The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

Title:  Afghanistan Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                              AFGHANISTAN* 
 
 
 
*  The American Embassy in Kabul has been closed for security reasons 
since January, 1989.  Information on the human rights situation is 
therefore limited. 
 
 
Afghanistan in 1995 continued to experience civil war with the military 
balance and political control shifting between various factions in 
different parts of the country.  Nominal President Burhanuddin Rabbani 
remained in power in Kabul, the capital, although his mandate expired in 
June 1994.  His authority was maintained by the military forces of de 
facto Defense Minister Ahmed Shah Masood.  Only two of the factions that 
comprised the original nine-party coalition Government in 1993 remained.  
In November Rabbani told the U.N. Special Mission that he was willing to 
transfer power to a 28-member interim council, comprised largely of pro-
Rabbani elements.  His offer was rejected by the Taliban, an independent 
coalition of religious students and former commanders.  As of early 
December, no agreement on an interim council had been reached.  There is 
no constitution, no rule of law, and no independent judiciary.  Outside 
the capital, several provincial administrations maintained limited 
functions.  Civil institutions were mostly nonexistent.  Banditry was 
prevalent in much of the country. 
 
Rabbani's forces controlled Kabul and 4 to 5 of Afghanistan's 32 
provinces.  The rest are controlled by the armed factions, primarily the 
Taliban (religious students movement), General Dostam's National Islamic 
Movement (NIM), and the Council of the Eastern Provinices.  By September 
the Taliban had consolidated its hold over half the provinces and almost 
two-thirds of the territory.  Efforts were under way to foster military 
and political cooperation among the opposition factions to oust Rabbani 
and Masood from power, however none succeeded.  In October the Taliban 
began advancing on Kabul.  In November and December, air raids and 
rocket attacks by proRabbani and Taliban forces resulted in over 100 
civilian casualties.  By year's end, Masood's forces had failed to 
dislodge the Taliban from their forward positions around Kabul. 
 
The Kabul authorities have not established a formal security apparatus; 
rather they relied on the forces of Masood.  The Rabbani regime has 
limited influence even in the few provinces under its control.  In most 
areas of the country, tribal warlords and armed commanders ruled their 
own personal fiefdoms with little reference to any other authority.  
Local security units operated independently of any governmental 
authority and were responsible for many human rights abuses. 
 
Agriculture, including high levels of opium poppy cultivation, remained 
the mainstay of the economy.  Afghanistan has become the second largest 
opium producer in the world and a substantial hashish producer as well.  
Civil war has impeded reconstruction of irrigation systems and repair of 
market roads.  The presence of an estimated 10 million land mines has 
restricted areas for cultivation and slowed the return of refugees who 
are needed to rebuild the economy.  The laying of new minefields, 
primarily by pro-Rabbani forces but also by General Dostam's NIM, 
exacerbated an already difficult situation.  Formal economic activity 
remained marginal; commerce was deterred by the recurrent fighting and 
blocked roads.  Modest reconstruction took place in Herat, Kandahar, 
Jalalabad, Mazar-i-Sharif, and some rural areas where local authorities 
had reestablished a degree of order and civil administration, and United 
Nations and nongovernmental organizations were able to operate.  When 
Kabul was united under Rabbani/Masood control in March, reconstruction 
efforts began in the capital as well.  However, rocket attacks of Kabul 
by Taliban forces in November largely halted those reconstruction 
efforts. 
 
Large-scale human rights violations continued to occur; citizens were 
effectively precluded from changing their government peacefully.  The 
warring factions not only failed to protect the human rights of 
civilians, but often wantonly violated those rights by specifically 
targeting noncombatants.  The various armed factions were often 
responsible for assassinations, indiscriminate lethal shelling of 
civilians, torture, rapes, looting, and kidnapings for ransom.  Masood's 
troops were responsible for looting and rape after they captured the 
Karte Seh section of Kabul from the Taliban and Shi'a forces in March.  
Dostam's forces systematically looted the northern city of Kunduz after 
taking the city in mid-February.  While the Taliban were generally 
acknowledged to have been more successful than other factions in 
restoring peace and order to areas under their control, they also were 
reputed to enforce strict Islamic punishments in areas that they 
controlled--public executions, amputations of hands and feet for theft, 
and restricting women's rights by preventing them from working and girls 
from attending schools.  Civil war conditions and the unfettered actions 
of competing factions effectively limited the freedoms of speech, press, 
assembly, association, and religion. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
Combatants sought to assassinate rival commanders and their 
sympathizers.  The perpetrators of these assassinations and their 
motives were difficult to identify, as political motives are often 
entwined with family and tribal feuds, battles over the drug trade, 
religious zealotry, and personal vendettas. 
 
