Taleban Justice Dominant in Logar Province - IWPR - 08-07-2012, 10:23 PM
Even public servants turn to alternative courts in the belief
they are swifter and more honest than state judiciary.
By Abdul Maqsud Azizi - Afghanistan
ARR Issue 437,
2 Aug 12
Taleban control of Logar, a province just south of the capital Kabul, is so
complete that the insurgents’ own justice system is seen as preferable to
state institutions. Locals say Taleban courts might be rough and ready, but
at least they do not require bribes to be paid to massively corrupt state
officials and judges.
Sitting in his grocery shop pouring tea from a vacuum flask into a broken
cup, Abdullah, a 36-year-old trader at the village market in Baraki Rajan,
described a recent Taleban punishment he witnessed.
He was out digging his land when his younger brother called him to come
and see what was happening.
“I saw people walking behind two donkeys, like a line of ants,” he said. “I
could see two young boys on the donkeys, their faces blackened with coal.
Five motorcyclists, obviously Taleban, were riding to the right and left of
Abdullah and his brother joined the procession of 200 young boys and
children from the village. As they went along, an insurgent sitting behind
one of the motorcyclists started using a loudhailer to proclaim, “This is the
punishment for anyone who steals”. The chant was picked up and repeated
by those in the processions.
When they reached open ground, Abdullah said, “The Taleban used the
loudhailer to order people to sit down in a circle. Then they led the donkeys
into the centre. One of the Taleban… told the crowd, ‘People! Look and
listen! We are the Taleban. The two individuals whose faces we’ve
blackened come from this area. Until six days ago, they were holding people
up, beating them and stealing their money, mobile phones and watches.”
The two offenders faced no further punishment, and left the village the
next day because they could not face their community. They ended up
travelling illegally to Iran, relatives told Abdullah.
For Abdullah, the moral was simple – “anyone who commits a crime where
the Taleban flag flies will be punished like those two guys”.
It is no idle claim. Taleban courts in Logar are commonly asked to
adjudicate on civil and family matters as well as criminal cases. Judgement
is swift and often harsh. In criminal cases, the punishments range from the
ritual humiliation and shaming described by Abdullah to lashings,
amputations, stonings, and summary execution.
Mohammad Bashir, 26, described one such punishment that he watched in
the Charkh district on July 21.
“That morning, I heard the Taleban loudspeaker saying, ‘People! Hurry and
come to the Shash Qala Bazaar’. When I got there, I saw 12 Taleban with
their faces covered. They had brought two young men with them,” he said.
“One of the Taleban, using a loudhailer, said, ‘These two humiliated people
you see standing before you are criminals. They wanted to kidnap
Abdorrahman’s son and demand money from him, but thankfully, our
mujahedin arrested them.”
The Taleban then ordered the boys to take off their shirts and sit on the
ground. They were then given 40 lashes each.
One of the Taleban handed the loudhailer to the now bleeding men and told
them to repent their wrongdoing and promise not to do it again, which they
The district government chief in Charkh district, Humayun Faruq, confirmed
that this incident took place. But he could add no detail about those
punished, since his own travel around the province was restricted to flights
on United States military helicopters.
IWPR interviewed around 80 residents of the Mohammad Agha, Charkh,
Baraki Barak and Pol-e Alam districts in Logar in May and June who had
applied to the Taleban rather than Afghanistan’s formal court system.
Asked why they had done so, interviewees said state courts could take
years to process a case, and the judges took bribes to sway the outcome.
IWPR also spoke to Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mojahed, who said the
insurgents had received around 70 applications from Logar residents
relating to civil disputes and criminal offences. He said the Taleban dealt
with these referrals quickly, by convening a court in a local mosque, with
the plaintiff, defendant, village head as well as judges in attendance.
Sharia, Islamic law, was used to form a ruling and decide on any penalty.
The growth of this form of justice is clearly a PR coup for the Taleban in
this part of Afghanistan, where all the institutions of state are present but
are ignored by the locals. Such attitudes are not, however, universal. In
other regions including Paktia, Ghazni and Nuristan, residents have staged
local uprisings against the insurgents, whose rule they regard as draconian.
(See Afghan Villagers Rise up Against Taleban.)
