦demanding 4,000 Afghanis ($80) in exchange for her release.â€
Historically, much of Afghan misery and moral apocalypse is a result of its
fate as a battleground for foreign ideologies. According to Herodotus, in the
area that is now Afghanistan, people had been used to fighting the war between
Persian rival emperors, Darius and Cyrus. The last battle to be fought is between
the terrorist ideology of Osama and secular Western democracy. Communism was
brought to its knees, but we donâ€™t know what would be the denouement of the
present ideological Armageddon. God alone knows that Afghanistanâ€™s three decades
of devastating war would ever see its own Nuremberg.
Copyright Â© Ehsan Azari