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Title:  Afghanistan Human Rights Practices, 1993
Date:  January 31, 1994
Author:  U.S. Department of State


The political situation in Afghanistan in 1993 was 
characterized by the absence of effective central authority and 
an ongoing civil war among contending political factions.  
Governmental functions, where they were performed at all, were 
split between a fragmented central Government and several 
warring factions and regional councils which attempted--with 
mixed success--to establish some local civil administration.  
In March leaders of nine major political groups met in 
Islamabad, Pakistan and agreed, under the terms of the 
Islamabad Accords, to participate in a transitional grand 
coalition until elections could be held.  Fighting among 
various groups continued, however, and in May the factional 
leaders reconvened in Jalalabad and agreed on how the 
transition was to be implemented.  The terms of these Accords 
have not been fully met and, despite the drafting of an interim 
set of constitutional principles and inconclusive discussions 
about elections, intermittent fighting and a general political 
stalemate continued in Kabul.

No formal internal security apparatus has been established by 
the coalition Government.  The unstable political situation, 
exacerbated by the presence of well-armed party militias in the 
capital, has produced an array of regional security bodies, 
many of which frequently operate independently of both party 
authorities and the fractious central Government.

The Afghan economy is based on agriculture, with land tenure in 
the hands of individuals or family/tribal groups and with some 
land remaining under feudal control of the traditional Khans.  
The collapse of irrigation systems, deterioration of market 
roads, and the danger of millions of unmarked land mines have 
seriously impeded agricultural production.  Small-scale 
commerce, manufacturing, and mining activities also exist.

In the volatile and tense political environment of 1993, human 
rights were routinely violated on a large scale.  The country 
had no constitution, national judicial system, or effective 
central government.  Observance of human rights varied greatly 
from place to place, depending on the character of the local 
commander and his relationship with the local populace.  

*Since the staff of the American Embassy in Kabul was withdrawn 
for security reasons in 1989, the United States has no official 
presence in Afghanistan.  This report therefore draws to a 
large extent on non-U.S. government sources.

Throughout much of the country, there was a continued absence 
of the rule of law.  While conditions approaching near normalcy 
returned to parts of the north, central, and western regions, 
Kabul was wracked by intermittently heavy fighting and 
widespread human rights abuses.  Forces loyal to various 
factions represented in the coalition Government rocketed and 
shelled the capital in battles that left an estimated 18,000 
people, mostly civilians, dead or wounded.  Gunmen are said to 
have engaged in looting, rape, and murder of civilians in the 
ongoing struggle to control the capital.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Thousands of Afghans, including specific individuals targeted 
for assassination, died in 1993 during the course of the civil 
conflict.  Perpetrators and motives were difficult to identify 
in most cases, as political motives were often entwined with 
family and tribal feuds, battles over drug turf, religious 
zealotry, and personal vendettas.

Intense factional fighting in Kabul in February was marked by 
reported excesses, even atrocities, attributed to both 
Hezb-i-Wahdat fighters and the Ittehad-i-Islami/Shura-i-Nazar 
alliance.  These reports included incidents of mass rape, 
abduction, and the torture and murder of both combatant 
prisoners and civilians.  In February, according to press 
reports, approximately 60 women were seized by armed men, held 
in the Institute of Social Sciences in Kabul, raped, and 
killed.  Also in February, four U.N. employees were murdered 
near the city of Jalalabad.  Neither the motive nor identity of 
the killers was discovered.  In July in Nangarhar province, a 
local group, calling itself "The Oppressed" and supported by 
members of the former Communist regime, was attacked by other 
factions, including men loyal to Shomali Khan, a member of the 
Nangarhar Provincial Council.  At least a dozen members of The 
Oppressed were captured and summarily executed.  In September 
Shomali Khan was himself killed, along with four bodyguards and 
some 20 bystanders, in a hail of bullets and rockets in 
Jalalabad.  Shortly afterward, Nasir Khan, Shomali Khan's 
brother, was detained by a rival faction commander, allegedly 
tortured, and killed while in custody.  Also in September, 
Mansur Nadiri, a leader of the minority Ismaili sect, 
reportedly escaped an assassination attempt in Kabul that 
killed a number of his bodyguards, and Yunis Qanuni, political 
director in the Ministry of Defense, was seriously wounded when 
a bomb concealed in a vendor's cart exploded as his car passed 
nearby.  None of the perpetrators was apprehended.

