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Taliban Abducted Women for Sex

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From International Herald Tribune

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Some Relatives Feel Emboldened Now to Inquire About the Missing

KABUL - Eight Taliban fighters kicked in the front door at dinnertime. They beat Shabnam's mother and grandmother, according to her relatives. Then they hustled the 9-year-old girl into a pickup truck, loot for their commanding officer. That was August 1997. Shabnam, who would be 13 now, is still not home.


Her sister saw her once, about two years ago. She heard that Shabnam had become the property of Colonel Shawali, a top Taliban security officer. So she went to his house and demanded to see her little sister. She was allowed to talk to her for five minutes, surrounded by Taliban gunmen, just long enough to see the fear in her eyes.


"Every time she sees someone who looks like Shabnam, she cries," said Islamodin, the sister's husband. Shabnam lived with the couple; her mother and grandmother were visiting at the time of the abduction.


"Her clothes are still in the house, and so are her dolls; everything reminds us of her," said Mr. Islamodin, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. "When the Taliban were forced out of Kabul last month, we should have been happy. But we could only cry because she was not with us."


Taliban soldiers abducted many women and girls, perhaps hundreds or more, during their five-year rule of Afghanistan, according to Afghan families, officials of the incoming government and humanitarian aid groups. Many are still missing, and their stories are only now beginning to emerge. It is impossible to calculate the number kidnapped. Many families have never spoken out because of the stigma, especially strong in this conservative Muslim society, of having a daughter or sister sold for sex. Others fear that protesting could jeopardize the life of their missing loved ones. Mr. Islamodin and others interviewed spoke reluctantly, and they declined to be photographed or provide pictures of the kidnapped girls. But as a new government prepares to take office Saturday, and the climate of fear created by the Taliban begins to fade, more and more families are stepping forward to tell their stories publicly.


The abductions highlight a central hypocrisy of the Taliban. Their official policy was to revere women as jewels to be guarded by the men in their family. To the Taliban, that meant stripping women of virtually all rights, including education, and forcing them to stay either out of sight at home or covered head to toe by a burqa in public.


One of the most frequently told stories about Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's spiritual leader, is how in the spring of 1994 he led a small band of followers to a warlord's base near the city of Kandahar to free two girls who had been abducted and repeatedly raped. Mullah Omar reportedly freed the girls, then hanged the warlord from the barrel of a tank to avenge his violent treatment of the girls.


But according to interviews with families and officials in Afghanistan and abroad, the Taliban were essentially a militia of illiterate young men who often abused their power in violent ways. That reportedly included claiming women and girls as sexual prizes.


General Mohammed Qasim, chief military prosecutor for the Northern Alliance, the collection of forces that led the fight to overthrow the Taliban, said in an interview that he believed at least 1,000 Afghan women were abducted by the Taliban.


"This is not what the Afghan people are like," said General Qasim, who will be a top Justice Ministry official in the new government. He promised that the new government would investigate as many cases as possible.


"It will be difficult to find many of them," he said. "We think many of these girls are no longer in Afghanistan. We think many of them may have been killed by the Taliban. But the parents want us to find them, and we will try."


General Qasim said that many of the girls were used as concubines by Taliban officers, some of whom kept a dozen or more.


He said that many others were sold as sexual slaves to wealthy Arabs through contacts arranged by the Qaida terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. Proceeds helped keep the cash-strapped Taliban afloat, he said.


Farhat Bokhari, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in New York, which recently released a report on the plight of Afghan women, said in a telephone interview that "whispers" about large numbers of abductions under the Taliban have emerged recently.


Mrs. Bokhari said that in interviews with Afghan women in refugee camps in Pakistan late last summer, "a few women said they had heard of more than 20 abductions; others gave estimates in the hundreds, so there's really no good accounting."



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This report sickens me but nothing that I read about these demons surprises me.


But one thing in this report is contrary to what I have heard on the news. It is as follows:


Proceeds helped keep the cash-strapped Taliban afloat, he said.


I had heard on the news that the taliban made millions if not billions off the heroin trade. Who got that money and where is it?



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