Middle East

Afghan Lawmakers May Include Alleged War Criminals

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Even though the winners of last month's election in Afghanistan have not yet been released, many of the men who may end up sitting in the nation's parliament have a reputation for violence and ignoring women's rights.


The final results are still not in for last month's election in Afghanistan, but the initial returns suggest the new parliament will include warlords and former members of the Taliban. Some of the new leaders are considered war criminals by human rights groups, and this has many Afghans doubting the legitimacy of the new parliament, the possibility of justice and the chances for long-lasting peace. NPR's Rachel Martin reports from Kabul.

RACHEL MARTIN reporting:

Twenty-five-year-old Masoud Ahmati(ph) lives in the middle-class neighborhood of Karte Parwan in Kabul. The Ahmatis moved here nine years ago after their house was destroyed in the civil war. In the early 1990s, military factions ravaged the city of Kabul and killed thousands of innocent people, including Ahmati's older brother.

Mr. MASOUD AHMATI (Karte Parwan Resident): (Through Translator) He had brought the bread with him, and as soon as he entered the house, the rocket came and landed in our house, and the shrapnel of the rocket killed him on the spot.

MARTIN: Ahmati's brother was caught in the cross fire between forces loyal to Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and Abdul Sayyaf, two of the militia leaders whose alleged war crimes have been documented by international groups like Human Rights Watch. Now according to preliminary results, both these men and a long list of other militia leaders, Taliban and ex-Communists, with equally dismal human rights records will sit in Afghanistan's new parliament. That, says Ahmati, is unacceptable.

Mr. AHMATI: (Through Translator) How can you believe that a warlord, a traitor and a criminal goes to parliament and would do good to people in the parliament? I can never accept this idea, and neither does my family.

MARTIN: But Mohammad Mohaqiq, the top vote-getter in Kabul in the parliamentary voting, believes most Afghans support the new parliament.

Mr. HAJI MOHAMMAD MOHAQIQ (Parliamentary Candidate): (Through Translator) People don't call me a warlord. People regard me as the climax of their hopes. We've got 380 candidates in Kabul and I got one-eighth of the vote. What kind of a warlord I am if all people vote for me? We should respect the vote of people. Insulting the new leaders in parliament is an insult to the Afghan people.

MARTIN: Other likely parliamentary members, like 33-year-old Shakira Barzan(ph), disagree. Thirty-five percent of the parliamentary seats have been reserved for women, and initial results made this former schoolteacher and mother of three a winner, but Barzan says she doesn't have much confidence in what her new parliamentary colleagues will do for women's rights.

Ms. SHAKIRA BARZAN (Parliamentary Candidate): No, I'm not very hopeful for the parliament. These people--they never respected law. They never accepted law as on the top. They are now--as lawmaker for us. It's very difficult, I know, because our aim is much different than their.

MARTIN: Nader Nadery, the director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, says the controversial makeup of the new parliament was inevitable because of how the international community, led by the United States, tried to fix Afghanistan after the Taliban was ousted in 2001. Instead of bringing the warlords, militia leaders and former Taliban before a war crimes tribunal, they were welcomed as legitimate partners in the reconstruction process. Nadery says now, four years later, Afghanistan will pay the price.

Mr. NADER NADERY (Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission): We have now a democracy by accommodation, and we have these guys now sitting in the parliament, and the consequences for human rights and democratic development in Afghanistan would not present a positive picture.

MARTIN: The Afghan Human Rights Commission has been pushing a plan to bring Afghan war criminals to trial, but Nadery says it's gone nowhere because neither President Hamid Karzai, nor the US government, has given it aggressive backing. Officials at the US Embassy in Kabul say it's up to Afghanistan to decide if and how to prosecute war criminals. Meanwhile, disillusioned Afghans like Masoud Ahmati say if these men are allowed to govern the country, the future of Afghanistan will be bleak.

Mr. AHMATI: (Through Translator) I am fed up with these guys, and I cannot accept them being here in power once again. They'll return everything to fighting and to war, so I've made up my mind to leave the country if they go to parliament.

MARTIN: Final official results in the parliamentary election are expected to be released October 22nd. Rachel Martin, NPR News, Kabul.

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