In February Kabul authorities vowed to investigate the murder of the 
wife and children of Dr. Salem Mohammed Zeray, a former Communist 
government minister, who were found dead in their Kabul home.  All had 
had their throats cut.  In its 1995 report on Afghanistan, Amnesty 
International (AI) stated that official investigators appointed by 
President Rabbani reportedly confirmed that there had been no signs of 
other injuries or of a robbery.  No further information or outcome of 
the investigation was known. 
 
In March Abdul Ali Mazari, the leader of an anti-Rabbani Shi'a faction, 
was killed while in the custody of the Taliban.  The Taliban carried out 
public executions of purportedly corrupt officials in certain areas they 
controlled.  In March a mass grave with 22 bodies was found south of 
Kabul; 20 of the deceased were Shi'a Muslims of the Hazara ethnic 
minority.  They apparently were killed execution style with their hands 
tied behind their backs and bullets fired into their heads.  It was 
unclear who was responsible for the Shi'a deaths. 
 
In October Syed Mohammad Yousaf, a top Rabbani commander, was reportedly 
murdered as a result of internal strife within the Kabul coalition.  
Also in that month, Mamoor Ghayyur, former governor of northern Baghlan 
Province and Hezb-I-Islami member, and 15 others were ambushed and 
killed while travelling in Baghlan Province.  Local press accounts 
suggested that NIM-allied General Jaffar Naderi ordered the 
assassination. 
 
In November Abdul Hakim Katawazi, retired Afghan general and Secretary 
General of the Council for Understanding and National Unity (CUNUA), was 
murdered outside his Peshawar office.  Some members of CUNUA, a moderate 
political organization, favor a role for the former King of Afghanistan 
in a future Afghan government.  The next day, Wakil Wazir Mohammad, a 
tribal elder and CUNUA supporter was shot and killed at his home in a 
Peshawar suburb.  No suspects have been apprehended by local authorities 
in either case, although some suspect that the Kabul regime or radical 
Islamist Hekmatyar's faction was involved. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
Hostage-taking for ransom or political reasons was common.  There were 
persistent, credible allegations of hostage taking for ransom in Kabul, 
reportedly by troops loyal to de facto Defense Minister Ahmad Shah 
Masood.  In August the Taliban forced a Russian aircraft enroute to 
Kabul to land in Kandahar and found it to be carrying AK-47 ammunition 
headed for the Kabul regime.  They held the Russian crew of seven in  
 
detention, but allowed ICRC delegates to visit them regularly.  The 
Russian Government appealed to the Taliban to free the crew on 
humanitarian grounds but to no avail.  The Taliban demanded an 
accounting of 60,000 Afghans who purportedly disappeared between 1978 
and 1989; they believed some were still in the former Soviet Union.  The 
Taliban gave Russian officials a list of 6,700 names about whom the 
Russians promised to seek information.  As of year's end, the Russian 
crew had not been released. 
 
Groups in Russia listed nearly 300 Soviet soldiers who had served in 
Afghanistan as missing in action or prisoners of war.  Most were thought 
to be dead or to have voluntarily assimilated into Afghan society.  Some 
allegedly continued to be held against their will by their Afghan 
captors.  The Ukrainian Government maintained that there are Ukrainian 
prisoners of war held in Afghan camps. 
 
There were unconfirmed but persistent reports of girls and young women 
throughout Afghanistan being kidnapped by local commanders.  Some of the 
women were then forced to marry their kidnappers.  Others simply 
remained missing.  To avoid this situation, some families sent their 
daughters to Pakistan.  There were also reports that women have been 
killed by their male relatives to prevent forced marriages (see Section 
5). 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Armed factions reportedly employed torture frequently to extract 
information from prisoners or to break their will.  Inmates have been 
tortured to death.  Various factions maintained prisons in territories 
under their control and established torture cells in them.  According to 
a press report, prisoners in a Panjshir prison in the north, which was 
controlled by de facto Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Masood, were 
routinely beaten, kept awake at night, and fed insufficient and bad 
food. 
 
