Query Response: Information on Hezb-e Wahdat (May 27, 2003)
1. Did Hezb-e Wahdat members fight to overthrow the Taliban between 1997 and 2001 by violent means?
2. Did Hezb-e Wahdat assist the United States military during Operation Enduring Freedom during the latter part of 2001?
3. Between 1997 and January of 2000, did Hezb-e Wahdat engage in human rights violations in Afghanistan?
4. If Hezb-e Wahdat did engage in human rights violations, which group(s), if any, were targeted?
5. What are the current country conditions? What is the likelihood that a member or former member of the Hezb-e Wahdat would be persecuted or tortured if returned to Afghanistan?
The National Islamic United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (aka, Northern Alliance or United Front), was established in 1991-1992 in opposition to the Soviet-installed communist government of Afghanistan led by President Najibullah. Due to infighting, the Northern Alliance disintegrated after the fall of the communist regime, but it was reorganized in 1996 when the Taliban overthrew the Islamic State of Afghanistan (ISA), led by then-President Burhanuddin Rabbani (Institute n.d., HRW Oct 2001a). The aim of the reconstituted coalition was to support the ISA government and to oppose the Taliban, but membership of particular groups in the Northern Alliance has been fluid over time. The Northern Alliance was formally led by former President Rabbani, but its military might centered in Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in Afghanistan in September 2001 (HRW Oct 2001a).
Hezb-e [Hezeb, Hizb-i, Hizib] Wahdat-i Islami-yi Afghanistan (aka, Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, or Hezb-e Wahdat) is one of the main groups included in the Northern Alliance, and had joined the coalition by 1992 (Institute n.d.). When Afghanistan’s communist government fell in 1992, Hezb-e Wahdat was formed to unite the country's eight Shi'a parties. It is the main Shi'a party in Afghanistan and draws its support from the ethnic Hazara minority (HRW Oct 2001a).
1. PARTICIPATION OF HEZB-E WAHDAT IN ARMED STRUGGLE TO OVERTHROW THE TALIBAN
In 1996, the Taliban overthrew the Islamic State of Afghanistan led by President Rabbani, who fled the country, while other leaders, including Ahmad Shah Massoud and Uzbek leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum, pulled back to the north. Fighting continued throughout 1997 and 1998 as the Taliban attempted to wrest control of the north from the opposition (HRW Oct 2001b).
According to Human Rights Watch:
“Dostum had carved out [in the north] what amounted to a mini-state comprising five provinces which he administered from his headquarters…west of…Mazar-i Sharif. In Mazar-i Sharif, Dostum's forces controlled the city through an uneasy alliance with Hizb-i Wahdat, which had a stronghold in the large Hazara population in Mazar-i Sharif” (HRW Oct 2001b).
In May 1997, Dostum was betrayed by one of his deputies, known as “Malik,” who entered into an alliance with the Taliban, enabling the latter to occupy Mazar-i Sharif. As that alliance quickly deteriorated, however:
“[h]undreds of Taliban soldiers were killed in the streets of Mazar-i Sharif, and some 3,000 were taken prisoner by Malik, and allegedly also by Hizb-i Wahdat, and summarily executed. In August 1998 Taliban finally took control of Mazar-i Sharif and massacred at least 2,000 people, most of them Hazara civilians, after they took the city” (HRW Oct 2001b).
After the fall of Mazar-i Sharif to the Taliban, the Northern Alliance began to look beyond their traditional Uzbek, Hazara, and Tajik ethnic constituencies. They were joined by a Pashtun faction, and renamed themselves the United Front. Meanwhile, the armed conflict continued as the Taliban sought to gain control of the entire country (HRW Oct 2001b).
2. ASSISTANCE OF HEZB-E WAHDAT TO U.S. FORCES DURING OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM IN AFGHANISTAN IN THE LATTER PART OF 2001.
According to the U.S. Department of State:
“On October 7, 2001, OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom], a U.S.-led coalition, began military action aimed at toppling the Taliban regime and eliminating the al-Qa'ida network in [Afghanistan]. U.S. forces worked in concert with anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance as well as others in the southern part of the country. By mid-November 2001, the Taliban had been removed from power” (U.S. DOS 31 Mar 2003).
3. HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY HEZB-E WAHDAT IN AFGHANISTAN BETWEEN 1997 AND JANUARY OF 2000.
The U.S. Department of State reported in its 1999 annual report on human rights in Afghanistan:
“Masood's forces and the Northern Alliance members committed numerous, serious abuses….Anti-Taliban forces bombarded civilians indiscriminately….Armed units of the Northern Alliance, local commanders, and rogue individuals were responsible for political killings, abductions, kidnappings for ransom, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, and looting” (U.S. DOS 23 Feb 2000).
The report also stated that, as head of the Northern Alliance, Rabbani "received nominal support from General Dostam, and [a] faction of the…Hezb-e Wahdat” (U.S. DOS 23 Feb 2000).
In its 1999 annual human rights report on Afghanistan (covering the events of 1998) Human Rights Watch reported:
"As has been the case throughout the [civil] war [in Afghanistan], all parties to the conflict were responsible for violations of international humanitarian law. Over 180 people were killed in a barrage of rocket attacks fired on Kabul by…[Northern Alliance] commander Ahmad Shah Massoud on September 20-22. Reprisal attacks on civilians, indiscriminate rocketing and shelling of cities, and summary executions of captured prisoners were also reported….Those in areas controlled by the opposition were subject to abuses…, including extrajudicial killings, rape and arbitrary detention” (HRW 1999).
