top of page

Search Results

466 items found for ""

  • Fellowship | Afghan Witness

    What is the fellowship program? The Noor Fellowship ('Noor' or 'نور', meaning 'light') is a four-month online program that provides guidance to selected journalists, researchers, advocates, and human rights reporters working in the Afghanistan information space. The program aims to strengthen fellows’ skills in open-source intelligence, verification, and fact-checking, as well as building their networks along the way. Overall, the fellowship provides an opportunity to contribute to and strengthen information, both on, and in, Afghanistan. At the end of the program, fellows will complete an investigation incorporating open-source tools as the cornerstone element of their project. Investigations undertaken by fellows will ideally be in areas where there are gaps of knowledge (i.e. topics regarding women and girls, the LGBT community, other minorities or identified understudied areas) and the work will seek to help fill those gaps. Purpose of the program To strengthen the open-source skills of journalists, researchers, advocates, or human rights reporters and increase their contribution to the Afghan media and NGO community — with the overall purpose of supporting the information landscape in Afghanistan. What is included in the fellowship program? A stipend determined by the scope of the proposal — a note on this is listed below — we anticipate supporting around 5 fellows under the Noor Fellowship Expert training on Open Source (OSINT) investigation techniques Ongoing guidance throughout the fellowship period Supporting fellows to identify opportunities build their network and help them attend events and/or meetings where relevant Subscriptions to relevant services Flights/travel costs where relevant Selection criteria Candidates will demonstrate the following in their application to be considered for the fellowship program: ​ Expertise Candidates must be journalists, researchers, advocates, or human rights reporters with a keen and evident interest in Afghanistan They will demonstrate existing and significant skills in investigative reporting (not necessarily open-source skills although this would be useful) Interest They will be engaged and communicative with Afghan Witness (show initial interest in learning these techniques and partaking in the program) Quality of, and capacity for, the proposal They’ll have capacity to deliver on their proposals They’ll indicate potential of sustainability — this will further their career and contribute to their long term goals They will demonstrate integrity Candidates will demonstrate how they’ll use the knowledge gained from the fellowship to strengthen the information landscape in Afghanistan ​ ​ Please note! The fellowship is an online program and does not include any visa sponsorship. The applicants are requested to confirm the following in their personal statement: “I understand that the maximum amount of funding available to those selected to receive the Noor Fellowship is GBP £5,000 (or USD $ equivalent). By submitting this application, I confirm that I accept this stipulation and confirm I believe my project proposal is achievable within this funding amount ” AW welcomes applications from women and girls, as well as minority groups and those people less represented in the Afghanistan information space. How to apply Applicants are requested to submit an application in English, containing the following documents by the 15th December to ​ A Curriculum Vitae A Personal Statement (maximum 500 words) in which the applicant will cover how they meet the selection criteria mentioned above Brief project proposal/design (not more than 1000 words) to outline the topic of investigation, purpose, activities and methodology Timeline We’re excited to read your proposals — good luck!

  • Afghan Witness | OSINT reporting from Afghanistan

    Learn more How to use our map View map Home: Our Misson Latest Reports 'Violence behind a screen': Event Recap Afghan Witness reflects on some of the key takeaways of the project’s event on 21 November 2023 with Shaharzad Akbar, Francesca Gentile and Nina Jankowicz. How has online abuse affected Afghan women and what can be done about it? Violence behind a screen: rising online abuse silences Afghan women Social media has provided a crucial platform for Afghan women since the Taliban takeover, but a new investigation by Afghan Witness reveals how those who dare to speak out are facing a torrent of abuse online. The impacts are devastating for women’s political participation – both online and off. Increase in claimed ISKP attacks in Afghanistan AW’s analysis of claimed ISKP attacks found an increase in activity in October, with targeting of Shia civilians resumed and the renewed use of simple gun attacks Afghanistan’s madrasa system under the Taliban The country’s education system has changed significantly since August 2021. The Taliban have implemented major restrictions on female education, and have pledged to open more madrasas nationwide. Explosion during Friday prayers in Pul-e Khumri, Baghlan province Using footage shared online, Afghan Witness confirmed at least two deceased individuals. Reports of prominent activist’s arrest sparks protests, but is also met with online hate speech As news of Zholia Parsi’s alleged arrest surfaced, Afghan Witness monitored the online response. Uptick in claims of forced displacement across Afghanistan Afghan Witness has observed an increase in the number of claims of alleged forced displacement and the number of provinces affected. Appointment of new Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan triggers mixed responses online Some framed the event as a sign of recognition from a global superpower, while others criticised the warm reception provided by the Taliban. ALM and Loy Paktia Freedom Front claim use of drones against Taliban, but content is manufactured AW investigators found that the content posted by both groups was fabricated using old satellite imagery and other content readily available online – likely an attempt to appear more technologically advanced than in reality. Female hunger strikers face criticism, denial, and hate speech online While the protest garnered widespread support on social media, the women involved were also targeted with a range of criticism and hate speech. Explosion in Khost reportedly targeting Pakistani Taliban members The incident triggered various reactions and claims on both sides of the border – and is set against a backdrop of rising political tensions between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. Violence during Muharram ceremonies in Kabul While events around the country took place largely peacefully, uniformed Taliban were recorded violently breaking up events in the capital. More Reports In the Press Home: Who we are For Witnesses For journalists Anchor 1 Home: Contact Strengthening reporting Our database of verified information is available in the form of the interactive Afghan Witness Map , designed to support journalists, researchers and policymakers in their reporting and analysis. Further data from our database of visual evidence and claims is also shared with organisations and journalists upon request. While our work is rooted in open source verification, our interviews with Afghans from a variety of backgrounds shed light on the impacts of the issues we monitor daily. These testimonies are available in an anonymised form for journalists and international media to report on. Get in Touch For Witnesses We provide a secure solution for anyone who has witnessed a human rights incident in Afghanistan and wants to ensure their digital evidence is recorded, analysed and stored in order to hold perpetrators to account. Afghan Witness will investigate and, where possible, verify information submitted through the portal. Evidence can be uploaded anonymously – safeguarding the identities of witnesses and those providing information is of the utmost importance. Upload Evidence View map Subscribe below for in-depth reports, stories, and our monthly newsletter. First name Enter your email address I agree to the terms & conditions View terms of use Subscribe Thanks for submitting! Top of Page Strengthening the information environment Part of our work focuses on building community and strengthening the capabilities of the Afghan diaspora and international organisations to collect, analyse and record information in a way that is verifiable and in accordance with international accountability mechanisms. We do this through training, collaboration, skill swapping, information sharing and through our grants and fellowship program.