The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan visited a 
prison in Jalalabad in August.  He described prison conditions as 
difficult; the prisoners were given no food.  It was the responsibility 
of prisoners' relatives to provide food once a week.  Those who had no 
relatives had to petition the local Shura or rely on other inmates.  
Prisoners live in collective cells. 
 
The Taliban ruled strictly in the southern and eastern provinces they 
controlled, establishing ad hoc and rudimentary judicial systems.  As 
there was no functioning national judicial system, the Taliban imposed 
their own form of justice based on traditional Islamic laws and 
punishments.  Murderers were subjected to public executions (see Section 
1.a.) and thieves had one hand and one foot severed.  In February the 
Taliban imposed for the first time in Afghanistan the punishment of 
amputation.  Three Afghans convicted of highway robbery by an Islamic 
court in Lashkargah, Helmand province, each had a hand and a foot 
publicly amputated under local anesthesia; the operations were 
reportedly performed by doctors.  Public amputation under similar 
conditions for the crime of theft reportedly was imposed by the Taliban 
Shari'a court in Ghazni province after the accused were caught 
attempting to rob a truck driver of goods valued at $280.  There were 
also reports that amputations as punishment for severe crimes were 
carried out in other non-Taliban controlled areas. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
With the breakdown of law and order, justice was not administered 
according to formal legal codes and procedures in many localities.  
Little is known about procedures employed during the year for taking 
persons into custody and bringing them to trial.  Presumably, practices 
varied considerably among the localities. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
With the collapse of a nationwide judicial system, many municipal and 
provincial authorities relied on some form of Shari'a (Islamic) law and 
traditional tribal codes of justice.  However, little is known about the 
implementation of these precepts.  The administration and implementation 
of justice varied from area to area, and could depend on the whims of 
the local commanders.  Reportedly, one northern commander summarily 
executed, tortured, and meted out punishments without reference to any 
other authority. 
 
According to AI, in the first months of the year, dozens of prisoners 
received punishments, including execution and amputation, ordered by 
recently established Islamic courts in areas controlled by the Taliban.  
These courts reportedly were hearing cases, at times in sessions that 
lasted only a few minutes.  Reportedly one such court in Kandahar 
usually consisted of four judges who gathered in a room or courtyard.  
Both witnesses and the accused were brought before the judges to recount 
testimony and plead their cases.  Prisoners were often brought forward 
in shackles.  The court reportedly dealt with all complaints, using 
traditional Islamic laws and punishments as well as traditional tribal 
customs (see Section 1.c.).  In cases involving murder, convicted 
prisoners were generally ordered executed by relatives of the victim 
(see Section 1.a.), who could instead choose to accept blood money.  
Decisions of the courts were reportedly final. 
 
In Kandahar the Taliban executed two persons convicted of murder in 
early 1995.  The sentences were handed down by a four-member Islamic 
court headed by Maulawi Sayed Mohammed.  The executions were performed 
by the victims' next-of-kin using rifles.  In May a former army officer 
of the Communist regime was executed in Shaikhabad (Wardak Province) 
after being convicted by a Taliban Islamic court for murdering two men 
several days earlier.  A relative of one of the murdered men performed 
the public beheading with a sword.  Reportedly, northern Pashtun tribes 
residing in nominally Dostam-controlled areas punished severe crimes by 
amputating hands. 
 
No firm estimate was available on the number of political prisoners, but 
a Pakistan-based human rights group estimated that well over 1,000 
people were held as political prisoners or hostages by armed factions or 
independent commanders.  According to an International Committee of the 
Red Cross (ICRC) document issued in September, ICRC delegates had access 
to 2,829 detainees during the first 7 months of the year, 2,309 of whom 
were seen for the first time.  Delegates made 83 visits to 43 places of 
detention during the same period. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Intrafactional fighting often resulted in the homes and businesses of 
civilians being invaded by the opposing forces--whether victor or loser.  
Armed gunmen acted with impunity given the absence of any legal 
protection from the law or a responsive police force.  In March after 
capturing the Karte Seh district in southwestern Kabul from the Taliban 
and anti-Rabbani Shi'a forces, Masood's troops went on a rampage, 
systematically looting whole streets and raping women.  In one case 
reported by Reuters, government troops broke a man's arms with shovels 
and beat his wife when he tried to stop them from looting his home.  In 
February, after General Dostam's forces took the northern city of 
Kunduz, they engaged in widespread, systematic looting of the city, 
including homes, stores, and offices.  
 
