Massacre in Mazar Sharif


Summary: [1]

This report documents the massacre of civilians and other serious breaches of international humanitarian law committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in August, 1998. The incident, which occurred in Mazar-i Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan, represents one of the single worst examples of civilian killings in Afghanistan’s twenty-year war where At least 8000 Hazaras were singled out and massacred by the Taliban regime. No foreigners or press were allowed in the city or its environs at the time. Human Rights Watch was the first international human rights organization to interview survivors who have reached Pakistan in the weeks following the massacre.

Human Rights Watch conducted the interviews for this report in Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta, Pakistan. The eyewitnesses they spoke to included residents of Mazar-i Sharif who were Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara. The witnesses had lived in different neighborhoods of the city. Some had stayed in the city for several weeks after the Taliban takeover; others had left within a few days. Most had arrived in Pakistan after several weeks of travel inside Afghanistan.

Their testimonies about the events in Mazar-i Sharif from August 8 through early September are consistent in the depiction of the patterns of attack by the advancing Taliban troops, the systematic nature of the search operations, the sorting of prisoners at the jail, and the transport of prisoners. All of those who remained in the city after the first day separately witnessed summary executions of men and boys as they were being taken from their homes or while being transported to the jail. All of them also heard one or more of Governor Niazi’s speeches that, while they varied somewhat in content, reflected consistent themes of anti-Shi’ism and revenge for the 1997 killings.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed sources in nongovernmental organizations and in the diplomatic community who have monitored and documented the events in Mazar. Information provided by these sources is consistent with the patterns described by eyewitnesses


Abductions and Rape of Women:

Human Rights Watch has also received persistent reports that women and girls, particularly in certain Hazara neighborhoods of Mazar-i Sharif, including Saidabad, Karte Ariana, and Ali Chopan were raped and abducted during the Taliban takeover of the city and that their whereabouts remain unknown.

A witness living in Kamaz camp stated that some of the Taliban took young women from the camp at the same time that they were arresting men. She knew of four or five girls who were taken from the camp, all in their early twenties. A witness from the neighborhood of Karte Ariana told Human Rights Watch that she had seen teen-age girls in the area being pushed into the Taliban’s Pijaro cars and taken to an unknown destination.

A male medical student who worked and lived in one of the city hospitals for twenty days straight after the takeover stated that he saw one rape case during that time. A Hazara woman, who was a nurse, and her sister had walked to the hospital from Ali Chopan.

“The nurse was in a very bad shape, she had sharp stomach pains. I could not examine her because the hospital was full of Talibs. This was a day before they segregated the hospital and put women in the children’s building. I just asked a few questions and finally she said that she was raped by the Talibs. She did not say which ones. We could not talk long with the Talibs watching. I could not do much, I just gave her analgesics.”

Another witness tells this story, “An acquaintance of ours came to our house seven or eight days after the takeover. She became ill in our house because she had taken over twenty pills to kill herself, I don’t know what kind. We called doctors from the neighborhood who gave her something to wash out her stomach. She lived in Ali Chopan, but her family was staying elsewhere, and she had gone back to check on the house when she was picked up by the Taliban. At first she did not want to tell us anything, but then she said that when she went to their house, the Talibs abducted her and locked her up in a house with twenty to twenty-five other young girls and women. They were raped every night. They were all Hazaras. She was the only one released. One Talib told her that now they are halal [sanctified], and she should go to his parents in Qandahar and wait for him to come and marry her. He gave her a pass and his own identity card and told her to go to the Taliban’s headquarters and from there to Qandahar, but instead she escaped.”

The difficulties inherent in documenting such attacks on women are many. The refugees from Mazar-i Sharif are scattered throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. The where abouts of abducted women and girls remain unknown. Rape victims are unlikely to seek medical attention unless their injuries are severe. They are often reluctant to report their assaults because of the shame and stigma that they may bear as a result, and Afghan women coping with upheaval and the loss of family members in particular may fear the added worry of being identified as rape victims. Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch received consistent and reliable reports of abuses against women and thus underscored the need for an investigation that is prepared to examine the full range of reported violations, including sexual violence.

Attacks on Civilians fleeing Mazar:

A source interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that there were most likely BM-21 Grad (Hail) multiplerocket launchers, commonly known as Katyushas used in the taking of Mazar. An unknown number of civilians on the road were also killed when they were bombed by Taliban airplanes; witnesses stated that the bombs scattered hundreds of grenade-sized munitions over a wide area on the road.

In one such incident, witnesses said that rockets hit an area called Tangi Shadyan on the southern outskirts of the city at about 12:00 p.m., killing at least fifty. Cars and trucks carrying people were struck, and one witness stated that “people were in pieces” along the road. A witness who left immediately when the Taliban arrived told Human Rights Watch that he and his family carried with them nine bodies of a family that had been killed in a rocket attack on the road, including two women, three men, and four small children, and buried them in farmland on the way to the mountains.


EyeWitness Testimonies : [2]
A witness whose testimony is described as “extremely reliable” by aid officials said most of the victims had been shot in the head, the chest and the testicles. Others had been slaughtered in what he called “the halal way” – by having their throats slit.

One housewife, who has since fled to Pakistan, said the Taliban entered her house and shot her husband and her two brothers dead. Then they cut the men’s throats in front of the woman and her children.

Another piece of testimony explained why one Taliban was “very worried he might be excluded from heaven”. He had personally shot people in nearly 30 houses, opting to kill them as soon as they opened the door. After killing the men in two homes, he learnt that they were not Hazara but Pashtun. “That he had killed people in 28 Hazara households seemed not to cause him any concern at all,” the witness said.

The Human Rights Watch report and other statements identify three Taliban leaders who appear to be guilty of incitement to kill victims purely because of their ethnic origin. They are:

Mullah Manon Niazi, the new Taliban governor of Mazar-e-Sharif – Numerous witnesses heard him make speeches at mosques and on radio inciting hatred of Hazaras. “Wherever you go we will catch you,” he said. “If you go up, we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below we will pull you up by your hair.” One witness testified that Niazi personally selected prisoners to be consigned to the death containers.

Mullah Musa, the so-called director of public health – A witness said Musa toured a public hospital looking for Hazara patients to mark out for death. Later that day, the witness heard from a doctor that Musa had taken a group of gunmen to the army hospital, where they had murdered all 20 or so patients, and relatives who had been visiting them.

Maulawi Mohammed Hanif – a Taliban commander who announced to a crowd of 300 people summoned to a mosque that the policy of the Taliban was to “exterminate” the Hazaras.

International aid workers fear the killings are continuing following the recent fall of the central Afghan town of Bamyan. They have said thousands of people remain unaccounted for.



2- The Sunday Times: How the Taliban Slaughtered 8000