  • Afghanistan’s teenage girls and the online teacher determined to help them

    Afghanistan’s teenage girls and the online teacher determined to help them In Afghanistan, girls’ secondary schools have been closed for 300 days and counting, but the country’s teenage girls - assisted by an international army of volunteers led by Angela Ghayour - are finding other ways to learn. 14 Jul 2022 *Afghan Witness has changed the names of the girls interviewed for this report. The night before girls’ secondary schools were set to re-open in Afghanistan, Parwana*, a 10th grade student from Herat, set her alarm clock and tried to sleep. “I couldn't sleep well due to the excitement,” she says, adding that she woke up several times during the night, thinking she’d overslept. “We were all very happy,” Parwana replies when asked about that morning. “Then one of our teachers entered the class and she seemed upset.” The teacher told Parwana and her classmates that from now on, they would have to come to school wearing “proper hijab” - something the pupils were surprised at, Parwana explains, as they had always observed Islamic hijab. That day, March 23, the Taliban backtracked on their decision to reopen schools for girls above grade six, which have been closed since their return last August. The next morning, Parwana and her friends went to their school anyway, only to find the gates firmly locked. “It was the most bitter experience of my life when I was turned away from the gates of my school,” Parwana says. “I could not eat or sleep properly the following weeks. I cried and shed tears watching the girls crying on national TV - and the journalists that cried for us.” A Taliban notice announced girls’ secondary schools would reopen after a decision over the uniform of female students was made in accordance with " Sharia law and Afghan tradition ". But after 300 days and counting of girls’ secondary schools being closed, a decision has yet to be made. “The Taliban’s ban on our education has no logic,” says Rafat*, an 11th grade student also from Herat. “The pretext they hold onto around adhering to hijab is baseless. Afghanistan has [always] been an Islamic country and despite having different personalities and choices, we have always observed hijab.” Neda*, a first year university student, graduated from high school only one month before the Taliban takeover. While she narrowly escaped the closure of girls’ secondary schools, she says many members of her family and friends have been affected. “I think the Taliban's decision has become a good excuse for conservative families who never like the idea of sending their daughters to schools - I think they were looking for an excuse,” she says. “Bright and open-minded families on the other hand, send their daughters to private schools, other educational courses or centres, and many are studying at home.” Organisations such as Pen Path have campaigned continually for girls’ secondary schools to reopen, and claim to have enabled 5,300 girls to access online and secret schools. As well as house-to-house campaigns, they have also held frequent online protests - a work-around the Taliban's restrictions on protests. Rafat tells Afghan Witness (AW) that the closure of the schools has impacted girls differently, having a disproportionate impact on those from poorer backgrounds. “I personally attend English language courses - but not everybody has had this privilege,” she explains. “Afghanistan’s economy has collapsed and many families are struggling to make the ends meet.” An outlet for online learning Angela Ghayour knows how it feels to be unable to go to school. Born in Herat, she and her family left for Iran in the early 1990s, when she was around eight years old. For the following five years, Angela was ineligible to attend school in Iran due to the family's temporary visa status. Angela says that as a young girl in Iran, she experienced what it was like to not have the right to education. She adds that putting conditions on education places stress on children due to “the constant possibility of losing your right”, and that “no child should experience tensions of this type.” After returning to Herat some years later, Angela studied Persian Literature and became a teacher. She moved to the Netherlands, where she taught refugees and migrants, and later to the UK, where she has been teaching Persian online. But when the Taliban took over, she realised her skills as a teacher could be used to help girls back home in Afghanistan. Angela established Herat Online School, and had over 800 people express interest in volunteering. According to Angela, Herat Online School runs 300 classes and has more than 3,000 students. Students are mainly in different provinces of Afghanistan, but around a quarter attend online classes from Iran or refugee camps in other countries. The teachers - a mixture of Persian and English speakers - are based in Iran and Afghanistan, as well as countries such as Canada and Brazil, and are matched with students based on their time zones. Angela says nearly 100 subjects are taught at the school, including arts, humanities, literacy, knitting and tailoring, as well as 17 languages. Students do not have to pay for classes, and Angela says the school has no source of financial assistance or funding, relying entirely on volunteers. While Herat Online School prides itself on its accessibility, Angela is aware that not everyone is privileged enough to have access. “Access to the internet is one of our main challenges,” she says. “Even if there is access to the internet, the prices have risen and people cannot afford that.” Neda makes a similar point: “Reaching out and talking to female pupils is not always easy as many of them do not have access to smartphones and the internet,” she says. Since the internet was introduced to Afghanistan two decades ago, the World Bank estimates that 13.5% of Afghans - most of whom are in urban areas - currently have access. But as Angela says, even if the internet is available, it doesn’t mean people can afford it. The United Nations (UN) has estimated that 500,000 jobs have been lost since the Taliban takeover. Angela explains that she has even written a letter to Elon Musk and talked to several communications companies in an attempt to convince them to lower their data prices - however, neither attempt was successful. She says she is still working on a solution, and is now calling for donations for students so they can afford access to the internet. “We have committed to do whatever we can with whatever we have in hand,” Angela says with determination. “We cannot wait for a day when people can have better access to the internet at affordable prices.” The strain on girls’ mental health Angela stresses that schools being closed not only impacts educational progress, but mental health. In recent months, medical professionals in the country have warned they are seeing a rise in depression , particularly among teenage girls. At the time of writing, Voice of America Dari (VOA) has also published an article on girls suffering from a range of mental conditions due to being out of school. “Girls are hopeless and they have written to me about their experiences and feelings,” Angela says. Due to concerns over students’ mental wellbeing, Angela says the online school has “80 psychotherapists who work with us voluntarily” to offer “psychotherapy sessions” to pupils. Parwana describes feeling a sense of “grief” and “loss” since her school closed. Rafat on the other hand says she has lost her sense of purpose: “I have halted my university entrance exam preparations,” she tells AW. “My father’s dream was that I would become a doctor one day. I have lost all my motivation and I no longer want to pursue that.” First year university student Neda says girls who were in their final years of school have been most impacted. “Once I was at an educational centre, a girl stood up and cried, saying that she was taking preparations to enter university but faced an uncertain future,” she recalls. “There are hearsays that girls will not be allowed to join university entrance exams.” Since boys’ schools have remained open, the Herat Online School was originally intended for girls only. However, the school has since expanded to accommodate boys too, who now account for 35% of the total students, according to the school’s statistics. “Boys are vulnerable as well,” Angela says. “Given that they are being taught under a Taliban regime that encourages women’s subordination, it will increase domestic violence in families.” Afghanistan currently ranks bottom of the most recent Global Gender Gap Index 2022 , published by the World Economic Forum. Since the Taliban’s return, restrictions have impacted women’s ability to work, learn, and travel freely. In May, women were told to cover their faces in public. “Being a girl and a woman in Afghanistan under the Taliban is a disaster,” says Rafat, who describes the group’s rule as “stifling”. Angela says her inbox is inundated with messages from university students who fear attending their classes, as well as younger girls who are scared of the “Talibanisation of the schools” if they do reopen. “A number of parents with whom I am in touch voice their concern whenever we talk and don’t want to send their children to the schools run under the Taliban.” Learning to cope Afghanistan remained analogue during the Taliban’s first stint in power, but this time around, the group were quick to mobilise social media in an attempt to adapt to the modern world. But the internet has played a crucial role for girls, too. It has allowed some of them to access other modes of learning, and has provided a platform for campaigners in the country and around the world. Parwana says she is lucky to study at Herat Online School. “The school has been a platform for us to continue learning,” she says gratefully. In her free time, she tries to keep busy by writing and studying. “I write articles but fear getting them shared or published,” Parwana adds. “I study women’s rights comparatively across different countries and I realise how we have been stripped of our fundamental rights in Afghanistan.” Rafat says that while she tries to study at home, “it cannot replace school”. To her, education represents freedom: “I am more focused on studying English as I believe learning this language will somehow save me and my family. It may open a way for us,” she says hopefully. Like Parwana, she has tried to keep her mind occupied. “Since the ban has been imposed, I have been trying to calm myself and stay strong. My family has been very supportive.” She says some of her friends who had already left school are not taking the university entrance exam. “When I ask them why, they say they can't because their sisters cannot go to school and they feel devastated,” Rafat explains. Like many girls who are able to access the internet, she has turned to the digital world to provide some source of normality. “I am in touch with my classmates and have created educational channels on social media where we share books and our thoughts - we have been talking about gathering somewhere and exchanging our books,” she adds. However, she says overall, she and her friends “have lost hope”. Angela is proud of what she and the volunteers at Herat Online School has achieved: “I established a school where there are no socio-political preconditions,” she says. “I believe that school is not just about education, but also about meeting the needs of students in crisis.” Since the Taliban’s return, campaigners within Afghanistan and outside of the country have campaigned for women’s and girls’ rights, and in recent days, as the 300-day anniversary of the secondary school closures neared, the campaign to ‘let Afghan girls learn’ has been ramped up on social media. Parwana says she follows the news “constantly” and waits for a Taliban announcement that teenage girls can return to school. In the meantime, she continues in the same vein as she has for the last 300 days: with a determination to keep learning. “I think no one can stop us from studying - we will continue to learn wherever we are,” says Parwana. “We, Afghan girls, hope that one day we’ll take our rights back.” Share