   g.   Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in 
Internal Conflicts 
 
Fighting for power in Kabul and the provinces continued among the armed 
factions, causing widespread destruction and indiscriminate killing.  
Command and control of armed men was often haphazard and informal, a 
condition that obscured the relationship between the perpetrators of 
human rights violations and the political leaders with whom they were 
nominally affiliated. 
 
The civil war intensified in February when the Taliban, a loose movement 
of Afghan religious students and former commanders, advanced to the 
outskirts of Kabul.  They drove former Prime Minister Gulbuddin 
Hekmatyar's forces out of southern Kabul and disarmed Shi'a forces 
allied with Hekmatyar.  Rabbani's forces, however, repulsed the Taliban 
advance and the Taliban retreated to positions about 30 miles south of 
Kabul.  Some of the worst human rights abuses occurred in southwestern 
Kabul in the wake of the retreating Taliban and Shi'a fighters--looting, 
rape, and detention of citizens.  Many of the abuses were committed by 
pro-Rabbani forces.  In November Taliban aircraft bombed residential 
areas of central Kabul, reportedly killing 39 people and wounding 140. 
 
An estimated 1,500 people died in violence in Kabul primarily during the 
fighting in March when Masood's forces consolidated power over the 
capital.  In many cases civilian deaths were incidental to the military 
actions of the belligerents, but in some cases combatants deliberately 
targeted civilian areas.  In March Taliban commanders reportedly 
admitted having fired rockets at Kabul during the intense fighting for 
the capital's southwestern sector.  In August the Karte Seh section of 
Kabul, with a largely Hazara Shi'a population, came under rocket fire in 
two separate attacks resulting in the deaths of 18 people.  The Taliban 
subsequently denied responsibility. 
 
In November and December, more than 150 people died in Kabul due to 
repeated rocketing, shelling, and high-altitude bombing of the city, 
reportedly by Taliban forces.  The Taliban denied responsibility for 
civilian casualties, stating they were aiming at military targets.  
Civilian casualties also resulted from government counterattacks, air 
raids, and shelling on Taliban positions, particularly around Charasyab. 
 
At the beginning of the year, the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) reported that there were approximately 300,000 
internally displaced persons (IDP's) in camps near Jalalabad and as many 
as 200,000 living independently in and around Jalalabad city.  By 
September the number remaining in the camps had fallen to approximately 
164,000.  Between 25,000 and 27,000 IDPs were reported to be living in 
camps in the north in Pul-i-Khumri, Mazar-i-Sharif, Shibergan, and 
Hairaton.  A large number of Kabulis were also displaced within the 
city, but there were no reliable estimates as to how many. 
 
The Afghan countryside remained plagued by an estimated 10  million land 
mines sown during and since the Soviet occupation.  With funding from 
international donors, the United Nations (U.N.) has organized and 
trained mine detection and clearance teams which operated throughout 
Afghanistan, and supported mine awareness programs for civilians.  
Nevertheless, the mines will pose a threat for years to come.  The 
laying of new minefields by pro-Rabbani forces of Ismael Khan in Herat, 
by Ahmad Shah Masood around Kabul, and to lesser degree by General 
Dostam, has compounded the mine problem. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
There are no laws effectively providing for freedom of speech and press, 
and the nominal government lacked the authority to protect these rights.  
Senior officials of various warring factions allegedly attempted to 
intimidate reporters and influence their reporting.  The few newspapers, 
all of which were published only sporadically, were largely affiliated 
with different factions.  There was a pro-Rabbani radio and television 
service in Kabul.  The various regions had their own radio and 
television stations:  former Prime Minister Hekmatyar has his own radio 
and television service near Kabul, as does General Dostam in the 
northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.  The media in Herat came under Taliban 
control when they captured the city in September. 
 
