A former government worker forced to burn evidence of his past
Naeemi has worked with the former Afghan government, as well as human rights organisations.
Naeemi, not his real name, has had an impressive career so far. Before the Taliban seized the country, he worked as a journalist for more than five years, and started an organisation providing support for local NGOs focusing on research and cultural and social affairs.
Since the fall of the Taliban after their initial rule in 2001, Naeemi has worked with many human rights organisations in Afghanistan, and also had an opportunity to work with the former Afghan government at the presidential palace. “I had a political position where I received numerous letters on judiciary, social, economic and security cases. I resolved these letters and complaints received from the people - among them, there were highly sensitive cases of intelligence and security,” he tells Afghan Witness (AW). Naeemi’s job was full of security risks, as he was part of a group that prevented several terrorist attacks in Kabul, he says.
With the Taliban now back in power, Naeemi feels his past has come back to haunt him. “It has become a huge deal for me right now. I am paying the price at the moment," he says. “They [the Taliban] are looking for people who worked in the government, media, civil society and human rights commissioners – I was involved in them. I have not left my home, and my wife goes to buy the groceries and does the outdoor work.”
The UN has raised alarm over mounting evidence of reprisals against activists, journalists, former government officials and security forces. In late February 2022, the Taliban began house searches starting in northern parts of Kabul. The Taliban claimed ‘criminals’ were being targeted in the operation and have denied targeted reprisals, insisting reports of violence and disappearances were being investigated.
“My mother burned all of the documents that belonged to me - my certificates, my diplomas, my contracts, DVD recordings of my speeches over the past two decades, my pictures with foreign and Afghan government officials, and everything that was associated with me,” Naeemi tells AW.
Many others in Afghanistan have similar stories of burning anything that is evidence of the life they lived before last summer.
Naeemi claims that his home was searched aggressively by the Taliban, and that his family swapped houses with his uncle before the search. “My father, mother and a mentally disabled brother went to my uncle’s home, and my uncle’s family came to ours,” he explains. Some residents whose homes were searched claimed doors were broken and their belongings left in a mess. “It was tough, unbearable, and we had no other choice but to just give up after watching everything in our house be torn apart,” says Naeemi. He tells AW that he believes the house searches are not for finding weapons, but for seeking vengeance.
“I know the global attention turned away from Afghanistan and focused on Ukraine. But, please, pass on my message and tell the world not to forget Afghanistan and its people,” Naeemi says desperately. In the interview, he also stresses the need for Islamic countries to take a “firm stand against the Taliban”, adding that they have “no place in our world.”
“Today, we are faced with a humanitarian, economic and social crisis in our country,” Naeemi says. “I hope my voice can be heard.”
Interview with Afghan Witness