  • The water rights dispute behind rising Afghan-Iran tensions

    The water rights dispute behind rising Afghan-Iran tensions Satellite imagery shows that Afghanistan’s Kamal Khan and Kajaki dams currently hold larger water reserves than in previous years, though experts on the Afghan side say precipitation levels – not water reserves – determine Iran’s share of the water. 2 Jun 2023 On May 27, 2023, at least two Iranian border guards and one Taliban fighter were killed after clashes erupted near a border post between Iran and Afghanistan. Both sides accused the other of shooting first. While the cause of the clash is still unknown, it is set against the backdrop of an ongoing water dispute between the two countries. Tensions recently arose between Iranian and Taliban authorities over water supplies from Afghanistan’s Helmand River – known as the Hirmand River on the Iranian side – to Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, with Iran accusing the Taliban of violating the 1973 Helmand River Treaty. Initial statements On May 18, a video of the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi surfaced on Twitter, in which he emphasised Iran’s right to water from the Helmand River and warned the Taliban “to take his words seriously and do not complain later that we were not told.” The video is reportedly from Raisi’s trip to Sistan-Balochistan on May 18. In the video, Raisi added, “If there is water, the people's right should be given, and we will not allow it to be wasted.” Raisi’s statement provoked reactions from the Taliban. The Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, tweeted an official statement on May 18, stating that the Taliban were committed to fulfilling the commitments made under the 1973 Helmand River Treaty. Mujahid added that “Iranian officials should first complete their information about Helmand water and then express their demand with appropriate words.” The Taliban also mentioned in the statement that due to the drought in Afghanistan and the region, water levels have decreased in the river, causing water shortages. Following the Taliban’s official statement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on May 19, calling the Taliban statement “contradictory and inaccurate” , adding that “any comments regarding lowered water levels in the Helmand Sea are not acceptable unless the experts of the Islamic Republic of Iran are allowed to visit the route and upstream of the river according to the Hirmand Treaty. ” Regional tensions over water supplies became apparent in media and social media from May 18 onwards. However, according to Iran’s Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian, the issue has been on the table for months. According to the foreign ministries, the two sides had a phone call on May 17 to discuss the water issue. Media reported Iran’s concerns, including comments from the country’s Minister of Water and Energy, Ali Akbar Mehrabian, on days preceding May 18. In parallel with the escalation of tensions, the Taliban reportedly renewed the construction of the Bakhsh Abad Dam in Farah province on May 20. The Taliban’s Economic Deputy Prime Minister, Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader, reportedly spoke at the opening ceremony of the dam’s tunnel construction. Iran’s stance Iranian authorities have taken a direct stance, accusing the Taliban of non-compliance with the Helmand Water Treaty. Specifically, they have alleged that the Taliban has failed to release water from the Kajaki Dam, situated in the Kajaki district of Helmand province along the Helmand River. Furthermore, they have insisted that the Taliban permit a visit by Iranian experts to assess the current water level at the dam. On May 18, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Amirabdollahian, tweeted: “In recent months, I have repeatedly asked the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, Mulla Mattaqi, to fulfil his obligations according to the Hirmand Agreement and provide the possibility of visiting technical delegations and measuring the water level, which they did not. Sistan is suffering from drought. The lack of water was a technical and objective visit, not a political statement.” Meanwhile, in an interview with media on May 18, Amirabdollahian said, “The president of this country has ordered us to use any means to solve the problem of Iran's claim to the Helmand River.” A similar reaction came from the Iranian Ambassador and Special Representative of the Iranian President to Afghanistan, Hassan Kazemi Qomi. According to a report by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) from May 19, Qomi reiterated in an interview that if there was water and the Taliban did not release it, they should be held accountable. Qomi has reportedly said that “according to the Hirmand Agreement, 820 million cubic metres of water should enter Iran from Afghanistan in rainy years, but last year the country received only 27 million cubic metres of water.” The Taliban’s stance The Taliban have declared their commitment to the Helmand Water Treaty, pointing to drought in Afghanistan and the region as the main factor preventing them from supplying water to Iran. However, they have so far rejected the idea of Iranian experts visiting the dams, as requested by Iranian officials. Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi talked about the issue at the commemoration ceremony of the killing of the late Taliban Supreme Leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour. The Taliban’s Deputy Spokesman, Hafiz Zia Ahmad, tweeted Muttaqi’s remarks in two parts on May 22. Muttaqi also reiterated that the Taliban are committed to the Helmand River Treaty. Furthermore, he indicated that “there was no water in the Kamal Khan Dam” and called on the Iranian government “not to politicise the vital issue of water.” The Deputy Foreign Minister of the Taliban, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, recently participated in an interview with Afghanistan International on May 22. During the interview, he reiterated the Taliban's commitment to the water treaty and acknowledged that the ongoing drought had resulted in insufficient water in the Helmand River. However, he also claimed that Iran had benefitted from the Helmand River three to four times more than what was agreed upon in the water treaty during the 40 years of conflict in Afghanistan. In addition, Stanikzai said that military centres and dams are sensitive areas, and the Taliban does not accept visits from "foreign delegates." The Taliban Spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid also told BBC Pashtu that the Helmand Water Treaty did not cover the proposed visit of Iranian experts to the dams. The Taliban’s senior and high-ranking authorities have been diplomatic in their approach and lenient in their language. However, low-ranking Taliban and their supporters have reacted differently. A video by former Taliban official and social media influencer Mobeen Khan gained the most attention. In the video, Mobeen Khan ridiculed the Iranian president's remarks or “warning”, saying, “There is no water in Helmand. We will get them clean water from Logar. But don’t warn us as we get scared.” He adds: “Mr President, don’t attack us. There is no water. Here, I will bring you a bucket of water.” In the video, Mobeen Khan has a yellow bucket of water in hand and stands near a water reservoir. The video was shared on a Youtube channel, attributed to Mobeen Khan, and widely disseminated on social media. Meanwhile, on May 20, an account attributed to the Taliban’s District Chief for the Ahmad District of Paktia province, Abdul Hamid Khurasani Badri, tweeted : “It's been a long time since we fought. We're hungover. May the grace of God allow us to face Zoroaster's generation [referring to Iranians] on the battlefield. We will teach them a lesson again, God willing. The countries that did not learn from the failure of the West should be taught a lesson.” The Taliban reportedly ousted Khurasani shortly after, though, in an interview with Hasht-e-Subh Daily , he claimed he resigned due to “ internal disagreements with the Taliban leadership .” After several days of tensions, Iranian authorities reportedly met with the Taliban on May 22; however, there was no information about the discussions during the meeting. Satellite imagery shows water build-up, but drought ongoing At 1,300 kilometres, the Helmand River is Afghanistan’s longest river and the only one where Afghanistan has stipulated a formal agreement with a neighbouring country. However, among the various dams constructed on the Helmand River within Afghan territory, the Kajaki and Khamal Khan dams have recently emerged as focal points of discussion and concern raised by Iranian authorities. On May 18, the Spokesperson of the Iranian Space Agency, Hossein Dalirian, tweeted that satellite imagery findings show that Afghan authorities have prevented water from reaching Iran by diverting the water path and creating numerous dams in certain areas. He also declared their readiness to share the data with the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Meanwhile, claims supported by satellite imagery have surfaced on social media, showing more water reserves in the Kajaki Dam this year than last year. AW analysts obtained satellite imagery of the two dams in May 2021, 2022 and 2023. Comparing the images below, there seems to be more water storage in the Kajaki Dam this year than in 2021. Figure: Satellite imagery of Kajaki Dam on May 20, 2021 (left) and May 20, 2023 (right). Similarly, images of Kamal Khan Dam (below) from May 2021, 2022 and 2023 show more water reserves in the dam in 2023 than last year. The figure below compares the water reverses in the dam on May 20, 2021 (left) versus May 20, 2023 (right). Figure: Satellite imagery of Kamal Khan Dam on May 20, 2021 (left) versus May 20, 2023 (right). The figure below is satellite imagery of the same dam in May last year, showing less water in the area compared to May this year and May 2021. Figure: Satellite imagery of Kamal Khan Dam on May 20, 2022. Some experts on the Afghan side believe that based on the water treaty between the countries, the amount of water reserves does not necessarily determine Iran’s water share. Instead, they believe the determining factor is the amount of precipitation and rainfall. Afghanistan has experienced heavy drought since 2021, attributed to the La Niña phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, which has meant drier and warmer wet seasons. According to USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network, precipitation deficits between October 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023, were as large as 25 to 40 percent of average, limiting the build-up of reserves in glaciers, snow and ice which can feed irrigation in spring and summer. Afghan Witness will continue to monitor the situation. Share

  • Online response to Taliban U-turn on girls' schools

    Online response to Taliban U-turn on girls' schools While top posts came from several international figures, there was limited visibility of female campaigners inside Afghanistan 31 Mar 2022 On March 23, the Taliban’s decision not to reopen secondary schools for girls prompted a wave of protest both online and in the real world. With the decision coming at short notice, many girls were turned away at the school gates, with videos of their tears and anger circulating quickly online. Alongside videos and images, a range of hashtags were used on social media. Afghan Witness (AW) monitored the most popular hashtags on the day, which included: #ReopenGirlsSchools, #EducationForAll, #educationisgirlsright, #EducationPrevails, #LetAfghanGirlsLearn, #دنجونوښوونځي_پرانېزئ and #زده_کړې_دټولولپاره. The hashtags were monitored until 1800 GMT later that day, giving a snapshot of the immediate online response. The Taliban’s U-turn on their decision to reopen girls’ schools became a high-profile and international news story, and unsurprisingly, a significant volume of the online discussion was driven by international figures with large followings on social media. Over 17k people used one of the main hashtags, with almost 34k mentions in total, but the top posts came from girls’ rights campaigner Malala and two BBC correspondents – Yalda Hakim and Lyse Doucet. Figures 1 &2: Meltwater analysis of the hashtags, captured 24/03/2022 10:55 The communities formed around the hashtags and posts are naturally dominated by these high-profile accounts, but there were several distinct communities in the network graph: Figure 3: The results of forming a hashtag network from the monitored hashtags. Unconnected islands have been removed for readability. As seen above and reinforcing the meltwater data, posts from Malala, Yalda Hakim and Lyse Doucet were widely retweeted by international audiences. The small community highlighted in the centre of the graph, in the black circle, is formed by accounts retweeting the Human Rights Watch (HRW) account. Figure 4 : Screenshot of HRW tweet on girls' schools not reopening The larger community highlighted in the blue circle is what could be considered the more localised or Afghan Twitter community, incorporating accounts both in and out of Afghanistan but focused around Afghan constituencies. Isolating the 'Afghan community' from the graph and examining the accounts shows a network of accounts centred around campaigners who have been vocally anti-Taliban and pro-girls’ education. The most prominent accounts include Afghan and Pashtun campaigners such as Habib Khan , several accounts associated with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) such as Manzoor Pashteen , and the father of Malala, Ziauddin Yousafzai . It is notable that there is relatively limited visibility of Afghan female campaigners, however. While Nilofar Ayoubi features, she is no longer living in Afghanistan. Female campaigners inside Afghanistan who have sizable followings and were previously at the centre of online campaigning appeared to be absent in the snapshot of the online response. The reported arrests of several prominent female activists in recent months, who have since been released, has generated widespread media coverage and international concern around the safety of activists in Afghanistan - particularly women - and freedom of speech in the country more generally. There have been a string of protests on the streets of Afghanistan since the schools U-turn, with some girls protesting for their right to education and the reopening of schools. On March 23, dozens of girls marched outside of the Sardar Kabuli High School , demanding the immediate reopening of all schools. Protests - including indoor , outdoor and silent demonstrations - continued in the following days and were also organised by the Afghan diaspora. In the capital of Ireland, Dublin, Afghan refugees took to the streets to protest against the closure of girls’ schools. Share

  • Female protesters detained in Kabul and Takhar

    Female protesters detained in Kabul and Takhar While one of the protesters was reportedly released the next day, women's rights protester Narges Sadat is thought to still be in detention. 15 Feb 2023 In mid-February, the Taliban reportedly detained two female protestors, Parisa Mubariz and Narges Sadat. Parisa Mubariz, the leader of the Women’s Movement of Takhar, was allegedly detained along with her brother in Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, on February 11, but was reportedly released the next day. Narges Sadat, who is a senior member of the Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan, was reportedly detained by the Taliban on February 12 in the Pul-e-Surkh area of PD3, Kabul city. Sadat’s close relatives told Rukhshana Media that she was unwell and had been intending to go to her sister’s house in Kart-e-Chahar. However, on the way, she encountered a Taliban checkpoint, and after inspecting her phone, the group recognised her and detained her. At the time of writing, there has been no news of her release. Footage of a protest calling for Sadat’s release was shared on social media on February 15, indicating she was still in detention at this point. The Taliban reportedly barred Sadat’s husband and family from visiting her. According to a report by BBC Persian, the Taliban also detained another female protester, named Arezo, the same day. Parisa Mubariz released after one day Parisa Mubariz is said to be the sister of Munisa Mubariz, a well-known women’s rights activist, protester, and the founder of the Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan. Based on media reports and Mubariz’s interview with Afghanistan International, the Taliban detained Mubariz and her 19-year-old brother from their house in Taloqan city at around 0800 local time. Mubariz’s close relatives told Rukhshana Media that two Taliban policewomen entered Mubariz’s house and detained her without giving reasons to her family. Based on the same report, a male Taliban police officer later entered Mubariz’s house and took her phone. Another protestor told the media that Mubariz had been preparing a programme for International Women’s Day on March 8. The Taliban reportedly released Mubariz and her brother on February 12, after she allegedly pledged to Taliban intelligence that she would no longer attend protests, and the local community elders intervened. In interviews with Afghanistan International and Radio Azadi , Mubariz claimed that the Taliban beat and tortured her for not sharing the password for her phone. The activist founded the Women’s Movement of Takhar following the Taliban’s ban on women’s access to university on December 20, 2022, when she and her colleagues lost their jobs at the university. Women in Takhar have held protests against the Taliban’s recent restrictions since at least December 22, 2022. Protests on December 24 led to the alleged detention of at least six female protesters. On January 8, the group reportedly attempted to conduct another protest but were obstructed by the Taliban, and on February 5, the group protested again, marching through the streets and showing their educational documents. Since they returned to power in August 2021 and with the rise of women’s movements and protests, the Taliban have allegedly detained dozens of female protesters. In early November 2022, the Taliban allegedly detained Zarifa Yaghubi , Zainab Rahimi and Farhat Popalzai , who were later released , and in late December 2022, the Taliban reportedly detained several protesters in Kabul and at least six women protesters in Takhar province. As of February 15, the Taliban have not commented on the alleged detentions of Mubariz and Sadat. Share

  • Female students and professors react to Taliban’s university ban

    Female students and professors react to Taliban’s university ban Afghan Witness spoke to a university student, and a professor who resigned after the Taliban’s announcement. 23 Dec 2022 On December 20, the Taliban announced that women would be banned from universities in Afghanistan. The spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education, Hafiz Ziaullah Hashemi, tweeted an image of a letter instructing all public and private universities and educational institutions to suspend access to female students immediately. The news sparked condemnation from governments and rights groups around the world, with videos of young women sobbing in their classrooms circulated on social media. in the days following the announcement, Afghan Witness (AW) verified protests in multiple provinces. There were reports that some women protesters and journalists were arrested, though AW cannot independently verify this. The Taliban’s announcement follows a string of restrictions imposed on women in Afghanistan in recent months, including a ban on women visiting parks and gyms in Kabul and Faryab . Since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, girls above grade six have been unable to go to school , leading some teenage girls to turn to online or ‘secret’ schools . One student AW spoke to described the closure of universities for female students as “heartbreaking”. Rayhana, not her real name, is fifteen years old. Since the closure of girls’ high schools, she’d been attending classes at two universities in Kabul. With restrictions now in place on women’s higher education, she feels her options have been taken away. “There is nowhere to go,” she tells AW. “There are no courses for female students, nothing, and they even closed the Madrassa [religious school]. There is no place for us to go and study.” Rayhana hoped to one day become a politician but says since the Taliban’s return, she has pushed this dream aside. “My mum told me, you can’t just stay like this, you have to change your dreams, you have to change your thoughts – because you can’t be a politician here.” Instead, she decided she would aspire to be a doctor because the Taliban “have some respect for doctors”. She says she believes work would be easier to find as a doctor and that she would be able to contribute to her society and country. However, the recent suspension of higher education for women and girls has left Rayhana hopeless. With girls above grade six deprived of education, and restrictions on women’s access to employment, freedom of movement and dress, health professionals and experts have warned against increasing rates of mental health problems as women are left with few opportunities. “Now there aren’t any educational centres, nor universities, nor schools – we don’t have anywhere to go, anywhere to study,” says Rayhana. “I don’t know – I’ve become hopeless now.” University professor: “I saw no option but to resign” AW also spoke to a professor at a university in Kabul, who says he resigned after hearing the announcement that women’s education would be suspended. “My resignation was how I raised my voice,” says Prof. Zaryab, not his real name. “I saw no option but to resign from my post as a professor. I will never go and teach again until I see girls going back to their classes.” Prof. Zaryab says he knows of five other professors who have resigned from universities in Kabul, Helmand, and Kunduz, and that he knows of others who plan on doing so. According to the BBC , about 50 male university professors at public and private institutions have resigned from their positions, while some male students have reportedly refused to sit their exams. Since our conversation with Prof. Zaryab, local media have reported that the Taliban ordered female lecturers, employees and university staff not to attend work. In an interview with Afghan television on Thursday, Nida Mohammad Nadim, the Taliban’s higher education minister, said the ban on women attending university was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam. This is despite that in October , the Taliban imposed restrictions on which courses women can enrol in at public universities. Professor Zaryab says regulations had already been put in place by the Taliban - classes were segregated for men and women, and the Taliban had specified that males should be taught by males, and females by females. According to the professor, the Taliban’s demands kept increasing. “These restrictions have no legal or religious grounds,” he says, adding that policies are inconsistent due to individual officials taking matters into their own hands. He also tells AW that the Taliban have employed individuals in universities who do not have the required qualifications for the position. Prof. Zaryab says he is not concerned for his own future, but for the future of Afghanistan’s youth and that of the country. With limited opportunities, especially for women and girls, he is worried more young people will leave. “I am deeply worried about Afghanistan’s youth, sisters, brothers, and future,” he says. “Their chance is taken away for them to serve their homeland, and instead, they will just leave.” For further reading, see our recent report which includes open source analysis on the protests and other incidents relating to the university ban. Share