International journalists in Kabul report that they were routinely 
pressured by the authorities to slant their coverage in favor of the 
Rabbani regime.  In September the Taliban expelled from Herat a British 
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist because they believed his 
reporting had a pro-Rabbani tilt. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
Civil war conditions in Kabul and the tenuous security situation in much 
of the country effectively limited Afghans' freedom of assembly and 
association.  The prohibition against non-Islamic political parties was 
reinforced by President Rabbani's call for Jihad, or holy war, against 
General Dostam and his followers.  The President's backers do not view 
Dostam's movement as Islamic. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
Afghanistan's official name, the Islamic State of Afghanistan, reflects 
the country's adherence to Islam as the state religion.  Some 85 percent 
of the population is Sunni Muslim, with Shi'a Muslims comprising most of 
the remainder.  The Shi'a minority number among the most economically 
disadvantaged people in Afghanistan.  Some armed groups have been 
particularly brutal in fighting the Shi'a factions.  In October Sunni 
Taliban forces reportedly seized the possessions of Shi'a families in 
the Nimroz capital of Zaranj and forced them to leave the city. 
 
The small number of non-Muslim residents in Afghanistan may practice 
their faith, but may not proselytize, according to an official source.  
The country's small Hindu and Sikh population, which once numbered about 
50,000, continued to shrink as its members emigrated or took refuge 
abroad. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Although in principle citizens have the right to travel freely both 
inside and outside the country, their ability to travel within the 
country was hampered by warfare, brigandage, millions of undetected land 
mines, a road network in a state of disrepair, and limited domestic air 
service (complicated by factional threats to air traffic).  Despite 
these obstacles many people continued to travel relatively freely with 
buses plying routes in most parts of the country.  However, due to 
intermittent fighting in various areas, international aid agencies often 
found that their ability to travel, work and distribute assistance was 
hampered.  International travel continued to be difficult as both 
General Dostam and the Taliban threatened to shoot down any planes that 
overflew the areas of Afghanistan they controlled without their 
permission. 
 
Afghans continued to form one of the world's largest refugee 
populations.  According to the UNHCR, about 2.25 million Afghans remain 
abroad.  Of these, 1.3 million are in Iran, 865,000 are in Pakistan, and 
28,000 are in Russia.  Approximately 19,000 Afghans reside in parts of 
the former Soviet Union other than Russia.  Pakistan claimed an 
additional 500,000 unregistered Afghan refugees in its territory.  Over 
3.8 million Afghan refugees have been repatriated since 1988, with over 
1.5 million returning to Afghanistan in the peak year of 1992.  
According to the UNHCR, more than 391,000 Afghans repatriated in 1995, 
153,000 from Pakistan and 238,000 from Iran.  In November the UNHCR 
border facility at Islam Qaleh reopened after a month's closure as the 
border with Iran was sealed due to hostilities in the area.  
 
According to the UNHCR, of the 100,000 to 120,000 Tajik refugees who 
fled to northern Afghanistan, only 18,000 remained in January; most were 
repatriated in 1994.  From January to October, an additional 523 were 
repatriated.  Tajiks repatriating from Sakhi camp, in areas under the 
control of General Dostam, were able to repatriate freely.  Those in and 
around Kunduz, in areas controlled by pro-Rabbani forces, were more 
restricted by local authorities and less accessible to the UNHCR.  
Pressures from the Tajik opposition limited repatriation as well. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The continuing violent struggle for political power among the three 
major armed factions (including the nominal Government) precluded 
citizens from changing their government or form of government peacefully 
and democratically.  The authorities in Kabul, nominally a coalition 
headed by President Burhanuddin Rabbani, remained in power with the 
military backing of de facto Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Masood.  In 
March Nabi Mohammadi's Movement of the Islamic Revolution, one of the 
small coalition parties, resigned from the Government, leaving only 2 of 
the 9 original political parties of the coalition government which was 
established in 1993.  The Kabul regime controlled only the capital and 4 
or 5 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces.  General Dostam's forces controlled 
several northern provinces, and the Taliban movement held sway in at 
least 16 provinces in southern, central, and western Afghanistan.  Three 
eastern provinces were ruled by a neutral governor.  In most areas, the 
local Shura or Council was the most influential governing body. 
 
