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HRW: Afghan Hazaras, Ex-Civil Servants Targeted By 'Collective Punishment,' Land-Grabbing

A woman walks through a Hazara cemetery on the outskirts of Kabul on October 21.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses the Taliban of forcibly displacing hundreds of families across Afghanistan, mainly as a form of “collective punishment” against ethnic Shi’ite Hazaras and people associated with the former government.

Since the hard-line Sunni group came to power in August, the Taliban has ordered Hazaras and other residents in four provinces across Afghanistan to leave their homes and farms, in many cases with only a few days’ notice and without an opportunity to present their legal claims to the land, the New York-based human rights group said in a statement on October 22.

In a fifth province, the Taliban seized property that had been distributed by the previous government to civil servants.

“The Taliban are forcibly evicting Hazaras and others on the basis of ethnicity or political opinion to reward Taliban supporters,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW.

“These evictions, carried out with threats of force and without any legal process, are serious abuses that amount to collective punishment.”

HRW reported forcible evictions by the Taliban and “associated militias” in September and October in the provinces of Helmand, Balkh, Daikundi, Uruzgan, and Kandahar.

The largest displacements took place in 15 villages in Daikundi and Uruzgan provinces, where the group said at least 2,800 Hazara residents were evicted last month.

The families were relocated to other districts, leaving their belongings and crops behind.

HRW quoted an activist from Helmand as saying that the property seized in the southern province in early October was being redistributed to Taliban members holding official positions.

In Kandahar Province, also in the south, the Taliban in mid-September gave residents of a government-owned residential complex three days to leave.

HRW noted that the forced evictions took place at a time of “record” internal displacement driven by drought, economic hardship, and conflict, with 665,000 people newly displaced in 2021. Overall, about 4 million people are displaced in the country.

Gossman urged the Taliban to cease such evictions and to adjudicate land disputes “according to the law and a fair process,” saying it is “particularly cruel to displace families during harvest and just before winter sets in.”

The mainly Shi’ite Hazara community is Afghanistan's third-largest ethnic group. Its members have faced long-term discrimination and persecution in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International said Taliban forces unlawfully killed 13 ethnic Hazaras, including a 17-year-old girl, two weeks after the militant fighters toppled the internationally recognized government in Kabul in mid-August.

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