Panjshir province. Photo: Social Media

Taliban Wound Up Civilians in Panjshir, Exacting Price for A Dormant Resistance

PANJSHIR, AFGHANISTAN – Local sources from northeastern Panjshir province have reported that during the past week, the Taliban detained at least four residents of the province, all civilians, amidst the continued crackdown in the province.

According to the local sources, the individuals who were detained, identified as Rahmatullah, Atiqullah, Rohullah, and Atiqullah, were taken from Rokha district and transferred to the capital, Kabul.

All four individuals detained were civilians leading ordinary lives.

The reason for their detention remains unclear. 

The Taliban authorities have yet to comment on the matter.

The Taliban since quelling a nascent resistance in Panjshir have established what many consider akin to martial law in the province. Residents have repeatedly been detained and tortured often on bogus allegations of having links to anti-Taliban armed groups, the former national security and defense forces (ANDSF) or possessing weapons.

The detention of Panjshiris have even continued in Kabul, where they predominantly inhabit the northern parts of the capital. Their houses have been searched several times, including in recent months and young men have been taken by the regime without specific charges or the prospects of any due process.

The armed anti-Taliban group, known as the National Resistance Front (NRF) began from Panjshir by Ahmad Massoud whose father was a staunch anti-Taliban commander. Since its initial hype, the resistance has remained alive only in the diaspora where its leadership resides.

That, however, has not stopped the Taliban from continuing to crackdown on any constituency it deems unfriendly and with a potential to challenge its rule. 

Human rights organizations, domestic and international, argue that the Taliban’s tactics in suppressing the initial resistance in Panjshir amount to war crimes.  

In a report titled “Your Sons Are in The Mountains: The Collective Punishment of Civilians in Panjshir by the Taliban” released in mid-2023, Amnesty International highlighted that the Taliban has been involved in “mass punishment of civilians and extrajudicial executions of prisoners of war” in Panjshir, where the NRF has been active.

The report quoted Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, stating that the list of war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Taliban in Panjshir is extensive.

“In Panjshir, the Taliban’s cruel tactic of targeting civilians due to suspicion of their affiliation with the NRF is causing widespread misery and fear.”

“Thousands of people are being swept up in the Taliban’s continued oppression, which is clearly intended to intimidate and punish. The Taliban’s deliberate targeting of civilians in Panjshir must stop immediately,” she added.

Meanwhile, in his report delivered to the UN Human Rights Council’s Fifty-second session last year, Richard Bennett, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, repeatedly raised concerns about the Taliban’s violations of human rights in Panjshir province.

“Of the 129 schools in Panjshir Province, 24 have been partly occupied by the authorities since July 2022,” the report said. “Movement restrictions and the curfew imposed at night have affected livestock management and agriculture, making it difficult for people to make a living,” it added.