Tolo News – Logar activists in safe place: Human Rights Group

But freelance journalist Matiullah Sarwar claims he was threatened by an MP from Logar for helping with story.

Zahra Rahimi

Logar – Afghanistan, 27 November 2019. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Wednesday handed over two civil society activists, Musa Mahmoudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

The two men, who reported widespread allegations of sex abuse of boys in Logar province earlier in November, were detained by the NDS last week but released today after condemnation by Amnesty International, AIHRC, the UN as well as the US, UK, German, and Dutch embassies.

The NDS originally declined to confirm or deny reports that they held the activists, but on Tuesday the agency stated that they had taken the activists into custody to “protect” them from death threats, and the agency released a video of Musa Mahmoudi saying that his research on sex abuse (of students in Logar) was “incomplete” and “incorrect” and it was “exaggerated” by the media and he “apologizes to the people.”

US Ambassador John Bass on Twitter blasted the NDS, saying such “Soviet-style” tactics of coercing confessions was “appalling.”

This was re-tweeted by German ambassador Peter Prugel who commented: “This is just shameful and embarrassing and profoundly disturbs my perception of a professional NDS.”

The former head of the NDS, Rahmatullah Nabil, tweeted: “With full responsibility I can say that, without instruction from the Presidential Palace, NDS will not take such a decision on their own.”

Officials from AIHRC confirmed that both activists had been handed-over.

“They have been released by the National Directorate of Security and currently they are being kept in a safe place,” said Zabiullah Farhang, head of AIHRC’s media department.

“This issue needs to be investigated, because it’s a threat to freedom of speech and press freedom,” said Reza Moeeni, a member of Reporters without Borders in Afghanistan.

“It has no legal justification. In our perspective, it is against the law and therefore unnacceptable. I think it was more a political approach to the issue rather than a legal action,” said legal expert Abdul Wahid Farzayee.

In a new development, Matiullah Sarwar, a freelance journalist in Logar, claimed he was threatened by Shapor Hussainzoi, a member of the Afghan parliament from Logar, because of his cooperation with Tolo News to report on the sexual abuse allegations.

“Matiullah Sarwar should be imprisoned tonight and he must be referred to the Attorney General,” said Shapor Hussainzoi on the audio recording that was obtained by TOLOnews. Tolo News report did not manage to get a comment from Hussainzoi.

“Shapor Hussainzoi will be responsible for any threat or action against me. Both the government and the human rights commission should be aware of this,” said Matiullah.

“Media outlets are pushing our society towards their desired path in pursuit of their personal interests. Foreign spy agencies are behind this to implement their ideology here. I pray that these topics that are circulating today are proved wrong,” said Sayed Ahmad Khadem, a lawmaker.

The NDS kept the two activists in captivity for five days. But the detention sparked a strong backlash inside and outside Afghanistan.

“If civil society activists are arrested and their rights are violated, then such a move will prevent our people from cooperating with the government,” said Samiullah, a resident in Kabul.

“This approach increases our fear and this also dampens our will to report those acts that are against the law,” said Helal, a resident in Kabul.

Tolo News – Activists, relatives in Helmand seek justice for civilian deaths

“Aren’t they your children? I call on the international community and the Taliban to end this shedding of blood.”

Sayed Sharif Amiri

Lashkargah – Helmand – Afghanistan, 24 September 2019. Grieving relatives and activists gathered on Tuesday in Lashkargah, the provincial capital of Helmand, in a public response to a military operation on Sunday night that claimed the lives of family members and fellow residents. Forty civilians killed and 16 wounded were the numbers claimed by a member of the Helmand provincial council.

On Sunday night, in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, an operation was carried out by Afghan and International forces to target a Taliban weapons cache, official military and government forces reported.

The number of insurgents killed varies among official accounts but sources say that Al-Qaida fighters were among those killed and captured, and photographs were provided by a US forces spokesperson showing suicide vests and other explosive materials seized during the raid.

The dozen or so Helmand residents on Tuesday came together to publicly express their outrage, pain, and in some cases to declare that the continuation of such attacks is unacceptable.

“Aren’t they your children? I call on the International community and the Taliban to end this shedding of blood,” said Amir Mohammad Akhondzada, a tribal elder in Helmand province.

“It is unacceptable for us to continue, you see, forty people killed for the sake of six people,” said Abdul Khaliq, a civil society activist based in Helmand.

Some close relatives present at the gathering say they lost their wives and children in the air strikes, and that a number of the victims were wedding guests.

Samiullah, a resident of Musa Qala, said he lost several of his relatives in the Sunday night operation, and that his sister was wounded:

“One of my nephews was martyred, and three other relatives were martyred.”

“All family members of Abdul Rahman were killed and only one of their family’s children remains alive, the rest were killed in the operation,” said Mohammad Rafiq, a resident of the district.

A member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) called the attack a criminal act.

“An Increase in civilian casualties is worrying for the human rights commission, and we call for all parties involved in the war to pay attention to civilian lives,” said Latifa Sultani, the Women Rights Coordinator for the AIHRC.

A former military officer said that lack of punishment, and intelligence shortcomings, are the main reasons for such incidents:

“Indifference on the one hand, non-execution of orders and lack of punishment on the other, as well as weak intelligence,” are the causes, said Attiqullah Amarkahil, a former Afghan Air Force commander, “but I must say that there is no definitive analysis in war.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense in statement said that the ministry is investigating the incident in Musa Qala district of Helmand province.

“In Musa Qala, we inflicted heavy casualties on foreign terrorists and al-Qaeda affiliates, and we take the claims of civilian casualties very seriously and will investigate the incident,” said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

The Ministry of Defense stated that 22 Taliban members, including five Pakistani members, were killed in the operation.