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AFGHANISTAN: Warlords implicated in two separate cases of abduction and rape of two young girls

December 11, 2006

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal

11 December 2006
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UA-397-2006: AFGHANISTAN: Warlords implicated in two separate cases of abduction and rape of two young girls

AFGHANISTAN: Rape; abuse of power by government officials; impunity; collapse of the rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received two separate alleged rape cases; one from the Shahre Buzurg district of Badakshan province and the other from the Aliabad district of Kondoz province in Afghanistan. In both incidents, the alleged perpetrators are government officers or warlords who are also members of the Jamiat-e-Islami (Society of Islam), which is the largest fundamentalist Islamic political party in Afghanistan, and is led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Neither effective investigations have been conducted into these incidents, nor have the alleged rapists been arrested and brought to trial. 

CASE DETAILS:

According to information from the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and the Independent Human Rights Commission Afghanistan (IHRCA), a 22 year-old woman (name withheld to safeguard her identity), and resident of Shah Dasht village in the Shahre Buzurg district in the Northeastern province of Badakhshan, was allegedly gang raped by Mr. Mujtaba and 11 unidentified armed persons on the 28 November 2006. According to the victim's husband, the said 12 perpetrators brutally raped his wife, and when her two children started crying, one of the unidentified rapists urinated into his children's mouths. The victim was allegedly intimidated by Mr. Mujtaba, who threatened to kill her if she ever spoke of her ordeal to anyone.

Mr. Mujtaba is a local warlord and member of the Jamiat-e-Islami (Society of Islam), which is the largest and by far the most powerful fundamentalist Islamic political party in Afghanistan, and is currently under the leadership of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Brigadier Syed Habib Saeedkhili, the Border Police Chief of Badakhshan, reportedly confirmed to the media that the crime took place and that Mr. Mujtaba and his men are infamous drug traffickers. Of the 12 alleged rapists, only Mr. Inayat- the brother of Mr. Mujtaba, who is also a well-known drug trafficker, has been arrested- while the remaining 11 perpetrators have managed to successfully escape arrest. However, it is unknown as to the criminal charges on which his arrest was made. 

The AHRC is deeply concerned to learn that instead of taking up the case and providing                   basic support and aid to the victim and her family, the Director of the Women Affairs Department of Badakhshan has reportedly denied the incident ever having taken place. In an interview with the Pajhwok Afghan News, the Director public claimed that "no such incident has occurred" (Pajhwok Afghan News, November 29, 2006). However, the acting Head of the Independent Human Rights Commission of the Northeaster Province has confirmed the legitimacy of the case and has gone on public record in stating that the ineffectiveness of local systems of law-enforcement are the primary reason behind the sharp increase in incidents of rape and violence against women in the provincial region.

The AHRC is concerned that no serious action will be taken by the local police authorities in      conducting further investigations into the incident and in taking prosecutory action against the accused rapists, due primarily to their level of power and prestige. It is an unfortunate but true fact of "justice" in Afghanistan that criminal cases involving the country's power-elite- be they politician are seldom registered by the police.

In yet another case, an 11-year-old girl by the name of Sanobar was allegedly abducted and raped by the District Chief (Deputy Commissioner) Mr. Maloom Zafar Shah and infamous warlord Mr. Mehmood in the Aliabad district of Kondoz province, Afghanistan in October of 2006. The victim was then allegedly traded by Mr. Mehmood in exchange for a pedigreed dog from a man named Nimatullah. He then sold the dog for a sum of 150,000 Afghanis (USD 3,014). 

According to Mrs Gulsha, the victim's mother and a widow, armed men forcibly entered their home at around 11:00pm on an October night, assaulted her and held her at gunpoint while  they kidnapped her young daughter.

According to RAWA's case-report, Mrs. Gulsha openly accused Mr. Malom Malom Zafar Shah and Mr. Mehmood of orchestrating her daughter's abduction. The two men are notorious for   the abduction and rape of young girls, in the area. In a BBC interview, Mrs. Gulsha goes on to say that her anther daughter was also abducted and sold by the District Chief to a Kandahari man who reportedly took her with him to Pakistan. In Pakistan, Mrs. Gulsha claims her daughter Sanobar was sold like a mere commodity in exchange for a pedigreed dog.