  • Kabul women’s protest disrupted by Taliban, prominent campaigner detained

    Kabul women’s protest disrupted by Taliban, prominent campaigner detained In late October, women showcased their academic documents in a Kabul park to protest the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s access to education and work. The women claim the Taliban intimidated them and tore their papers, and journalists were reportedly dispersed and temporarily detained. On November 3, it was reported that the Taliban detained one of the women protesters during a press conference. 4 Nov 2022 On October 31, 2022, a group of around 20 women gathered in Shahr-e-Naw Park, located in PD 10 of Kabul, to exhibit their academic certificates and papers in protest of women’s lack of access to work and education. They claimed to be members of a women's protest group called ‘The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan.’ Women held academic certificates, and several children held placards in front of a banner that showed the name and logo of the protest group. Figure (left): Women protesters holding academic documents and two children in a rally in Shahr-e-Naw Park, Kabul, October 31, 2022. Figure (right): Women protesters holding documents and standing in front of a banner with the logo and title of 'The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan'. ‘The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan’ or ‘ جنبش اصلی زنان مقتدر افغانستان ’, previously known as the ‘Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan’, was created by a group of women protesters in December 2021, in tandem with the emergence of at least three other women’s groups: 'The Spontaneous Movement of Women Warriors of Afghanistan', 'Afghan Women's Movement for Justice' and ‘Women's Unity and Solidarity Team’. In a video , one of the women introduces herself as the former gender specialist of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, saying that she has been jobless for the last year. The protesters say they gathered to show that despite being educated and qualified, they have been denied access to work. The protester claimed that they had informed the Taliban authorities of the gathering beforehand and that several national and international journalists came to cover it. In several videos and images, women protesters interact with the media. Another video surfaced on social media showing the presence of Taliban fighters in the location. The fighters can be heard telling the women “ To collect these things .” Another armed Taliban member is seen next to a group of women, apparently collecting their documents. Women protesters claimed that the Taliban disrupted their gathering by tearing their papers and threatening them by firing into the air. They said the Taliban's head of PD10 threatened them at gunpoint . Afghan Witness did not find any footage of images of the Taliban’s violence, however, a video shows an armed Taliban member throwing the women’s documents. According to the women protesters and media reports , the Taliban dispersed and detained journalists who came to cover the gathering and deleted their recordings. In another video, one of the protesters claims that the Taliban fighters followed them on their way home with their vehicles and motorcycles. According to Azadi, a radio station covering Afghanistan, Kabul Police Spokesperson Khalid Zadran said they prevented the gathering due to security threats. Figure: Geolocation of the women’s gathering and protest in Shahr-e-Naw Park, Kabul, on October 31, 2022 On November 3, 2022, claims on social media and news reports said that the Taliban detained Zarifa Yaqoubi - a protester and a member of 'The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan’ - at a press conference in western Kabul. Yaqoubi had taken part in the protest in the park on October 31. Yaqoubi and her team convened a press conference to announce the formation of a new movement called ‘Afghanistan’s Women Movement for Equality’ on November 3. The Taliban reportedly ousted media from the conference room and collected the mobile phones of the attendees before taking Yaqoubi and four of her male colleagues with them. Members of ‘The Main Movement of the Powerful Women of Afghanistan’ have been seen in numerous indoor and outdoor protests, especially since there has been a drawdown in demonstrations held by other women’s groups due to the Taliban’s restrictions and alleged detentions of the women protesters. Well-known women protesters, including those previously detained by the Taliban, have left the country. Tamana Zaryab Paryan, who appeared in a video claiming the Taliban had raided her house in January this year, arrived in Germany in early October. Share

  • Video claiming to show child selling actually from Badghis earthquake relief effort

    Video claiming to show child selling actually from Badghis earthquake relief effort A popular post on social media claimed to show child selling, but was found to be inaccurate by AW investigators. 17 Mar 2022 On March 9, 2022, a video surfaced online claiming to show people selling children at an undisclosed location. Multiple users shared the video, with the most popular post generating over 2.1k shares and 138 comments on social media at the time of writing. Figure 1: Screenshot of one of the posts with video claiming to show a child selling market (Facebook) The text accompanying the post said: “Hot market for buying and selling children in the 21st century, in one of the provinces of Afghanistan! This is the government of the dissatisfied Kharkarzai brothers and terrorists called Taliban, who have taken the lives of thirty million people of the country hostage. Who is responsible? When did you and I become unmanly and kept silent in front of them.” Other posts of the video made similar claims, with no further detail provided on the context or possible location and time. In the video, we see a large group of people, many holding babies or with young children, with ruined buildings visible in the background. The cameraperson moves around the crowd, who appear to be waiting to see a group of men overseeing the situation, and more specifically, an individual wearing a light red jacket and dark blue hat. There is nothing in the footage or fleeting moments of dialogue that can confirm or deny this is a scene from a child selling market. Afghan Witness (AW) investigated the video and found that while the footage does originate from Afghanistan, it is not a child selling market but rather a relief effort by the Jalaluddin Wardak Charity Foundation following the earthquake in Badghis province in January 2022, which officials say killed at least 26 people . According to news reports around the time, Jalaluddin Wardak, an engineer, travelled from the United States to Afghanistan to provide assistance to the residents of three villages of Qadis district around January 29th–30th. Bakhtar News reported that Wardak’s foundation distributed cash to 180 families, with each bereaved family receiving 15,000 Afghanis and vulnerable families affected by the earthquake given 10,000 Afghanis each. The charity also distributed 12,500 Afghanis to the surviving child of each family, which explains why so many children are present and apparently ‘presented’ to the man/men who appear to be in charge in the video. On February 7, 2022, Salaam Times published a video where Wardak is seen with a team in the same location as the video claiming to depict a child selling market. Several team members can be seen wearing the same clothes as in the other video, suggesting both were filmed on the same day. Comparing the two videos side by side, it is possible to confirm they are of the same place and incident. In the “child selling” video, near the end of the recording, we can see the scene below. The red box has been added by AW: Figure 2: Screenshot from claimed child market video On the left-hand side of the frame above we can see a damaged wall with what looks like a “HI” shape on it (highlighted blue below) and a beam (highlighted green) running from a semi-circular niche (yellow) to above the “HI”, with a small rectangular niche below it (purple). Figure 3: Detail of red box area with added annotation In the Salaam Times video we see, in much better quality, the same wall with the same features: Figure 4: Zoomed screenshot of Salaam Times video with added annotations showing features visible in “child market” video The man who appears to be the centre of attention in the "child selling" video, wearing a red jacket and blue hat, is in fact Jalaluddin Wardak, reportedly handing out the cash support mentioned above. Figure 5: Screenshot from “child selling” video showing man in red jacket (purple box) Figure 6: Screenshots from Salaam Times video identifying the man as Jalaluddin Wardak With the common location and team featuring in the videos, we can be confident the claimed child selling video – presented without context or additional information – shows the distribution of money by the Jalaluddin Wardak Charity Foundation following the Bagdhis earthquake in January. This is not the first incident of mis/disinformation related to child selling – we have seen videos from pre-Taliban takeover presented as current, as well as vaccination drives attempted to be passed off as incidents of child selling. Nonetheless, child selling is an issue which is currently taking place in Afghanistan according to credible media, which is perhaps why the above claim attracted so much engagement. In October, the BBC reported that a starving Afghan family sold their baby girl for $500, and in January of this year, there were reports of people selling their children and kidneys to buy food for the rest of their families. This, combined with the emotive and powerful nature of such stories, means content on child selling travels rapidly on social media and through personal networks, making it an ideal topic for mis/disinformation. Share