Convicted murderers were summarily shot after Shari'a court 
trials in Kunar, Kabul, and Nangarhar provinces.  There were 
also reports of instances in which relatives of a murder victim 
were allowed by local commanders to "slaughter" the convicted 
murderer, using a knife, in a so-called "qisas" (revenge) 
ritual.  In one well-publicized case in northern Helmand 
province, the wife of a murder victim carried out the sentence; 
this was believed to be the first case of a "qisas" killing by 
a woman.

     b.  Disappearance

Hostage taking was again common in 1993, particularly during 
the outbursts of heavy fighting in Kabul in January, February, 
and May.  The Government was unable or unwilling to bring an 
end to this practice.  An American citizen of Afghan origin and 
several dozen Soviet prisoners of war who disappeared during 
the Soviet-Afghan conflict remained unaccounted for.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were numerous unconfirmed reports that ill-treatment and 
torture were used to extract information from prisoners being 
held by feuding political factions.

Traditional laws and punishments were often invoked in the 
absence of a functioning judicial system.  These punishments 
traditionally include the amputation of hands and feet for 
those convicted of theft.  International press reports suggest 
that women were frequently abused and often raped by fighters 
from the various warring factions, especially in Kabul.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Informed observers agree that the rule of law has broken down 
in most of Afghanistan.  Justice is administered locally 
without reference to any clear central legal system.  Little is 
known about legal protection under current conditions, and it 
is doubtful that any uniform procedures exist for taking 
persons into custody and bringing them to trial.

The factions that form the coalition Government and independent 
local commanders are believed to hold up to 1,300 opponents or 
hostages in private prisons.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

With the widespread breakdown of the judicial system, little 
was known about the administration of justice in 1993, although 
some municipalities and provincial authorities were known to 
have held public trials.  Various leaders of the national 
political parties strongly back the imposition of Shari'a, or 
Islamic law, and it appeared that many local and provincial 
legal procedures were based on Islamic juridical precepts.  
Traditional tribal procedures also play a prominent role in the 
judicial process in some parts of Afghanistan; in many 
instances it is likely that these procedures do not accord with 
the protection of a fair public trial envisioned by 
international human rights standards.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

During periods of intense fighting in Kabul, there were many 
instances of looting, forced entry of homes, and other forms of 
arbitrary interference by members of factions contending for 
control of the capital.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

Five major factions, aligned in two loose coalitions, fought 
over Kabul, wreaking widespread destruction and causing many 

Despite Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's denials, credible 
reports indicate his Hezb-i-Islami faction fired numerous 
rockets at the capital, frequently demolishing residential or 
commercial districts of no discernible military value.  
Artillery, tank cannon fire, mortars, rocket-propelled 
grenades, and automatic weapons were employed regularly and 
indiscriminately in Kabul in the low-intensity fighting.

In February gunmen affiliated with Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's 
Ittehad-i Islami group and those of former Defense Minister 
Ahmad Shah Masood's Shura-i-Nazar seized the largely Shi'a 
neighborhood of Afshar from the rival Shi'a Wahdat militia.  On 
February 11th and 12th, armed men rampaged through the quarter, 
raping, looting, and killing civilians.  One eyewitness 
reported to an Afghan media source that he had seen an elderly 
Shi'a man nailed to a tree and then shot in the head.  An 
Afghan human rights organization reported that marauding 
militiamen chopped off limbs and slit the throats of civilians 
with bayonets.  Estimates of civilians mutilated, killed, or 
raped in Afshar ranged from several dozen to over a thousand.

There were indications that armed factions were dragooning 
civilians to serve as porters or trench-diggers.  In Baghlan 
Province, one organization allegedly forcibly conscripted a 
member from each family in the area to serve in its militia.

Millions of land mines sown by Soviet, regime, or resistance 
forces remain scattered around fortifications and roads and in 
the countryside.  There is a U.N.-sponsored program to detect 
and remove mines, but the devices will pose a significant 
hazard to civilians for years to come.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedoms of speech and press are not guaranteed, and in 
practice the Government lacks the authority to protect them.