According to a 1999 report prepared by the UN Special Rapporteur to Afghanistan, after the fall to the Taliban of Hezb-e Wahdat stronghold Bamyan city in the central province of Hazarajat, retreating Hezb-e Wahdat fighters summarily killed 30 Taliban prisoners who were being detained at Bamyan prison (UN 30 Sep 1999).
In October 2001, Human Rights Watch cited Hezb-e Wahdat and other groups within the United Front for "serious human rights abuses” in late 1999 and early 2000 during their armed struggle against the Taliban (HRW 6 Oct 2001). Human Rights Watch charged that "[t]he various parties that comprise the United Front also amassed a deplorable record of attacks on civilians between the fall of the Najibullah regime in 1992 and the Taliban's capture of Kabul in 1996” (HRW 6 Oct 2001).
4. PARTICULAR GROUPS TARGETTED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES BY THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE.
The 1999 UN report by the Special Rapporteur to Afghanistan cited allegations that "during its rule of Hazarajat, and particularly in Bamyan, Hezb-e-Wahdat failed to maintain law and order and the behaviour of its forces towards Tajiks living in Bamyan centre, Kohmand and Saighan districts led hundreds of Tajiks to leave Bamyan during 1996 and 1997” (UN 30 Sep 1999).
Human Rights Watch stated in a 2001 press release:
"Abuses that were reported from an area controlled by a United Front faction in late 1999 and early 2000 include summary executions, burning of houses, and looting, principally targeting ethnic Pashtuns and others suspected of supporting the Taliban” (HRW 6 Oct 2001).
In its annual report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan for 2002, Human Rights Watch reported:
"In the last months of 2001 and first months of 2002, there was a wave of attacks on Pashtun civilians in the north of the country, seemingly because they shared the same ethnicity as the Taliban leadership. Specifically, troops associated with the predominately Uzbek party Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami-yi, led by Rashid Dostum, the predominately Tajik party Jamiat-e Islami, led in the north by Ustad Atta Mohammad, and the predominately Hazara party Hizb-i Wahdat, led in the north by Mohammad Mohaqiq, were all implicated in systematic and widespread looting and violence in almost every province under their separate control, almost all of it directed at Pashtun villagers. In scores of villages, homes were destroyed, possessions were taken, and men and boys were beaten and in some cases killed.…[T]here were several reports of rapes of girls and women. In Chimtal district near Mazar-e Sharif, and in Balkh province generally, both Hizb-i Wahdat and Jamiat forces were particularly violent: in one village, Bargah-e Afghani, Hizb-i Wahdat troops killed thirty-seven civilians, the largest known intentional killing of civilians since the fall of the Taliban” (HRW 2003).
5. THE CURRENT HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION FOR FORMER MEMBERS OF HEZB-E WAHDAT WHO RETURN TO AFGHANISTAN.
The RIC was unable to find information on the situation of former members of Hezb-e Wahdat who have returned to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban and the subsequent election of Hamid Karzai as President by the Loya Jirga in June 2002. Hezb-e Wahdat leaders participated in the Loya Jirga that elected Karzai and have publicly thrown their support behind him and the new government. The leader of Hezb-e Wahdat, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, is currently the Planning Minister in the Afghan government (Wahdat.org n.d.).
For information on current conditions for ethnic Hazara in Afghanistan, including political participation of Hazara in the current government, and possibilities for relocation within Afghanistan of Hazara who have faced persecution by the Taliban, please see Response to Information Request AFG03001.OGC, INFORMATION ON SITUATION OF HAZARAS IN POST-TALIBAN AFGHANISTAN, 3 April 2003.
This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.
Human Rights Watch (HRW). WORLD REPORT 2003. "Afghanistan” (2003), http://hrw.org/wr2k3/asia1.html [Accessed 26 May 2003].
Human Rights Watch (HRW). AFGHANISTAN: POOR RIGHTS RECORD OF OPPOSITION COMMANDERS (6 Oct 2001), http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/10/afghan1005.htm [Accessed 26 May 2003]
Human Rights Watch (HRW). MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO THE AFGHAN OPPOSITION. Human Rights Watch Backgrounder (Oct 2001a), http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/asia/afghan-bck1005.htm#na [Accessed 24 May 2003]
Human Rights Watch (HRW). BACKGROUNDER ON AFGHANISTAN: HISTORY OF THE WAR (Oct 2001b), http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/asia/afghan-bck1023.htm [Accessed 24 May 2003]
Human Rights Watch (HRW). WORLD REPORT 1999. "Afghanistan” (1999), http://www.hrw.org/worldreport99/asia/afghanistan.html [Accessed 24 May 2003]
Institute for Afghan Studies (Institute). THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE, A BRIEF INTRODUCTION (n.d.), http://www.institute-for-afghan-studies.org/dev_xyz/na/brief_intro.htm [Accessed 24 May 2003]
The Official Site of Hizb-e Wahdat – Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan (Wahdat.org). (n.d.), http://www.wahdat.org/ [Accessed 27 May 2003]
U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES – 2002. "Afghanistan” (31 Mar 2003), http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18308.htm [Accessed 26 May 2003]
U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS). COUNTRY REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES – 1999. "Afghanistan" (23 Feb 2000), http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/1999/431.htm [Accessed 26 May 2003]
UN Commission on Human Rights (UN). SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN AFGHANISTAN: INTERIM REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN AFGHANISTAN, PREPARED BY THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS (30 Sep 1999), http://www.pcpafg.org/news/Afghan_News/UN_HQ_Reports/Situation_of_human _rights_in_Afghanistan30_September_1999.shtml [Accessed 26 May 2003]