08-28-2012, 08:15 AM
08-28-2012, 04:15 PM
By Ahmad Khan and Hamid Shalizi
LASHKAR GAR/KABUL Aug 28 (Reuters) - It was meant to be another night of music and dance, a brief distraction from life in the searing heat and dust of Afghanistan's conservative rural south for a small group of boys and girls in Helmand province's Roshan Abad village.
Instead it ended in brutality that even the Taliban's austere leadership are unwilling to be linked with amid off-again, on-again peace moves and signs that grassroots insurgent fighters may not be in a mood for any compromise.
All seventeen revellers - 15 boys and two girls - were shot or beheaded by their own villagers and insurgents enraged by their "immorality".
"Inside the room there was only a smashed electric keyboard powered by a car battery, as well as a broken tabla (drum) and blood stains around the room," said district elder Juma Gul, who later visited the mud-walled compound where the slaughter unfolded.
The central Taliban leadership is trying to improve the group's image in case it wants to push forward tentative reconciliation steps and perhaps even enter mainstream politics. But some militant units are hard to control, roaming the countryside and slaughtering those deemed immoral.
In the West, the Taliban are seen as one tight movement with uniform policies. But nothing could be further from the truth in many parts of the country as NATO prepares to withdraw most of its combat troops by the end of 2014.
The warning signs of a massacre in Roshan Abad, which raises fresh questions about leaders' grip on scattered fighters, had been there for days but went unheeded, perhaps in the confidence only youths seem to have in their invulnerability.
Insurgents, who largely control the area where U.S. Marines have suffered heavy losses, had posted letters of warning - known as "night letters" because they are left under the cover of darkness - on the door of the village mosque only days before.
Gul, in a story backed by other village witnesses, said the boys and girls had met days previously at a well, where women regularly fetch water, built decades ago by U.S. aid workers to water the arid land.
But in an area known for its deep conservatism on relations between men and women, it was still unclear why the girls agreed to meet for three consecutive nights before their slaughter.
Enraged family members of the two girls were among the attackers, villager Mohammad Gul told Reuters, backed by about five Taliban members from a nearby insurgent stronghold called Baghnai.
"The boys in the house were armed and fought back, but the Taliban called in more fighters who arrived on motorbikes," said Gul, who is not related to the other villager by the same name.
It is this that perhaps explains early reports of a clash between Taliban factions.
Mohammad Gul said some of the revellers were shot in the chest, while survivors of the brief gunbattle were beheaded, including the two women, with the bodies dumped beside an irrigation canal.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf denied the group was involved in a massacre that has provoked another bout of outrage at a time when the insurgency is keen to project a more moderate face.
"The boys must have been drunk, fighting one another. We were not involved," Yousuf said on Monday.
Reclusive Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, in an earlier message ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festival ending Ramadan fasting this month, urged fighters to "emphatically" avoid civilian deaths as a "religious obligation to observe".
The message was in part aimed at presenting a gentler face as efforts continue to re-open peace talks which could foster a power-sharing deal, with Mullah Omar calling for an "all-Afghan" process that appeared to move away from earlier opposition to dealing with the Afghan government.
"Judging from his words, the main strategic goal seems to remain the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate, maybe in a somewhat more 'pluralistic' way," said Afghanistan Analysts Network author Thomas Ruttig in a blog this week, referring to the Taliban regime that held power until 2001.
Ruttig said two recent cases elsewhere in Afghanistan showed the Taliban were "trying to show their 'real' position on justice and that they do care about the civilian population", by punishing rogue insurgents and criminals.
But events like the July execution of a woman in central Afghanistan accused of adultery and now the gruesome killings in Helmand threaten to undo any small advances in the face of a deeply suspicious, if not hostile, public outside the insurgents' southern and eastern stronghold.
Such incidents highlight the difficulty that Taliban leaders have in enforcing discipline across an estimated 20,000 fighters spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan, through hundreds of villages separated by both mountainous geography, poor phone networks and even worse roads.
That is true also of Roshan Abad, where about 400 families live between Kajaki and Musa Qala districts in an area rarely patrolled by Afghan or foreign troops.
If the Taliban cannot enforce demands to spare the lives of civilians, then the task of enforcing any peace pact that might emerge after most Western combat troops withdraw looks even more remote.
"The Taliban are a loose movement, operating in small numbers and small groups, so it's difficult to say whether they receive or get messages from those higher-up or their Mullah Omar," said a senior Afghan intelligence official who declined to be identified.
"Even when Mullah Omar tells them or orders them not to harm civilians, local commanders prefer punishment and value their Islamic duties rather than listen to him in matters of immorality."
08-28-2012, 05:20 PM
you know, when you think about it, these stories don't make sense at all. i find it hard to believe that 17 people were killed for dancing and that two women chose to join 15 other men just to dance and they happened to have enough weapons on them to fight back. why is dancing so important all of a sudden??
there is something else going on that neither the government or the taliban was others to know of.
