By Farzad Lameh
August 22, 2011
The mutilation occurred March 10 in Kandahar even though the Taliban’s own Code of Conduct prohibits such acts. [Ahmad Farzan file photo]
KABUL – In mid-July 2009, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar issued a Code of Conduct for Taliban militants fighting the Afghan government and coalition forces.
“All Mujahideen must do their best to avoid civilian deaths and injuries and damage to civilian property,” Mullah Omar instructed his fighters in the Code.
But the Taliban were responsible for 75% of 2010’s civilian casualties – a 28% increase from 2009, according to the U.N. and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) joint 2010 Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
“Civilians are often killed when their vehicles are blown up by roadside bombs that the militants plant to kill Afghan and coalition forces,” Paktika Provincial Governor Muhebullah Samim said.
“For example, some time ago (January 19) 22 women and children were killed in the Khoshamand District after their bus struck a roadside bomb,” Samim continued. “In another blast … between the Wazi Khwa and Tro districts of Paktika March 6, at least 12 civilians lost their lives.”
About 60% of insurgent attacks kill civilians, tribal elders and religious scholars, said Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi.
“Insurgents are not able to challenge the Afghan national security forces and ISAF (on the battlefield) to any significant degree but continue to assassinate Afghan patriots and religious leaders,” Azimi said.
The Taliban insurgents have also used civilians as human shields.
“It happens when the militants have no way to escape and enter people’s houses,” said Ghazi Nawaz Tanai, chairman of the Council for Solidarity of Afghan Tribes in southern Afghanistan, who has survived several Taliban assassination attempts.
Another statute of the Code states that only the Imam (Mullah Omar) can sentence someone to death. Even if he gives authority to someone, it does not give that person the right to issue a death penalty.
Yet, in early June 2010, the Taliban executed a 7-year-old child accused of spying for Afghan forces in the Sangeen District of Helmand. Local officials confirmed the killing. The local commander violated the Code by issuing a death penalty. But he also violated an article of the Code stipulating that conviction of spying requires two eyewitnesses or the discovery of specialised spy equipment. It seems unlikely that a 7-year-old child would have such equipment, nor was there any indication that witnesses came forward.
Similarly, on March 10 Nimroz Deputy Provincial Police Chief Muhammad Musa Rasoli confirmed the slayings of two civilians for allegedly spying for government forces in Nimroz.
Another ignored part of the Taliban Code of Conduct prohibits insurgents from cutting off people’s body parts. But, on August 20, 2009 – just one month after Mullah Omar issued the Code – his fighters cut off the ink-stained fingers of two Afghan voters in Kandahar Province, after warning voters to disregard the 2009 presidential elections.
- In the case of killing civilians, the Taliban were responsible for 75% of civilian deaths in 2010.
- In the case of convicting someone of spying, the Taliban executed a 7-year-old without providing evidence that the child had spy equipment and without indicating that there were any witnesses to the “spying.”
- In the case of physical mutilation, the Taliban has cut off people’s fingers and ears, though the militants deny those charges.
“Mullah Omar is a symbolic leader of the Taliban,” political analyst Younus Fakor said. “He cannot direct all of his fighters what to do and what not to do.”
On March 10, the Taliban mutilated four men who were working for a development project in Kandahar Province, cutting one ear off each man.
“We are poor, (so we) have to work,” Muhammad Amin, 65, said at the time, weeping. “Even if they cut off my other ear or my limbs, I will still work.”
“The Taliban booklet is only for propaganda,” Fakor added. “Their leadership understands that such guidelines cannot be applied by their fighters since they are not under a single command.”
In the case of the maimed workers, the Taliban denied responsibility.
Burning schools and mosques
Dawoud Ahmadi, spokesman for the Helmand Provincial Office, called the listing of “prohibited conduct” in the Taliban guidelines ineffective and propagandistic.
“Just 20 days ago, insurgents burnt down the tents set up for school students in Marja District,” Ahmadi said.
“Even though Taliban leader Mullah Omar has called on his fighters not to burn down schools, they are continuing the burning,” Fakor said.
The Marja classrooms went up in flames just after Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the Taliban March 23 not to burn any more schools.
The war on education has violated numerous Islamic laws and has interfered with education. Militants who set fire to the Sangar girls’ primary school in Laghman Province November 7 incinerated 850 copies of the Koran, according to a Ministry of Education statement.
Insurgents have not spared mosques either. After pro-government forces drove al Qaeda-linked militants out of Gizab District in Uruzgan Province in November, the militants set fire to a mosque and burned dozens of copies of the Koran, Gizab District Governor Haji Abdullah told Central Asia Online.
Tribal elders’ assassinations
Recent attacks on tribal elders have made a mockery of Mullah Omar’s instructions in the Code to establish good relations with locals and tribal elders and to stay out of local affairs.
“The Taliban insurgents are assassinating tribal elders to undermine the comparative national solidarity among the Afghans,” Fakor argued. In the past five years, the Taliban have assassinated 850 tribal elders and other prominent figures in Kandahar alone, said Fakor, a native of Kandahar Province.
“While the tribal elders describe the realities about the Taliban, they are being killed or intimidated because they are prestigious and reliable figures in the society,” he added.
On August 25, the Taliban killed Qari Shahbaz Khan, a tribal elder in Sorobi District of Paktika Province, according to Mukhlis Afghan, spokesman for Governor Samim. The Taliban later took responsibility, Afghan said.
Another elder, Ghulam Dastagir, was gunned down April 12 during prayers in a mosque in Nawa District, according to Dawoud Ahmadi, Helmand provincial government spokesman. “He was a very good man because he was trying to build schools and help his district’s development,” Ahmadi said.
On April 13, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 and wounded seven others during a meeting of residents of Asmar District in eastern Kunar Province with their tribal elders.
That came after an April 10 roadside bomb that killed three tribal elders in the western province of Farah who were on their way to a local meeting in Farah city.
Frequently, Taliban insurgents neither claim nor condemn the attacks that take civilians’ or tribal elders’ lives, but the roadside bombs terrorising Afghan travellers have only one source – the Taliban.
This story was first published on www.centralasiaonline.com in April 2011.