Taliban ‘forcibly expel’ Hazaras and opponents in Afghanistan | Afghanistan

Thousands of people have been forced from their homes and land by Taliban officials in northern and southern Afghanistan in what amounted to collective punishment, illegal under international law, Human Rights Watch has warned.

Many of the expulsions were directed at members of the Shia-Hazara community, while others were by people affiliated with the former Afghan government. Land and homes seized in this way have often been redistributed to Taliban supporters, HRW said.

Forced exposures recorded by Human Rights Watch took place across five provinces, including Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan in the south, Daikundi in the center and the northern province of Balkh.

Many of the population were ordered to leave homes and farms with few days notice and without the 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,” the report said.

“The Taliban forcibly expel Hazaras and others on the basis of ethnicity or political stance to reward Taliban supporters,” said Patricia Gossman, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These evictions, carried out with threats of power and without any legal process, are serious abuses equivalent to collective punishment.”

The Taliban promised an inclusive government, but elected a cabinet that was exclusively male, largely dominated by Sunni Muslim clerics from the Pashtun ethnic group, from which the group has historically received its core support.

Since taking power in mid-August, the Taliban has been linked to a number of human rights abuses, including reprisals and attacks on journalists. They have also deprived many women of the right to work and excluded girls from studying at the secondary level.

The relocations come just before winter, which in large parts of Afghanistan brings extreme cold, and in the middle of autumn, which rural families depend on to pay off a year of debt and provide themselves with food for the coming year.

Those forced out of their homes are joining a large number of people who have already become refugees in their own country due to war, drought or economic collapse. This year alone, over 665,000 Afghans have been displaced, bringing the total nationwide to about 4 million.

“It’s especially cruel to evict families during the harvest and just before winter sets in,” Gossman said. “The Taliban should stop forcibly expelling Hazaras and others and condemn land disputes under the law and a fair trial.”

After four decades of civil war, property disputes have become a major source of tension in Afghanistan. Competing groups have repeatedly handed out overlapping claims to land as they seized it, leaving a tangle of competing documentation.

Now those who lost in previous strife are asking the Taliban to support their ownership. In northern Balkh, locals said they had owned the land distributed to Taliban fighters since the 1970s, while the new government said the evictions were based on a court order.

In Kandahar, the evictions were aimed at members of a government-owned apartment block where housing had been distributed to officials, HRW said. In Helmand, at least 400 families were driven out of the Naw Mish district in the middle of the harvest season.

The largest displacements recorded are in the provinces of Daikundi and Uruzgan, where at least 2,800 Hazara residents were displaced from their homes in September. Checkpoints on the road prevented those who left from taking their harvest with them, according to one of those who fled.

Postponement orders for some Daikundi villages were canceled by Kabul officials, the report said, but by the end of October, no residents had returned.

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