Topic: When the Taliban came (1997 Bamyan province Afghanistan)

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Experiences of the Taliban recounted from Bamyan province in Afghanistan by Lance Corporal Andrew McAlley. Written in 2006 and published in the 52nd Hauraki Newsletter (August 2008).

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Today they share a common role; working as carpenters for the NZ PRT (New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team) in BAMYAN but just a short time ago they shared the horror of being part of an ethnic group hated by the TALIBAN.

ALI JAN ANWAR, QURBAN ALI, HUSSAIN DAD QASIMY, GHULAM SAKHI, NAIM and HUSSEIN MOHAMMADI all had homes destroyed, relatives brutally murdered and most of them suffered imprisonment and torture.

The Taliban took BAMYAN province in late 1997, after pushing back current Afghan vice President MASSOUD KAHLILI'S HAZARA forces in bloody fighting. Their entrance aboard former Soviet T-55 tanks and Hi-Lux 'technical's' heralded a horror unparalleled in recent Afghan history.

Up until the TALIBAN'S 2001 defeat the HAZARA, who make up about 20 per cent of AFGHANISTAN'S population, were the most oppressed ethnic group in the country. For centuries SHIA HAZARA had been kept as servants by SUNNI PASHTUN and their home of BAMYAN, at the southern tip of the HINDU KUSH had been used as a dumping ground once their usefulness had run out.

To have the audacity to stand up to the Taliban and the misfortune to then lose meant the HAZARA, descendants of KHAN'S Mongols hordes, had a special retribution awaiting them.

HUSSAIN DAD QASIMY ran a carpentry business with a friend in 1997, he had just returned from a job in a nearby village when KHALILI'S forces were defeated in the FOLADI Valley. "The Taliban came in looking for retribution, it didn't matter if you had fought them or not, you were guilty just by being HAZARA," he said. "I was lucky, I was rounded up and flown by helicopter to KABUL where they then marched us to PULKHOMRY Prison, and I was there a year."

The Taliban were given authority by their ruling council to kill whoever they wanted for the first three days and they took to their tasks with gusto.

ALI JAN was 15 at the time of the TALIBAN'S arrival, living in the isolated village of SHAR QOL in the CHAPDARA Valley, his family were unaware of the atrocities going on in nearby BAMIAN city.  "But then the Taliban came in their Hi-LUX, they shot my uncle and broke my father's legs, those that could fled," he said. A timely counter-attack by KHALILI'S forces bought time for some to escape but for those who couldn't a grisly fate lay in store. "We fled to the hills, a while later we snuck back, we found an old man injured, he'd been stabbed," said JAN. "There were dead women and babies, the old man had witnessed the Taliban throwing the babies in the air, catching them on their knives or bayonets," he said.

HUSSEIN MOHAMMADI remembers the Taliban's arrival; he was rounded up with his uncle. Initially taken to TUPCHI prison, he ended up in PULKHOMRY prison where he found out his uncle had been executed. His torturers told him his crime was being HAZARA. "I was lucky, I managed to pay a bribe and fled to Pakistan," he said, rolling up his sleeves to show the scars from being stabbed with a bayonet. Today he is responsible for caring not only for his own family of five but his dead uncle's wife and son as well.

MAURICE DAVIS of TOKOROA works as an Engineer Sergeant in the PRT alongside the carpentry gang. "We're always joking around with them and the kiwis and locally employed civilians (LECs) play soccer at lunch time. "We give them a bit of stick and they give it back but few people here in the PRT let alone back home realise just how hard a life these guys have had," he said. Mr Davis said his realisation only came after a visit to one of his worker's home. "As the introductions were made and where people fitted in we were told of whose husband, father, and uncle had been killed by the Taliban, it really sunk in as to why we're here," he said.

The physical scars of torture may have gone but for QURBAN ALI the mental scars are still fresh in his mind. "When the Taliban came our escape was cut off by flooding, we'd been warned by Tajik people from neighbouring GHANDAK but we had nowhere to run," he said. "The Taliban wanted to save bullets, so they lined people up and took to them with a knife," turning away as the emotion becomes too much.

"I, my father and two uncles were taken to TUPCHI, and then we had 8 months in GHORBAN before we too ended up in KABUL. One uncle is still getting medical treatment in Pakistan for his wounds; the other is in Kabul, mentally ill."

Sitting next to me is NAIM, a quiet lad of 19 whose childhood memories are not of playing soccer with friends but of his home being destroyed and an elderly uncle murdered. "I was 12 when the Taliban came, at first KHALILI'S forces drove them back giving us time to flee but my 80-year-old uncle was to frail, he stayed behind. "The Taliban set fire to our house then demolished it with my uncle trapped inside," he said.

The six friends remember the return of KHALILI with US Special Forces in the first week of November 2001. They recall with pride how as coalition jets bombed the Taliban's headquarters at the now BAMYAN University their own HAZARA forces drove their hated oppressors from BAMIAN. "That is when we got our lives back," said QURBAN ALI.

Grasping my hand in both of his he looked me in the eye and thanked me for telling their story. "It is something that needs to be told, the west must not abandon us," he said.

By Lance Corporal Andrew McAlley

09 Aug 06

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This page archived at Perma CC in September of 2016: https://perma.cc/J5EP-DRZ9

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