In November President Rabbani told Mahmoud Mestiri, the U.N. Special 
Envoy for Afghanistan, that he was willing to transfer power to a 28-
member interim council, comprised largely of pro-Rabbani elements--an 
offer rejected by the Taliban.  Despite the determined efforts of the 
U.N. Special Mission to get the factions to agree to a cease-fire and an 
interim governing mechanism, no such agreement has emerged.  The 
Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) also tried to bring the Afghan 
factions together.  After the fall of Herat to the Taliban in early 
September, the U.N. and the OIC renewed their separate efforts to unite 
the factions.  Efforts were under way at year's end to promote greater 
cooperation--both military and political--among all the opposition 
factions to oust Rabbani from power, but these were not successful. 
 
Public response to Taliban rule in Herat was reserved.  In other areas, 
the populace long-wearied by the disorder caused by unrelenting 
fighting, welcomed the Taliban, who disarmed the warlords, restored some 
law and order, and halted the practice of frequent road tolls.  Some 
Afghans expressed support for the return of the former king, Zahir Shah 
in some transitional arrangement.  Although women in Afghanistan tended 
to be denied significant roles in public life, greater freedom in Kabul 
and in northern and western Afghanistan provided some limited respite 
from these traditional strictures.  For example, a few women served as 
desk officers in the Kabul regime's Foreign Ministry, in the Protocol 
Department, as doctors at hospitals, and as administrators at Kabul 
University.  The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan 
noted a high level of female involvement, especially in areas of medical 
care and education. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
 
The Afghan League of Human Rights operated outside of the country in 
Pakistan; it produced its annual report there.  The Cooperation Center 
for Afghanistan is an Afghan nongovernmental organization (NGO) which 
operated in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  It produced in Peshawar a 
monthly newsletter on the Afghan human rights situation.  The civil war 
and lack of security made it difficult for human rights organizations to 
monitor the situation inside the country.  In November two 
representatives from Human Rights Watch visited 4 Tajik refugee camps, 3 
in Masood-controlled Takhar and Kunduz provinces and one near Mazar-I-
Sharif in Dostam-controlled Balkh province. 
 
In May a new U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan was 
appointed following the death of the previous rapporteur.  In August Dr. 
Choong-Hyun Paik visited Kabul, Jalalabad, Mazur-I-Sharif, and Islamabad 
and Peshawar in Pakistan to discuss the human rights situation with 
officials, political leaders, NGO's, refugees, ordinary families, and 
others.  In October he submitted his report to the U.N.  Dr. Paik 
concluded that "human suffering of considerable gravity persists in the 
form of murder, disappearances, and infliction of conditions that cause 
physical destruction, thus depriving people of fundamental human rights 
such as the right to life, the right to be free from torture, and the 
right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment." 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
There are no Constitutional provisions which prohibit discrimination 
based on race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status.  
It is not known whether specific laws prohibit discrimination; local 
custom and practices generally prevail.  Discrimination against women 
varies from area to area, depending on the local leadership's attitude 
towards work and education for women.  Traditionally, the minority Shi'a 
faced discrimination from the majority Sunni population.  There was more 
acceptance of the disabled as the number of people maimed by landmines 
increased. 
 
   Women 
 
As lawlessness and inter-factional fighting continued, beatings, rapes, 
and the killing of women continued to occur.  In January 13 armed gunmen 
said to be affiliated with Hekmatyar's faction, reportedly attacked a 
Tajik refugee camp near the town of Kunduz in the north.  They raped 13 
Tajik women before killing them.  In March when Masood's troops captured 
the Karte Seh district of Kabul, they reportedly engaged in widespread 
rape.  Medical workers said that they knew of at least 6 rapes and 2 
attempted rapes.  Social taboos against revealing rapes are so strong 
that it is impossible to know how many rape victims there actually were. 
 
Afghan custom and tradition imposes limits on women's activities beyond 
the home.  Under the Communist regime of the 1980's, a growing number of 
women, particularly in urban areas, worked outside the home in 
nontraditional roles.  This trend was reversed when the Communists were 
ousted in 1992, and in 1995 women were increasingly precluded from 
public service, although some women continued to work as teachers and 
nurses in some areas.  In conservative areas, many women appeared in 
public only if dressed in a burkha (an all-encompassing head-to-toe 
garment with a mesh veil for the face). 
 
