Thousands of people have been forced from their homes and lands by Taliban officials in northern and southern Afghanistan, amounting to collective punishment, illegal under international law, Human Rights Watch warned.
Many of the evictions targeted members of the Hazara Shiite community, while others were against people related to the previous Afghan government. Land and houses seized in this way have often been redistributed among supporters of the Taliban, HRW said.
Forced evictions recorded by Human Rights Watch It was carried out in five provinces, including Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan in the south, Daikundi in the center, and the northern province of Balkh.
Many of the people were ordered to leave their homes and farms with just a few days’ notice and without any opportunity to prove their legal ownership. Some were reportedly told that if they did not comply with orders to leave, “they had no right to complain about the consequences,” according to the report.
“The Taliban are forcibly evicting the Hazaras and other people on ethnic or political grounds to reward Taliban supporters,” he said Patricia gossman, Associate Director for Asia at Human Rights Watch. “These evictions, carried out with threats of force and without any legal process, are serious abuses that amount to collective punishment.”
The Taliban promised an inclusive government, but chose an all-male cabinet, largely dominated by Sunni clerics from the Pashtun ethnic group, from which the group has historically drawn its main support.
Since taking power in mid-August, the Taliban have been linked to a series of human rights abuses, including retaliatory killings and attacks on journalists. They have also stripped many women of the right to work and banned girls from studying at the secondary level.
The evictions come just before winter, which in much of Afghanistan brings extreme cold, and in the middle of the harvest, which rural families depend on to pay off a year’s debt and stock up on food for the next year.
Those who were forced to leave their homes join large numbers of people who have already become refugees within their own country due to war, drought or economic collapse. This year alone, more than 665,000 Afghans have been displaced, bringing the national total to about 4 million.
“It is particularly cruel to displace families during the harvest and just before winter sets in,” Gossman said. “The Taliban must end the forced eviction of Hazaras and other people and resolve land disputes in accordance with the law and due process.”
After four decades of civil war, property disputes have become a major source of tension in Afghanistan. Competing groups have repeatedly submitted overlapping land claims when they seized them, leaving a mess of competing documentation.
Now, those who lost in previous disputes are asking the Taliban to support their property. In northern Balkh, locals said they owned land that was being handed over to Taliban fighters since the 1970s, while the new government said the evictions were based on a court order.
In Kandahar, the evictions targeted members of a government-owned apartment block, where houses had been distributed to public officials, HRW said. In Helmand, at least 400 families were evicted from the Naw Mish district in the middle of the harvest season.
The largest displacements on record are in Daikundi and Uruzgan provinces, where at least 2,800 Hazara residents were evicted from their homes in September. Checkpoints on the road prevented those leaving from taking the harvest, according to one of those who fled.
Eviction orders for some Daikundi villages were struck down by officials in Kabul, according to the report, but no residents had returned as of late October.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism