PARWAN, Afghanistan -- Armed Taliban fighters stopped at Ahmad’s home last week, ordering his family of six to immediately leave their village in Afghanistan’s northern province of Baghlan.
“They didn’t even allow us to take any of our belongings,” Ahmad, who did not reveal his real name for fear of retribution, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi. He said the Taliban fighters forced his family into a military vehicle in the Pol-e Hesar district and dropped them off in another area of the province.
Ahmad and his family are among the hundreds of civilians that have been forcibly evicted from their homes in recent weeks in Baghlan, the scene of intensifying clashes between the Taliban and resistance forces, residents and activists say.
The recent surge in fighting in Baghlan and the neighboring province of Panjshir has prompted allegations of widespread Taliban abuses, including extrajudicial killings of civilians, torture, and forced displacement.
"The Taliban are forcing families to flee without even asking what they did wrong,” said Ahmad, who did not reveal his current whereabouts. “The telecommunications networks are limited here so people can’t get their voices heard. The Taliban can do whatever they want."
Ahmad said the Taliban has turned many of the homes it has seized into military posts and barracks.
Zabihullah Farahmand, an activist in Baghlan, said the Taliban has forcibly evicted at least 50 families from their homes in the districts of Pol-e Hesar, Deh Salah, and Andarab in recent weeks. The districts comprise the long, narrow Andarab Valley.
"They have been forcibly relocated by the Taliban and no assistance has been provided to these refugees,” says Farahmand. “These families find refuge in other northern provinces with a lot of hardship. They need help and care."
The National Resistance Front (NRF), an anti-Taliban militia, claimed that at least 70 families have been evicted from their homes in the Andarab Valley in recent weeks.
Mawlawi Hezbullah, the Taliban’s governor of Baghlan, suggested that the militant group had forcibly evicted civilians from their homes in “some mountainous areas” of the Andarab Valley but rejected claims that the “problem” was widespread.
The Taliban captured Baghlan and Panjshir in early September, weeks after toppling the Western-backed Afghan government and seizing power in Kabul. Since April, deadly clashes have erupted between resistance forces and the Taliban in both provinces.
Last month, heavy clashes broke out in parts of Panjshir, a traditional hotbed of ethnic Tajik resistance to the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Residents alleged that some civilians accused of having links with the NRF were executed. Others were beaten and tortured in Taliban custody, they said.
‘People Are Fleeing’
Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, in a May 26 statement expressed “concern about allegations, which require verification, that civilians have been exposed to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
He said that included “arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, torture, and forced displacement in Panjshir and other northern provinces.”
In the latest incident, the family of a 40-year-old farmer in Panjshir’s Bazarak district said he was arrested and tortured to death by the Taliban. The militant group admitted that Munir Ahmad had died in its custody on June 2. l
"This is not the first time that local people have been arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and even killed,” a relative who did not want to be named told Radio Azadi.
Meanwhile, locals told Radio Azadi that the Taliban detained more than 100 civilians in the Paryan district of Panjshir in the past week. Their whereabouts are unknown. Earlier, the Taliban said it had detained an unspecified number of people accused of having links with the NRF.
Locals have also alleged that Taliban fighters have recently beheaded several NRF fighters who were captured, a claim the Taliban has rejected.
The ongoing fighting has forced thousands of people to flee their homes in Panjshir.
"It is a battlefield and war is raging,” said a resident of Panjshir’s Dara district who did not want to be named for safety reasons, adding that many residents were on the run.
“Some people were beaten and killed by the Taliban,” he added. “People are fleeing with their families out of fear."
Among those who have managed to escape Panjshir is Anisa, a resident of the Shutul district. Two weeks ago, clashes forced her family of six to flee their home.
She said that her family trudged for day through the mountains by foot. Once they reached the main road to Kabul, they were able to catch a ride to the capital.
"We left our homes because of the fighting,” said the 35-year-old. “We came to Kabul from the mountains with just the clothes on our backs. We left all our belongings behind.”