Mrs. Gulsha has no knowledge of where her youngest daughter, Sanobar's whereabouts at this moment.

The accused, Malom Zafar Shah and Mr. Mehmood are from the "Northern Alliance" and are also members of the Jamiat-e-Islami (Society of Islam). Mr. Zafar Shah was recently appointed as District Chief by former Defense Minister, and Vice President Mr. Qasim Fahim, who is now an Member of Parliament. 

Mr. Mohammad Zahir Zafari, Chief of the Human Rights office in Kodoz, claims that he and his colleagues have worked tirelessly over the past month in attempting to rescue young Sanobar; but unfortunately has been able to locate the victim, due largely to the powerful politicians covering its tracks. He also added that he and his colleagues have been harassed and intimidated to stop their investigations.  

Meanwhile, in an interview with Arian TV, Mr. Zafar Shah rejected all accusations made against him and Mr. Mehmood.

In Afghanistan, such crimes occur on an almost daily basis; Warlords function in open view of the government, but currently enjoy immunity before the rule of law. The media very seldom reports crimes, for fear of violent repercussions for doing so.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

In Afghanistan, there are several warlords who have actual control over specific districts, and before the rise of the Taliban, there were seven prominent warlords who ruled Afghanistan. Even after the formation of the Coalition Government in the mid-90's, the Afghani warlords were still battling each other for power and control. After the formation of the new Government of Hamid Karzai, the warlords allied with the Government to guarantee their survival. The government      has sought the approval of the warlords for near every major political decision.

Warlords represent a reactionary class who exploit and oppress the majority of the population in the country. About 75% of Afghanistan's population are rural agriculturalists, and are under the direct control of these warlords. Almost half of the cultivatable lands in the country belong to the warlords, and the remaining half is divided amongst the working classes. This means that the vast majority of peasants are either landless or are forced to make do with very small plots of land.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and urge their strong intervention into these two serious rape cases. Please urge them to ensure an independent and full inquiry into the incidents and to ensure that immediate prosecutory action be taken against the accused perpetrators.

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Sample letter:

Dear ___________,

AFGHANISTAN: Warlords implicated in two separate cases of abduction and rape of two young girls

CASE 1: GANG RAPE OF A WOMAN
Name of victim: Mrs. X (name withheld to safeguard her identity); Aged 22, resides in Shah Dasht village, Shahre Buzurg district, Badakhshan province
Alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Mujtaba; a local warlord and member of Jamiat-e-Islami (Society of Islam)
2. Mr. Inayat; the brother of Mr. Mujtaba who is also a local commander
3. Other unidentified 10 persons
Date and place of incident: 28 November 2006 at the victim's house in Shah Dasht village

CASE 2: ABDUCTION, RAPE AND SALE OF A MINOR
Name of victim: Sanobar; Aged 11, daughter of Mrs. Gulsha, resident of Aliabad district, Kondoz province
Alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Maloom Zafar Shah; District Chief (deputy commissioner) of Aliabad district 
2. Mr. Mehmood; powerful warlord
Date of incident: October 2006

I am deeply concerned by two separate alleged serious rape cases; one from the Shahre Buzurg district of Badakshan province and the other from the Aliabad district of Kondoz province in Afghanistan. In both incidents, the alleged perpetrators are government officers or warlords who are also members of the Jamiat-e-Islami (Society of Islam), which is the largest fundamentalist Islamic political party in Afghanistan, and is led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Neither effective investigations have been conducted into these incidents, nor have the alleged rapists been arrested and brought to trial. 

According to information I have received, a 22 year-old woman (name withheld to safeguard her identity), and resident of Shah Dasht village in the Shahre Buzurg district in the Northeastern province of Badakhshan, was allegedly gang raped by Mr. Mujtaba and 11 unidentified armed persons on the 28 November 2006. The victim was repeatedly intimidated by Mr. Mujtaba, who threatened to kill her if she ever spoke of her ordeal to anyone.