A number of daily and weekly newspapers are published in 
Afghanistan; they are generally under the control of the 
central or regional government or are organs of one of the 
political parties.  The government-owned radio and television 
services were under the control of President Burhanuddin 
Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami party, but air time was occasionally 
granted to other groups.  Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar 
and National Islamic Movement leader General Abdul Rashid 
Dostam periodically broadcast radio and television programs 
from their own facilities.

In August AfghaNews reported that Prime Minister Hekmatyar 
sought to dissuade Kabul Radio from reporting rocket attacks on 
the city and sought reprisals against local journalists who 
wrote unflattering articles about him.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

In the current unsettled conditions, Afghans have a bewildering 
array of political groups with which they are free to 
associate.  However, the prohibition against non-Islamic 
political parties remains in effect.  Peaceful assembly was 
limited in practical terms by the dangerous security conditions 
in Kabul but was practiced elsewhere.  Public mass 
demonstrations were occasionally held; in August several 
thousand people affiliated with a number of Afghan parties 
reportedly demonstrated without interference in the northern 
city of Taloqan against alleged Russian and Tajikistani 
bombardment of Afghan villages in reprisal for cross-border 
raids by insurgents opposed to the Government of Tajikistan.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Approximately 85 percent of Afghanistan's population is Sunni 
Muslim.  Islam is the state religion, as enshrined in the 
official name of the country, the Islamic State of 
Afghanistan.  In September the draft constitutional principles 
prepared under the auspices of President Rabbani declared the 
Hanafi (Sunni) rite as the basis of the State's Islamic 
foundation.  The minority Shi'a community strongly objected, 
and the Shi'a Wahdat militia reportedly responded by attacking 
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's religiously conservative Sunni forces.

Non-Muslims resident in Afghanistan may practice their faith, 
but may not proselytize, according to an official Afghan 
source.  The country's small Sikh and Hindu communities, once 
totaling some 50,000, continued to dwindle as their members 
emigrated or became refugees in the wake of the intense 
religious violence to which they were subjected in some urban 
areas following the destruction of the Ayodya mosque in India 
in December 1992.  There were scattered reports that zairats, 
shrines of Sufi Muslim orders, and some pre-Islamic funereal 
totems in Nuristan were also being vandalized.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Afghans were able to travel with relative freedom, both within 
and across the country's borders.  However, travel was 
restricted by the deterioration of the national road network, 
the millions of undetected land mines, brigandage, and the 
unsettled political situation.  Quasi-authorized checkpoints 
extracted tolls in cash or kind from travelers.  Ethnic 
tensions limited the ability of some groups to travel safely 
through areas controlled by other groups.  This made 
repatriation of Afghans who had fled to Pakistan and Iran 
difficult or, for some, impossible.

As a result of 15 years of fighting, Afghans form the world's 
largest refugee population, comprised predominantly of women 
and children.  The high rates of return in 1992, when 1.4 
million Afghans repatriated from Pakistan and Iran, fell 
sharply in 1993.  Approximately 600,000 refugees returned to 
Afghanistan in 1993, two-thirds of them from Iran.  According 
to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 
and the Government of Pakistan, in late 1993 there were 1.46 
million Afghan refugees in Pakistan.  In addition, roughly 2 
million Afghan refugees remained in Iran.

During 1993 approximately 60,000 Tajiks, fleeing civil conflict 
in Tajikistan, sought refuge in Afghanistan.  In December some 
40,000 Tajik refugees remained encamped in northern 
Afghanistan.  Threats from militant extremist groups, who 
wished to manipulate both the refugees and international 
organizations for their own ends, kept the UNHCR and other 
international organizations from working with about half of 
this large refugee population.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

In the absence of a functioning central authority, citizens did 
not, in 1993, have the ability to change their government 
through peaceful, democratic means.  The Grand Council convoked 
by President Rabbani in late 1992, which unilaterally extended 
his tenure for 2 years, was not regarded as legitimate by other 
political factions.  After severe fighting broke out in January 
and February, the leaders of nine rival factions met in 
Islamabad, Pakistan, in March and agreed to form a transitional 
grand coalition until elections could be held.  The Islamabad 
Accords were derailed in May by another outburst of fighting 
among the signatory groups over details of their 
implementation.  The faction leaders reconvened in Jalalabad, 
where in late May they signed the Jalalabad Accords, agreeing 
to a mechanism for forming a transitional government.  The two 
key elements of the Jalalabad Accords were an agreement to hold 
a council of commanders to choose Ministers of Defense and 
Interior, and the collection of heavy weapons by these 
authorities prior to national elections.  However, these key 
stipulations had not been implemented by the end of the year.