One case dealt with in late June 2012 was brought by a woman called
Sakina, who wrote to the Taleban to complain of mistreatment by her
Sakina, now 30, had been married off to a cousin as “compensation” to
settle a 20-year family feud – a practice common in traditional Afghan
“I have served as a slave to my husband’s family for the past two years,
and they still do not hold back from using cruelty and torture against me,”
her letter said. “Since my husband and father-in-law beat me up all the
time, I write this complaint to you so that you will treat me in accordance
After the letter was smuggled to them, the Taleban summoned Sakina’s
parents and in-laws to the village mosque in Sarsang on July 1, where
three judges and two local elders were present. As a woman, Sakina was
However, her father Abdullah told IWPR she was satisfied with the ruling
the court came up with – that she should remain living with her in-laws,
but that any mistreatment or cruelty directed against her would be dealt
with the full force of Islamic law.
Abdullah said that since the ruling, Sakina’s in-laws had not dared do
anything to harm her.
Among the unusual features of this case is that Sarsang, the village where
it played out, is just three kilometres away from the offices of Logar’s
provincial governor, Mohammad Tahir Sabaray.
The Taleban also dealt with another case brought by a woman called
Shahnaz, whose 21 year old daughter Torpekay was abducted last
December by armed men who burst into her home at night and bound and
gagged family members.
Shahnaz, 45, is from Kamal Khel, a village located 13 km from Governor
Sabaray’s office. She says she reported the abduction there and also at
the provincial police headquarters, but no action was taken until May,
when the Taleban moved in and took control of Kamal Khel.
Within minutes of receiving her complaint, in which she identified the
principal culprit as one Habibullah, the Taleban summoned the man’s father
and gave him 30 days to appear before a court together with his son,
otherwise they would both be punished. The father complied, and
Habibullah soon reappeared in the village together with Torpekay. He had
fled to neighbouring Khost province to hide out there after the abduction.
Sayed Ahmad, 41, who lives in a neighbouring village, said Habibullah was
now under house arrest and barred from leaving Kamal Khel until the court
decided his fate.
IWPR managed to interview the Taleban judge in the case, Maulavi
Habibullah, who has conducted three hearings on Shahnaz’s complaint so
He outlined the possible penalties, which included 100 lashes for the
abduction, assuming Habibullah had not married Torpekay; and stoning to
death if it was shown he had sex with her without marrying her.
As for Torpekay, the judge said, “The girl is innocent and there can be no
punishment for her.” He added that even if she had gone through a
marriage with Habibullah, the court could nullify that if she wanted, and she
could return to live with her family in safety.
Provincial officials acknowledge that Taleban courts are prevalent in Logar,
and accept that they exist because of the injustices, sluggishness and
other failings of the state judicial system.
Din Mohammad Darwesh, spokesman for provincial governor Sabaray, said,
“The Taleban have a strong presence in Logar. Their courts are active in all
the districts… And since 80 per cent of people in Logar don’t believe in the
justice delivered by government judges, they bring their claims to the
Using a common Afghan phrase, he said, “The sun can’t be hidden behind
two fingers – the Taleban judges bring balance and justice to bear in their
decisions, so they have drawn people to them.”
Abdul Wali Wakil, chairman of the Logar’s elected council, told IWPR he saw
three reasons for the popularity of Taleban courts – the slowness with
which case were dealt with by the state judiciary, the lack of public
confidence in government institutions generally, and the sheer numbers of
insurgents in the province.
Wakil said he had witnessed two Taleban court sessions in the past three
months. They took place in Azra district; one was a case of violence
against a woman and the other a legal dispute. Both were handled swiftly
and fairly, he said.
Even government employees in Logar are now turning to the alternative
One statistical agency staff member in the Baraki Barak district described
how he asked the Taleban to arbitrate on a case in which his son had been
seriously injured by his cousins. Asking not to be named because of his
position, he said the case would have taken years to go through an official
court. The Taleban have held two hearings on the matter, but have yet to
issue a ruling.
“No bribery or connections are needed in the Taleban court,” he added.
Taleban spokesman Mojahed said arbitration was open to anyone, including
Afghan officials and public servants.
“Even if an American comes to us to solve a problem, our court will deal
with the case with full impartiality,” he said.
Abdul Maqsud Azizi is an IWPR-trained reporter in Afghanistan.
This report was produced as part of the Afghan Critical Mass Media
Reporting in Uruzgan and Nangarhar project, and is also published on the
Afghan Centre for Investigative Journalism website which IWPR has set up
To advise others is an easy matter, the difficulty is accepting advice -- since it is bitter for those who follow their
own inclinations and desires.
-Imam al Ghazali
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