I have been informed that of the 12 alleged rapists, only Mr. Inayat- the brother of Mr. Mujtaba and who is also a well-known drug trafficker- has been arrested; while the remaining 11 perpetrators have managed to successfully escape arrest. However, it is unknown as to the criminal charges on which his arrest was made. I am deeply concerned that instead of taking up the case and providing basic support and aid to the victim and her family, the Director of the Women Affairs Department of Badakhshan has reportedly denied the incident ever having taken place. In an interview with the Pajhwok Afghan News, the Director public claimed that "no such incident has occurred" (Pajhwok Afghan News, November 29, 2006).

I have also been informed that an 11-year-old girl by the name of Sanobar was allegedly abducted and raped by the District Chief (Deputy Commissioner) Mr. Maloom Zafar Shah and infamous warlord Mr. Mehmood in the Aliabad district of Kondoz province, Afghanistan in October of 2006. The victim was then allegedly traded by Mr. Mehmood in exchange for a pedigreed dog.  

According to Mrs Gulsha, the victim's mother and a widow, armed men forcibly entered their home at around 11:00pm on an October night, assaulted her and held her at gunpoint while they kidnapped her young daughter.

According to RAWA's case-report, Mrs. Gulsha openly accused Mr. Malom Malom Zafar Shah and Mr. Mehmood of orchestrating her daughter's abduction. The two men are notorious  for   the abduction and rape of young girls, in the area. In a BBC interview, Mrs. Gulsha goes on to say that her eldest daughter was also abducted and sold by the District Chief to a Kandahari man who reportedly took her with him to Pakistan.

Mrs. Gulsha has no knowledge of where her youngest daughter, Sanobar's whereabouts at this moment.

The accused, Malom Zafar Shah and Mr. Mehmood are from the "Northern Alliance" and are also members of the Jamiat-e-Islami (Society of Islam). Mr. Zafar Shah was recently appointed as District Chief by former Defense Minister, and Vice President Mr. Qasim Fahim, who is now an MP. That such atrocious are openly and routinely committed by state officers, is both morally deplorable and inexcusable.
 
Mr. Mohammad Zahir Zafari, Chief of the Human Rights office in Kodoz, claims that he and his colleagues have worked tirelessly over the past month in attempting to rescue young Sanobar; but unfortunately has been able to locate the victim, due largely to the political influence covering its tracks. He also added that he and his colleagues have been harassed and intimidated to stop their investigations. 

In light of this, I strongly urge that you order an independent and thorough investigative inquiry into the alleged rape cases, so that immediate prosecutory action may be taken against the accused perpetrators. I also urge you to ensure that the accused perpetrators are suspended from their government service whilst the investigation is pending to ensure the safety of the families of the victims. Lastly, I request the Government of Afghanistan to protect and fulfill its international obligations as a state party to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC). It is most crucial that the Government of Afghanistan take immediate measures in ensuring that such violations of the rights of women and children do not happen again. 

Yours truly,


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PLESE SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

1. Mr. Hamid Karzai
President
Gul Khana Palace
Presidential Palace
Kabul,
Afghanistan
Tel: +93 (0) 20 210-5011 (for spokesperson)
Email: president@afghanistangov.org

2. Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Danish
Minister of Law and Justice
Ministry of Justice
Kabul
Afghanistan
Tel: +93 (0) 20 210 1322
Email: info@moj.gov.af 
Please also see- http://www.moj.gov.af/english/contact_us.htm   

3. Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan
Malak Azghar Road,
Kabul
Afghanistan
Tel: +93 (0) 70104 024/ 70104 010/ 70104 025/ 70104 023
Fax: +93 (0) 20 2100 360/ 2100 361
E-mail: contact@mfa.gov.af 

4. Mr. Assad OMAR
Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN
Consulate of Afghanistan
63 Rue de Lausanne, 5e etage 1202
Tel: (+41-22) 7311 449
Fax: (+41-22) 7314 510
Email: mission.Afghanistan@ties.itu.int

5. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Room 3-042
c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN)


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)


Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-397-2006
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.