In September President Rabbani appointed a 44-member commission 
to draft an interim set of constitutional principles.  This 
document was rejected by two Shi'a parties and other leaders 
who objected to its contents on religious grounds or viewed the 
process itself as illegitimate.  Prime Minister Hekmatyar and 
others pressed for early national elections to overcome the 
political stalemate, but political infighting prevented 
progress on this issue as well.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no known local human rights groups in Afghanistan, 
and the unsettled conditions in Kabul made it difficult for any 
human rights organizations to effectively monitor human rights 

The U.N.'s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan 
visited Kabul in September.  He met with senior Afghan 
officials and others and issued a report of his findings in 
November.  The International Committee of the Red Cross was 
allowed to begin prison visits late in the year, in addition to 
continuing to provide medical services in Kabul and several 
provincial capitals.  The Afghan League of Human Rights, based 
in Peshawar, Pakistan, issued a report in July condemning human 
rights abuses in Afghanistan.  The organizer of the League 
reported that he subsequently became the target of threats from 
parties criticized in the report.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


The participation of women in activities beyond the home and 
fields is limited by longstanding customs and religious 
beliefs.  The Communist regime in the 1980's officially 
sanctioned a wider public role for women, whose status 
improved, particularly in urban areas, as they began to move, 
particularly in urban areas, into nontraditional occupations.  
However, the Mujaheddin victory over the Communist regime 
prompted a return to more traditional roles for women, largely 
restricted to the home or to all-female environments such as 
teaching in girls schools or working in female health clinics.  
Reports by travelers to Kabul in late 1993 indicated that some 
female newscasters had returned to Afghan television, although 
they were apparently subject to a strict, conservative Islamic 
dress code.


In the absence of an effective central authority in Kabul, it 
is not possible to assess the Government's commitment to the 
human rights and welfare of children.  Various provincial and 
national governmental agencies, frequently in conjunction with 
international voluntary organizations, the United Nations, and 
bilateral donors made some efforts to address the most pressing 
social welfare needs of children, particularly in education and 
health care.

     People with Disabilities

The mentally and physically disabled suffered as a result of 
the anarchic situation existing in much of the country.  The 
international media reported that residents of Kabul's 600-bed 
Marastun home for the blind, destitute, and mentally ill were 
abandoned by the staff in January as the security situation 
deteriorated.  Many of the patients wandered away amid the 
fighting, other stayed and lived unattended and largely unfed, 
more than a dozen were killed in crossfire or rocket attacks, 
and a number of mentally ill women were reportedly raped by 
gunmen who repeatedly broke into the home.

There is no information indicating whether the Government has 
enacted legislation mandating provision of accessibility for 
the disabled.  Available evidence indicates a large portion of 
health care activity of international humanitarian relief 
organizations focused on providing prostheses and therapy to 
victims of land mines.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

There was little reliable reporting on labor laws and 
practices.  No labor rallies or strikes were reported.  The 
Government does not have the means to enforce worker rights at 
present, nor is there a functional constitutional or legal 
framework that defines and protects them.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There is no tradition of genuine labor-management bargaining in 
Afghanistan.  There is no information on any progress in 
establishing labor courts and other mechanisms for the 
resolution of disputes.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

No information is available on government edicts regarding 
forced or compulsory labor.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

There is no evidence that the Government enforces a labor law 
relating to the employment of children.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

No information on any statutory minimum wage is available.  
Provision appears to be made for time off for prayers and 
observance of religious holidays.  There appear to be no 
effective enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair and safe labor 
practices. (###)

[end of document]


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