08-28-2012, 09:58 PM
Beheaded by the Taleban? No, this time it was about sex
posted: 12-01-2010 / by: Bette Dam
In Afghanistan, things are often more complicated than they look like at the first glance. Some armed fighting, for example, is motivated by local conflicts. But there are always people who are interested to present this as ‘Taleban’-driven. Our guest author BETTE DAM*, a Dutch journalist, pleads for more accuracy in reporting such incidents.
On New Year’s Day, six Afghans were beheaded in a village in Uruzgan province. Horrible news. The boys were young, some of them only 18 years old.
The New York Times was quick with the conclusion: the Taleban were behind it. They killed the men ‘because of their alliance with the Karzai government’. AFP told their readers they were killed ‘by the Taleban’, because of ‘spying’ for the Afghan government. Xinhua made it even more clear: the six beheaded Afghans were ‘ex-colleges’ from the Taleban who killed them. A Belgian newspaper presented the story like this: ‘A group of moderate Taleban held a meeting in a house and a terrorist Taleban-group came and beheaded them’, as provincial police commander Juma Gul told the journalist.
My first text message to an Afghan I work with in Tarinkot about what happened with the six victims was answered with: ‘Those people were madrassa Taleban’. For me that didn't explain anything; my experience is that you have to press a bit. Often the conflicts in the province seem too complex for the Afghans to take the effort to explain them to Westerners.
Others find it much easier to blame the Taleban for everything and get away with it. Besides that, especially the young Afghans I work with feel sometimes ashamed to speak about differences between their tribal leaders.
But I've been working with this Afghan colleague for two years and I know I can try it again. So I did. ‘But who was interested in killing them?’, I texted, in the hope to get names of tribal leaders who had an enmity between each other, or maybe something else. And again I got an unclear answer: ‘The Taleban killed among each other’. I felt something uncommon was going on; most of the time he is more direct. So I tried ‘Why did they do that then? Is it rivalry between groups? Were the two groups both from Tarinkot?’ It took a while… and then he replied that he talked to the leader of the jail who arrested four of the killers, and he told him the reason: ‘To be honest - they fought about a boy friend’.
After talking to the governor and an aid worker in Tarinkot I got it confirmed. The fights for sex with a boy ended up in the newspaper as a clash between Taleban ‘who become more strong in the province’, as one newspaper added.
The governor was clear: ‘No, it’s not extremist Taleban, they were not fighters, just students. We are researching it’, he said, ‘but yes, the idea is that it was about a boyfriend’.
The aid worker started laughing uncomfortable when I asked him the same question. ‘How can I explain to you what happened’, he tried. ‘Is it a Taleban-fight? ’, I asked. He quickly denied. ‘No fighters, no Taleban, it has nothing to do with that.’ Then he found how to put it: ‘Here we have a habit of... they fought about misusing a boy for love’.
So, what happened according to my sources, was as follows: In a village ten kilometer west of Tarinkot, the fight started amongst three small madrassas. Two of them, the governor explained, are for adults. The other one is for boys under 18. Two adult groups wanted to take a ‘boyfriend’ from the children’s madrassa but a disagreement started between them. In the night, one adult group attacked the other adult group. They first killed their targets (some of them were sleeping, others were studying) and after that they beheaded them. ‘For Tarinkot, this is also very unusual”, the aid worker said.
It is the second time in a few weeks that media write about 'Taleban' responsible for certain killings while there seems to be a different reality. The latest suicide attack in Dehrawod in November – where 13 people got killed (see our blog about this incident here) - was also about two local groups who had a rivalry amongst each other for years now.
Especially these days, when thousands of American soldiers prepare themselves for ‘war’ in Afghanistan, it is important for the media to take the lead and ask the question: What is really going on in Afghanistan? Is there ‘increasing Taleban influence’ and where? What is the real background of local conflicts? Who exactly is the enemy the soldiers are going to fight? At the same time it is not sufficient to use Afghanistan’s complexity as a pretext for superficial reporting: As it is shown here, the background of incidents like the one in the Tarinkot madrassa can be discovered relatively easily, with a bit of patience and leaving behind the black-and-white picture about the Taleban. This way, the public gets to know what Afghanistan really is about and what the soldiers stand for when they depart to the country any time soon.
* Bette Dam is a freelance journalist based in the Netherlands, traveling regularly to Afghanistan, in particular to Uruzgan. She is the author of the book ‘Expeditie Uruzgan: De weg van Hamid Karzai naar het paleis’ (Expedition Uruzgan: Hamid Karzai’s way into his palace, Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam and Antwerpen 2009).
08-28-2012, 10:39 PM
The story about the woman in Parwan who was executed for adultery this summer was later found that she was executed because two commanders were involved with her and the two commanders wanted to save their own image so they got rid of her so the news about their own misdeeds wouldnt spread.
08-28-2012, 10:48 PM
That does not necessarily mean a person supports the Taliban or for instance in regards to non-intervention in Syria, supports Assad.
This incident was not due to the Taliban. The media seems to blame every incident like this on the Taliban.
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