  • ISKP resurface with Badakhshan attack killing Taliban acting governor

    ISKP resurface with Badakhshan attack killing Taliban acting governor Days later, a second attack targeted a memorial ceremony held for the acting governor. 9 Jun 2023 Cover image: Google Earth This week, Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) resurfaced after months of inactivity. The group claimed an explosion in Fayzabad, Badakhshan, on June 6, which reportedly killed Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, the Taliban’s acting governor for the province, along with his driver. Six civilians were reportedly wounded. This was ISKP’s first attack since late March, when they claimed a suicide bombing near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul. On June 8, reports emerged that a suicide bomber targeted a memorial ceremony held for the acting governor in Fayzabad. The attack was claimed by ISKP on June 9. Taliban officials claimed at least 11 people were killed, including a former Taliban police official, and at least 30 people were wounded. Figures reported by media were higher. BBC Persian released footage showing the arrival of victims at the Fayzabad Regional Hospital, though verifiable information or content on the attack has been limited, meaning Afghan Witness (AW) has been unable to geolocate the second attack or verify reported casualty figures. June 6: Badakhshan acting governor killed On June 6, 2023, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) was set off in Fayzabad, Badakhshan province, killing Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, the Taliban’s acting governor for the province. ISKP later claimed the attack via Islamic State Central’s Amaq News Agency . An article by BBC Persian reported that the Taliban’s Head of Information and Culture in Badakhshan, Moazuddin Ahmadi, told reporters that the incident took place at around 08:00 local time as the governor was on his way to work. Moazuddin Ahmadi confirmed the death of Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi and his driver, and claimed that six other civilians were injured during the explosion. In media interviews following the explosion, several people described scenes from the attack and the resulting casualties, with some claiming they were injured or had family members who were wounded. A video shared on June 9 featured a clip of two male hospital patients with bandages on their heads, though they appeared to be in a stable condition. Various social media users shared images of the attack’s aftermath. The photos showed a destroyed vehicle in the middle of the road. Next to the destroyed vehicle, it was possible to see a heavily damaged SUV, which was likely carrying Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi prior to the explosion. AW investigators geolocated the explosion to the main road running through Fayzabad. Figure: Geolocation of image showing the aftermath of the explosion in Fayzabad city, Badakhshan province, killing the Taliban’s acting governor for the province [37.113955, 70.566923] According to the BBC Persian article, Moazuddin Ahmadi claimed a car loaded with explosives detonated as the vehicle transporting the acting governor drove past. The image below shows a destroyed red vehicle still on fire after the explosion. The damage observed in the photo is indicative of a large blast, likely due to a substantial amount of explosives being placed inside. A white Ford Ranger – damaged on the right side and the front – is also visible in the photos. The damage observed in the aftermath of the explosion seems to indicate the explosion targeted the right side of the white vehicle, where the passenger, allegedly the acting governor, was likely sitting. Figure: Aftermath of the explosion showing the vehicle that was likely loaded with explosives (grey), and the car that was allegedly transporting Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi (pink). Second attack targeting Ahmadi This was not the first time the Badakhshan acting governor was targeted. On July 1, 2022, the Badakhshan press office’s Facebook page issued a statement claiming Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi survived an attack the previous night. According to the press release, Ahmadi’s vehicle was ambushed in the Kazar area of Badakhshan’s Khash district, but no one was harmed. On December 26, 2022, the Taliban’s Badakhshan Police chief, Mawlawi Abdul Haq, was killed in an ISKP-claimed VBIED attack, also in Fayzabad. The December attack occurred less than 900 meters away from the attack on June 6. Figure: Partial map of Fayzabad, Badakhshan, illustrating the location of two targeted attacks against high-ranking Taliban officials. ISKP hint at unreleased footage On June 7, an Islamic State Telegram channel shared a poster displaying portraits of three high-ranking Taliban officials killed in separate ISKP attacks, as well as the dates on which they were killed. The individual on the left is Badakhshan Police chief, Abdul Haq, killed on December 26, 2022. In the middle is Balkh governor, Daud Muzamil, killed on March 9, 2023, and on the right is Badakhshan acting governor, Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, killed on June 6, 2023. Figure: Poster released by an Islamic State Telegram channel showing three high-profile Taliban officials killed by ISKP. Note: AW has redacted the title and statement. There are additional images of the December 26 and June 6 Fayzabad attacks on the poster: on the left is a screenshot from the [WARNING: GRAPHIC] video released by ISKP following the attack that killed six Taliban fighters in December 2022. The image on the right matches the area from the attack that killed Ahmadi on June 6. As of June 9, ISKP had not released footage of the June 6 explosion, however, the screenshot indicates that there is further evidence of the premeditated attack. Figure: Comparison of the image included in the poster released by ISKP and positioned underneath Ahmadi’s image (left), with screenshot of footage of the explosion’s aftermath on June 6 (right). Taliban operations against ISKP The June 6 explosion marks ISKP’s first attack since the suicide bombing near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul on March 27, 2023. It continues a trend set in 2022, which saw ISKP shift from regular attacks to less frequent incidents with higher-profile targets. In recent months, the Taliban have intensified their operations against alleged Islamic State cells across Afghanistan, which has corresponded with a lull in IKSP-claimed activity. The Taliban have used the raids to promote a narrative of success against the group, and claim to have killed several senior ISKP figures. In early May, the Taliban claimed the Deputy Governor of the Islamic State Khorasan Division, named as “Engineer Omar”, was among ISKP fighters killed in Kabul, though AW has not been able to verify the claim. In April, it was reported that the Taliban killed the leader of the Islamic State cell responsible for the Kabul airport suicide bombing in August 2021. As with the other high-profile ISKP members the Taliban claim to have killed in recent months, there have been no further details or supporting evidence provided. Taliban communications around the raids have pushed to demonstrate progress against ISKP and downplay the group’s threat – a narrative countered by a leaked Pentagon assessment in April, which suggested Afghanistan has once again become a staging ground for terrorism. The June 6 attack displays the same modus operandi as the previous Fayzabad bombing, showing that despite continued Taliban raids on alleged Islamic State hideouts, the cells responsible for the attacks remain active. This is a trend AW previously observed in Herat. After several alleged Taliban raids against ISKP cells in the city, the cell responsible for the attacks continued operating, claiming high-ranking Taliban victims. Use the Afghan Witness map to view verified data relating to ISKP attacks – and the Taliban’s raids and operations against the group. Share

  • Taliban display bodies of alleged ‘kidnappers’, ‘insurgents’ and ‘thieves’

    Taliban display bodies of alleged ‘kidnappers’, ‘insurgents’ and ‘thieves’ In recent weeks, there has been a spate of incidents in Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat city in which the Taliban have displayed the bodies of men they describe as ‘kidnappers’, ‘insurgents’ or ‘thieves’. 17 Mar 2023 Warning: this article contains graphic details and images, which AW has made efforts to censor. On March 8 images of four dead bodies surfaced online, alongside claims that the Taliban killed “eight kidnappers and insurgents” in the Khwaja Khairan area of Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province. The Spokesperson for Balkh Police Headquarters, Mohammad Asif Waziri, [WARNING: GRAPHIC] claimed the eight “kidnappers and rebels” had been killed in a joint operation the night before by the 888 th operational unit and the police headquarters of Balkh province. Waziri tweeted a photograph showing three other dead bodies of alleged kidnappers. According to TOLO News , eight alleged kidnappers were killed and two Taliban members were injured after two and a half hours of clashes in the seventh police district (PD 7) area of Mazar-i-Sharif city. However, AW were only able to verify seven deceased bodies in the images shared online. Figure: Aftermath of a Taliban raid showing seven deceased bodies of alleged kidnappers in PD7 of Mazar-i-Sharif The Taliban claimed they confiscated several weapons from the alleged kidnappers. AW investigators confirmed the presence of at least three AK47 rifles and one TT-33 pistol, as shown below. An AK47 rifle positioned next to the second body (2) seen above has strong similarities with the AK47 placed next to the third body (3). An unnatural placement of the firearm is visible with the TT-93 pistol seen below, indicating that the gun was put in the left hand of the first body (1). This suggests the weapons could have been positioned next to the bodies after their deaths and before the photographs were taken. Figure: Weapons visible next to the alleged kidnappers, including AK47 rifles and one TT pistol Bodies publicly displayed Between 0700 and 0900 local time – a few hours after the first claim appeared on social media – a video was shared online. The video shows the men’s bodies on public display and can be geolocated to the Kefayat roundabout in Mazar-i-Sharif, however, only six bodies of the eight allegedly killed can be seen. Figure: Geolocation of the public display of bodies on March 8 next to the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif city [36.708625, 67.108431] Family members protest killings, claims of executions On March 10, TOLO News reported that the family members of the alleged kidnappers protested in front of the UNAMA office, claiming that the men were innocent. However, Abdul Nafeh Takor, the spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, said the eight alleged kidnappers were killed "after they showed armed resistance.” Tajuden Soroush, a journalist from Afghanistan International, claimed that he spoke with the family members of the alleged kidnappers, who said that those killed were first handcuffed and then shot in the head from a distance of one metre. A woman was also reportedly present at the scene – her husband was killed, but she was left alive. The family members claimed the Taliban told them there was a misunderstanding after they demanded answers, though this cannot be independently verified and there is no official statement along these lines. AW can verify that some of the victims were shot in the head, while others were shot in different body parts. There is a notable absence of both shell casings on the floor in the room and bullet holes in the wall, which would be expected in the aftermath of a firefight. Several of the victims also appear to have faint markings on their wrists that are consistent with restraints. AW will continue to gather and examine evidence to see if the families’ claims of executions can be further verified. At least one of the victims was identified by an influential social media account as Abdul Khaliq Kochi, who allegedly served as a soldier under the former government of Afghanistan. Second incident: two ‘thieves’ On March 8, in a separate incident, the Taliban displayed the bodies of two alleged thieves also in Mazar-i-Sharif city, Balkh province. Mukhtar Wafayee, a journalist from the Independent Persian, [WARNING: GRAPHIC] tweeted t hat “moments ago, the Taliban displayed the bodies of two other people who had been shot on Ahmad Shah Massoud Road in the centre of Mazar-e-Sharif.” AW investigators geolocated the image shared on social media to the Massoud roundabout, near the eastern gate of the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif. The two sets of bodies displayed in the city centre were positioned at opposite gates to the Blue Mosque. Whilst the eight alleged "kidnappers and rebels" were placed near the western entrance, the two alleged thieves were placed near the eastern gate. Figure: Public display of two bodies belonging to two alleged thieves near the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif city [36.709483, 67.113161] The Taliban’s Police Spokesperson in Mazar-i-Sharif, Mohammad Asif Waziri, [WARNING: Graphic] claimed that "four armed robbers” had tried to steal from a housing block in Kart-e Sulh area of Mazar-i Sharif, but two of them were killed in a face-to-face battle with Taliban security forces. According to Waziri, two others managed to escape and are “under surveillance.” Bodies displayed in Herat The incidents in Mazar-i-Sharif follow similar events in Herat in late February, when the Taliban displayed the bodies of alleged ‘thieves’ and ‘robbers’ in two other separate incidents. On February 21, [WARNING: GRAPHIC] images of two dead bodies in Herat province were shared on social media. According to online claims, the Taliban's General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) killed two alleged armed thieves after a brief gunfight in PD5 of Herat city. The Taliban publicly displayed the dead bodies of the alleged thieves at a roundabout in Chowk-e-Gulha in PD2 of Herat city. Figure: Geolocation of image showing public displays of the bodies of alleged thieves in Chowk- e-Gulha or ‘Gulha’ roundabout in PD2 of Herat city [33.337841, 69.921974] The Taliban's GDI confirmed the killing of two alleged thieves by posting a [WARNING: GRAPHIC] video of the bodies at the scene of the gunfight. The video describes how the alleged thieves were wanted men for several days but were killed after a brief clash with the Taliban's GDI members. The Taliban claimed they recovered a handgun and motorcycle from the alleged thieves. AW investigators verified the presence of a handgun near the bodies but could not confirm if it belonged to one of the victims. Second incident in Herat: ‘Robbery and Resistance’ The following day, on February 22, social media users shared images of two dead bodies publicly hanging from their feet in Herat province. On one of the dead bodies, the Taliban allegedly wrote “this is the punishment for robbery and resistance”. One pro-Taliban Twitter user claimed that the two men were killed in an exchange of gunfire while attempting to carry out a guerrilla attack on the head of the City Management Department of PD13, Herat city. However, another Twitter user claimed that the Taliban deliberately killed two Hazara men aged 16 and 18 after following them in the Jebreal district of PD13. According to the claim, the men had allegedly already surrendered but were shot dead by the Taliban. AW geolocated a video posted by [WARNING: GRAPHIC] Etilaatroz , which showed the two bodies displayed on two sides of the Farhang intersection in Herat’s Jebreal district. Farhang intersection, Jebrael district, Herat province [34.375116, 62.139859] According to a [WARNING: GRAPHIC] tweet f rom the Taliban's GDI, the two individuals were suspected of theft and were killed in a brief exchange of gunfire in PD13 of Herat city. The Taliban claimed to have recovered a handgun and a knife from the alleged thieves. AW investigators verified the presence of the two weapons near the body, as seen in the figure below. Figure: A knife and Makarov pistol allegedly recovered from the incident on February 22 The Jebreal district is a predominantly Hazara area of Herat city, and the facial features of the deceased men – captured in various images – are consistent with them being of Hazara background. Figure: Location of the public displays of bodies in Herat on February 21 and 22, 2023 While this was the first public display of bodies in Herat in 2023, a similar incident occurred exactly a year ago to the day, on February 21, 2022, when the bodies of three ‘alleged kidnappers’ were displayed in different parts of Herat city. AW verified the incident and reported that one of the ‘kidnappers’ was a former military officer who had worked for the former Provincial Governor’s security team, based on an interview with a source close to the individual. Share

  • “I saw dead bodies” - the former Afghan government employees turning to human traffickers

    اجسادي مرده را را دیدم، کارمندان سابق دولت افغانستان که به قاچاقبران انسان روی آورده اند افغان وتنس با سه کارمند سابق دولت و پرسونل نظامی در موردی تجربه هايي آنها از فرار از افغانستان و مشکلاتی که در ایران و پاکستان با آن روبرو هستند صحبت کردند 3 Mar 2022 تصویر روی جلد, افسرانی زنی ارتش ملی افغانستان, عکس از نیرويي هوایی ایالات متحده زابت لورا آر مکفارلین چاپ شده. افراد ذکر شده در این مقاله کسانی نیستند که از آنها عکس گرفته شده است. صبح یکشنبه اي ماه اگست بود, عامر که اسم واقعیش نيست وخت از خواب بیدار شد وهمام گرد و بوتهايي نظامیش را پاك کرد وعطر زد. او خوشحال بود که فارغت خود را از آکادمی نظامی مارشال فهیم همراه با همصنفيانش جشن می گیرد. زياد خوشحال بودم یاد عامر امد، همصنفيا نم بعد از چهار سال نتیجه زحماتشان خوشحال شدند بالاخره دیپلوم خود را می گرفتیم. پس از پایان مراسم امر برای تعویض يونيفورم به اتاقش بازگشت اما با مزاحمت تماس برادرش روبرو شد که از او پرسید کجاهستي, برادرش به او گفت دولت سقوط کرده است و طالبان وارد کابل شده اند. همه می دویدند و هرج و مرج بود, عامر به افغان وتنس می گوید او به یاد می آورد که با دوستي ااکاډمۍ نظامی را ترک کرد و با عجله به سمت دروازه اصلی رفت, هنگامی که آنها به پایگاه دوم رسیدند، تأییدیي را از رادیو دریافت کردند, کابل به دست طالبان سقوط کرده است پایگاه را ترک کنید و به خانه ها بروید, همه جا راه بندان بود زیرا مردم قصد فرار داشتند, عامر می گوید نمی توانستم خودم را قانع کنم که دولت سقوط کرده است. من در ناباوری بودم. من به هوا پرتاب شدم با دانستن اینکه اعضای ارتش سابق افغانستان احتمالاً در معرض تهدید طالبان در حال حاضر در قدرت هستند، عامر تصمیم گرفت از افغانستان به ایران فرار کند, او به افغان وتنس می گوید که با ٢٢ جوان دیگر که چهار یا پنج تن از آنها در ارتش بودند و قبلاً وظيفه هايي خوبی در کابل داشتند، آنها پس از رسیدن به ولایت نیمروز و ملاقات با قاچاقبران خود، قبل از يكجا شدن به گروه بزرگتری متشکل از حدود 500 جوان و 50 خانواده تمام پول هايي خود را به ریال ایران مبادله کردند. عامر می گوید, که قاچاقبران آنها را به گروه ها تقسیم کرد و به یک قاچاقچبر بلوچ افغان تحویل داد, آنها بیش از ٢٤ ساعت سفر درتپه های غبارآلود و سرك هايي خامه رانندگی کردند. با رسیدن به یک پناهگاه کثیف قبل از سوار شدن به موتر بعدی و ادامه سفر به پاکستان، استراحت کوتاهی کردند. قاچاقبران در زمان استراحت در طول مسیر پول جمع آوری می کردند كه معادل تقریباً نو دالر سري هر نفر بود, که بعدا توسط قاچاقبران به طالبان ا نتقال داده میشد. عامر به خوبی به یاد می آورد, که چگونه یک قاچاقبر که به نظر او ممکن است معتاد بود با سرعت زیاد رانندگی می کرد, این رانندگی خطرناک او منجر به حادثه موتر شد و تعدادی از افراد به شدت مجروح شدند, صدایی شبیه انفجار شنیدیم, امر به یاد می آورد که به هوا و دوباره به زمین افتادم و روی سرم خوردم. یکی از دوستانش در این حادثه به شدت آسیب دیده بود و کمر امر نیز آسیب دیده بود، اما خوشبختانه او همچنان می توانست راه برود. تصویر بالا: یک زن افغان در منطقه سیستان بلوچستان، جایی که مرزهای افغانستان، پاکستان و ایران به هم يكجا ميشود، به سه فرزند خود دلداری می دهد. قاچاقبر که تكر کرده بود او نیز زخمی شده بود وه موترش دو نصف شده بود. او برادرش را زنگ زد وقتي برادرش رسید همه را به سمت سیستان بلوچستان برد و در پناهگاهی استراحت کرديم. سپس آنها را به مکان دیگری به نام مشکیل به معنی کوه دشوار بردند. امر می گوید کوه بسیار بلند است و امیدوار بودم کسی ما را روی آن نبیند، ما خوابیدیم و تا صبح ماندیم وبعد از ١٨ ساعت پیاده روی به ایران رسیدیم. آنها در غاری که به طور مرتب توسط قاچاقبران استفاده می شد خوابیدند، و سه تا چهار ساعت استراحت کرفتند و سپس دوباره سوار یک موتر نیسان شدند تا به منطقه سراوان ایران بروند، در سراوان دو روز در یک پناهگاه ماندند و سپس سوار موتر کیا پراید شدند كه هشت نفر روی چوكي عقب، دو نفر در چوكي پیشرو و چهار نفر در داله موتر سوار شدن. سپس پنج ساعت رانندگی کردند و پس از یک استراحت کوتاه به سمت ولایت یزد ایران ادامه دادند و دو روز دیگر در آنجا ماندند. از آنجا یک قاچاقبري دیگر آنها را به شهر دیگری برد. امر به افغان وتنس می گوید که در این مرحله، برخی از گروه ناپدید شده بودند. پولیس ایران افراد دیگری را دستگیر کرده بودن که تنها تعدادی از آنها فرار کردند. می گوید با قاچاقبري خود تماس گرفتیم و او يك موتر را کرایه کرد و ما را به شیراز برد، دوباره ما را به قاچاقبران دیگر فروختند، از هر توقف پول می گرفتند. دو شب در شیراز ماندیم و مارا از شیراز به آنها تحویل دادند. از کوهی گذشتیم و بالاخره به خانه عمه ام رسیدیم. من متوجه شدم که ما افغان ها چقدر بدبخت هستیم سیف به همراه همسر و سه فرزندش داستان مشابهی برای گفتن دارند سیف که نام اصلی او نیستت، او قبل از به واك رسيدن طالبان وبسایت رياست امنيت ملي افغانستان را اداره می کرد. وقتی دولت سقوط کرد سیف نمی توانست ضرر را درک کند. كه شب قبل از سقوط دولت نكري شب کار کرده بود و روز بعد طالبان وارد کابل شدند. یک هفته پس از تسلط سیف به افغان وتنس میگوید که با تماسی از سوی طالبان از او خواسته شد که به دفتر برود و اسلحه ‌اش را تحویل بدهد، با رسیدن به دفتر همه چیز در هرج و مرج بود، باورش سخت بود که او فقط هفته قبل اینجا کار می کرد، سیف به یاد می آورد که مدیر جدیدش چگونه با تمسخر به او نگاه کرد، اسلحه اش را گرفت و ضمانت نامه ای به او داد. سیف به یاد می آورد که او به من گفت كه این نامه فقط در روز از تو محافظت می کند اما نه در شب، وقتی از دفترم برگشتم ناامید شدم و نمی توانستم آینده ای برای خودم یا فرزندان در افغانستان ببینم. سیف به افغان وتنس گفت که چگونه تعدادی از همکارانش توسط طالبان در طول شب کشته شدند. پس از آن احساس امنیت غیرممکن بود. او مخفیانه زندگی می‌کرد و دو بار خانه‌ اش را تبديل ‌کرد، اما هر بار طالبان آدرس و شماره واتس‌اپ او را پیدا میکردند و به او پیام میفرستادند که به کارش بازگردد. سیف از اعتماد به آنها خودداری مي کرد، در اين حالت تصمیم به فرار از کشور گرفت. او با خانواده اش به نیمروز سفر کرد و هفت روز را در یک هوتل اولیه سپری کرد و مجبور شد بیشتر پول خود را در آنجا خرج کند، اما به گفته قاچاقبران باید به کابل بازگردد زیرا طالبان اجازه نمی دهند عبور از مرز را، سیف به امید اینکه برای بار دوم خوش شانس تر باشد یک بار دیگر کابل را به مقصد نیمروز ترک کرد، سپس در حالی که دو بچه را بر پشت داشت از طریق پاکستان و بر فراز مشکیل سفر کرد. او برای عبور از کوه بیش از٢٤ ساعت پیاده روی کرد. سیف می گوید اجساد خشک شده را دیدم، مردم روی آنها سنگ گذاشته بودند. انجا فهمیدم که ما افغان ها چقدر بدبخت هستیم. تصویر بالا، سیف به عنوان کارگر در ایران کار می کند و در آنجا روزانه تنها برابر $ 1.80 دالر امريكايي درآمد دارد. سیف وارد ایران شد و اکنون با یکی از خودگيانش در یک آپارتمان مشترک زندگی می کند. او با درآمد ١٥٠ افغانی تقریباً معادل $ 1.80 دالر امريكايي در روز به عنوان کارگر کار می کند. اگر پلیس ایران ما را دستگیر کند مستقیماً مرا اخراج خواهد کرد. سیف میگوید بنابراین من در ترس زندگی میکنم و آینده روشنی برای فرز ندانم نمیبینم. همسری سیف در افغانستان معلم بود، آنها زندگی مشترک خوبی داشتند و برای زنده ماندن بیش از اندازه کافی درآمد داشتند. اکنون آنها با مشکلات های متعددی روبرو هستند، مانند آنها بسیاری از ارتش ملی افغانستان و كارگرهايي قبلی دولت با مشکلاتی روبرو هستند، برخی به پاکستان یا ایران می روند و برخی دیگر راهی جز پیوستن به داعش نمی بینند فقط برای تامین غذای خانواده هایشان. افغانها سالها قبل از تسلط طالبان به ایران و پاکستان میگریختند، گاهی اوقات فقط در جستجوی فرصت‌های جدید و زندگي بهتر. زمانی که طالبان کنترل کشور را دوباره به دست گرفتند، در همان وقت 2.2 میلیون پناهنده افغان در کشورهای همسایه وجود داشتند. اما سفر به ایمنی نسبی چیزی جز ساده نیست. سالهاست که افغان‌هایی که تلاش می‌کنند در ایران پناه داده شوند، با خشونت، شکنجه و در برخی موارد مرگ مواجه شده‌اند. سیف به افغان وتنس می گوید حتی ایرانی ها هم با ما مثل انسان رفتار نمی کنند. تصویر بالا، پناهندگان افغان در ایران، اعتبار عکس EU/ECHO پیر پراکاش، برگرفته از فلیکر. من زندگی ام را پشتی سر گذاشتم شریفه که نام واقعی او نیست در مرز با چالشهایی مانند عامر و سیف روبرو نشد، اما وقتی نوبت به آیند ای او میرسد، باید با همان بلاتکلیفی کنار بیاید، شریفه در یک اکادمی نظامی در ترکیه تحصیل کرد، سپس در وزارت دفاع افغانستان قبل از تصرف آن توسط طالبان کار کرد. سقوط دولت چیزی بود که او هرگز نمی توانست تصورش را بکند، اگرچه شدت اوضاع زمانی که طالبان کابل را تصرف کردند همکاران مرد او اصرار کردند که همه کارمندان زنان دفتر را ترک کنند تا به دنبال امنیت باشند، شریفه به یاد می آورد وقتی به خانه رسیدم اولین کاری که کردم این بود که تمام اسنادهايي نظامی ام را جمع کردم و همه را سوزاندم، شريفه آن شب نمی توانستم فراموش کنم که تمام امیدها و رویاهایم را بسوزانم که برایشان کار کرده بودم. در سومین روز تسلط طالبان شریفه میگوید که اعضای طالبان خود را به زور وارد خانه همسایه‌اش کردند که در دولت قبلی وکیل بود. شریفه صدای جیغ ها را از خانه شنید. ما قبلاً در شوک بودیم، اما وقتی دیدیم که طالبان مردم را محکوم می‌کنند و خانه‌هایشان را چک می‌کنند بدتر بود، شریفه به یاد میآورد ما می توانستیم از سري بام و پنجره خود ببینیم. یک هفته پس از تصرف، شریفه دیگر تحمل ماندن در کابل را نداشت. او که تنها در آپارتمانش زندگی می کرد، می ترسید که طالبان به خانه اش نفوذ کرده و او را بازداشت کنند. او تصمیم گرفت از افغانستان به مقصد پاکستان فرار کند و به همراه تعدادی از همکاران و یکی از بستگانش این سفر را انجام داد. ساعت 1 بجي بعد از ظهر روز پنجشنبه بود که ما از کابل به سمت قندهار حرکت کردیم و یک شب را در آنجا گذراندیم تا به پاکستان برویم، شریفه گفت: برای اولین بار در زندگی ام چادري پوشیدم و وقتی به مرز رسیدیم ترس از شناسایی و دستگیری توسط طالبان را احساس کردم. او هرگز فکر نمی کرد در این شرایط کشورش را ترک کند، در مرز بيروبار بود. ١٤نفر برای انجام این سفر داخل یک موتر کوچک فشرده شده بودند. هنگامی که آنها وارد پاکستان شدند، پولیس فقط کارت شناسایی آنها را که در افغانستان به عنوان تذکره شناخته می شود بررسی کرد و به آنها اجازه عبور داد. تصویر بالا، پناهندگان افغان در پاکستان. اعتبار عکس، عکس سازمان ملل/ لوک پاول. برگرفته از فلیکر. آنها حدود دو هفته به آرامش نسبی دست یافتند اما این مدت طولانی نبود، همانطور که پناهندگان در ایران تجربه کرده‌اند، افرادی که در طول سالها تلاش می‌کنند وارد پاکستان شوند نیز مورد سوء استفاده پولیس و بازگشت اجباری قرار گرفته‌اند. به گفته شریفه، پلیس شناسایی و اخراج پناهجویان افغان را از مساجد، پناهگاه ها و اردوگاه هایی که پناهنده شده بودند آغاز کرد. وقتی مساجد از پناهجویان افغان خالی شد، شریفه می‌گوید که پولیس پاکستان شروع به بازرسی خانه ها، بازداشت کارمندان دولت و ارتش سابق افغانستان کرد که به گفته شریفه، بسیاری از آنها مفقود هستند. شریفه می گوید زندگی ام را پشت سر گذاشتم، هر چه داشتم برای رسیدن به پاکستان خرج کردم و اکنون چیزی ندارم. او نزدیک به ٦٠,٠٠٠ افغانی را برای رسیدن به پاکستان خرج کرد كه معادل ٨٠٠ دالر آمریکا میباشد، اما به دلیل ترس از شناسایی به ندرت خانه خود را ترک می کند، عامر، سیف و شریفه همگی داستانهای متفاوتی دارند اما در بلاتکلیفی یکسانی مشترک هستند. نمیتوانند به افغانستان تحت حاکمیت طالبان برگردند، و نمیتوانند در کشورهایی که به آن فرار کرده‌اند پيش حرکت کنند، با این حال بسیاری از پرسونل دولتی و نظامی سابق احساس می کنند که چاره ای جز ترک افغانستان را ندارند، متقاعد شده اند که آنچه در پیش است نمی تواند بدتر از چیزی باشد که آنها پشت سر می گذارند.

bottom of page