In late 1994, when the Taliban movement began to take control of 
provinces in the southwest, they banned the employment of women and 
prohibited girls from attending school.  A strict dress code for women 
was also enforced.  In September, when the Taliban captured Herat, a key 
provincial capital in the west, the movement again banned female 
employment and female school attendance.  UNICEF publicly called on the 
Taliban to rescind these decisions.  A UNICEF spokesperson said that 
local authorities did not allow women to work in public positions, 
except for health care workers.  Schools were reopened, but female 
teachers and girls were not allowed to enter the schools.  An Afghan 
woman in Herat employed by UNICEF was not allowed to return to her job.  
UN programs for women and girls were also suspended.  However, Taliban 
authorities in Kandahar assured a high ranking U.N. visitor that 
education for girls would be permitted within an (undefined) Islamic 
framework.  The World Health Organization (WHO) was given permission to 
open a nursing school for women in Kandahar and was actively recruiting 
students. 
 
In April the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to 
Afghanistan (UNOCHA) canceled a donor visit to Kandahar province because 
the Taliban-controlled Shura (Governing Council) refused to meet with 
female diplomats and insisted that they wear a burkha to visit project 
sites.  This was the first time that female diplomats encountered 
difficulties visiting Afghanistan based on their gender.  Several weeks 
later, female diplomats were permitted to visit Kandahar, as long as 
their heads were covered, and they did meet with local authorities. 
 
In June the Nangarhar Shura reinforced its ban on women working in 
Jalalabad City, and ordered all female employees except girls' teachers 
and female health professionals sent home.  Female employees of the 
provincial government, except teachers, have been at home since October 
1994.   
 
A national women's conference was held in Kabul in July which discussed 
women's issues and planned for the Beijing Conference on Women.  In 
August the Rabbani government canceled at the last minute its 
delegation's participation at the conference on the grounds that its 
agenda was anti-Islamic and a threat to Afghan religious and cultural 
traditions.  However, about 10 Afghan women from Europe and elsewhere 
attended the NGO forum held concurrently with the Beijing conference. 
 
   Children 
 
Local administrative bodies and international assistance organizations 
undertook to look out for children's welfare to the extent possible.  A 
nutritional survey by aid agencies showed that 40 percent of the 
children of Kabul suffered from malnutrition.  The general disruption of 
health services countrywide due to the civil war put many young people 
at grave risk.  Local authorities in all parts of Afghanistan have 
supported UNICEF/WHO mass vaccination campaigns.  The disruption of 
education due to the fighting throughout Afghanistan has caused a 
generation of school children to miss all of their schooling, reportedly 
raising illiteracy levels above 75 percent. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
It was not known whether the nominal Government took any measures to 
protect the rights of the mentally and physically disabled or to mandate 
accessibility for them.  Victims of land mines were a major focus of 
international humanitarian relief organizations, which devoted resources 
to providing prostheses, medical treatment, and rehabilitation therapy 
to amputees.  There was more public acceptance of people with 
disabilities because of the prevalence of the maimed due to landmines.  
The U.N. Development Program conducted a million dollar project to 
strengthen comprehensive community-based rehabilitation services for 
disabled Afghans.  The ICRC and some NGO's were actively involved in 
programs for people with disabilities throughout Afghanistan. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
Little was known about labor laws and practices in Afghanistan.  There 
were no reports of labor rallies or strikes.  Labor rights were not 
defined, in the context of the breakdown of governmental authority, and 
there was no effective central authority to enforce them.  Many of 
Kabul's industrial workers were unemployed due to the destruction or 
abandonment of the city's minuscule manufacturing base. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Afghanistan lacks a tradition of genuine labor-management bargaining.  
There were no known labor courts or other mechanisms for resolving labor 
disputes. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
No information was available on government edicts regarding forced or 
compulsory labor.  There were no confirmed reports of alleged forced-
work road projects. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age or Employment of Children 
 
There was no evidence that the Government was able to enforce labor 
laws, if they existed, relating to the employment of children. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
There was no available information regarding a statutory minimum wage or 
the enforcement of safe labor practices.  Many workers were apparently 
allotted time off regularly for prayers and observance of religious 
holidays. 

(###)


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1995 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.