Insecurity in Herat

Conflicting accounts on insecurity in Herat

Residents of Herat express concerns over rising insecurity especially armed robberies in the city. They say most robberies occur during the nighttime and it has become a serious threat for many people which limited their communication over the nighttime. Security officials, however, deny the level of violence expressed by the residents.

A large number of social media users complained against security condition in Herat and launched a protest campaign.

“Herat police chief denied the increase in armed robberies at a news conference, saying that it has decreased in Herat,” University professor, Mohammad Masoud Hosseini wrote on Facebook.

This week, several videos of armed robberies in Herat went viral on social media, which mobilized residents to severely criticize police and their performance in ensuring security.

Herat University professor, Mohammad Juma Haqani accuses security officials of lying about the situation. Reacting to the Herat police chief’s claim, Mr. Haqqani posted on Facebook saying that the police chief thinks that the robberies happening elsewhere are posted under the name of Herat, which is not true. In their perspectives, everyone is a liar except the ones owning a gun.

A shop near the police checkpoint in Herat was robbed by a group of thieves, last Wednesday night. The thieves were so relaxed that they even took the vault with them. “Despite our shop is located 50 meters away from the police department, police did nothing to arrest the thieves,” says Maroof Peyman, owner of the shop.

A number of councilmen in Herat Provincial Council also confirmed the increase in armed robberies in Herat. Talking to Kabul Now, Sardar Bahadori, a member of the council, called on policemen to do everything in their power to ensure security. The security forces do not need to say that Herat is safe, instead they should ask people to cooperate and ensure security, he added.

Likewise, Herat Chamber of Commerce and Investment (HCCI) expresses concern over rising insecurity. Ahmad Saeed Azimian, deputy chief of the HCCI warns that insecurity in Herat would lead to lose more capitals. According to him, over the past five years, hundreds of businessmen from Herat shifted their capital abroad due to lack of security and a favorable environment for investment.

He called on government to arrest the perpetrators of insecurity and abductions. “We have repeatedly asked the government to ensure the security of businessmen. How a businessman can invest when there is no security?”

Herat’s businessmen and investors spend huge amount of money on securing themselves by hiring bodyguards.

Kamran Alizai, head of Herat Provincial Council warns the government that rising insecurities make it difficult for the government to collect revenue from Herat. “Herat, as one of Afghanistan’s main sources of revenue, is adding nearly 35 billion Afghanis from customs and taxpayers to government revenue.”

“A number of commanders are hired and some of the positions are sold in exchange for money. This is one of the reasons for rise in insecurity,” Mr. Alizai told Kabul Now. “We are witnesses that these people are not hired through their skills and free competition. There is no doubt that a person who is appointed in exchange for money would only think to earn money,” he added.

He called on the central government to seek the advice of local officials in Herat on hiring officials, so that qualified individuals could be appointed. “The random appointments of security officials by the central government have worsened the security situation in Herat.”

Sayed Azim Keberzani, who represents Herat in the parliament, told Kabul Now: “Replacing the members of police forces is not the solution. A fundamental solution is needed. I think a group of experts should be sent to Herat to investigate the causes of insecurity.”

On the contrary, Herat police report a reduction in level of insecurity in Herat province. Despite the fact that most of the commanders are hired based on their talents, Obaidullah Nourzai, Herat police chief, says that since he was hired, four district commanders are fired. In addition, 32 police officers have been recently fired for not implementing the law on highways, and seven others have been introduced to prosecutor’s office, he added.

Police in Herat believes that the number of armed robberies in the city has been declining. According to them, in the past two months, 445 people have been arrested on charges of armed robbery, criminal offenses, drug trafficking, and illegal activities. Out of which, 160 were armed thieves and that 127 vehicles were taken back from them, said Mr. Nourzai at a news conference on Thursday, 23 July. He added that the armed robberies have decreased by “36 percent” this year comparing to the same period in past two years.

According to Mr. Nourzai, police commanders of six police district in Herat have been authorized to fire on armed robbers and rioters to protect civilians. Also a small group of police forces are hired to investigate the criminal cases without having their uniforms on.

Herat with a population of over three million people and one Afghanistan’s largest trade hub encompassing Islam Qala and Turqandi ports, an industrial town, and Salma dam lacks the shortage of police and security forces. Mr. Alizai told Kabul Now that there should be enough forces to curb insecurity and crime.

Police reform has always been at the center of discussions among local officials, provincial council and Herat civil activists with central government, but the shortage of police forces in Herat has not been solved yet.

Mr. Nourzai has called on Herat residents to join the police force. He said as many as 900 Herat residents should be employed in the province police department at first stage and the remaining posts could be filled with residents of other provinces.