More than 1,000 people were held on account of their ethnic origin, their religious beliefs or their assumed political convictions. Many were believed to be prisoners of conscience. Thousands of women were physically restricted to their homes and scores of people were subjected to torture and ill-treatment for not obeying Taleban edicts. Dozens of civilians were killed in indiscriminate attacks against residential areas by warring factions. Scores of people were killed deliberately and arbitrarily. At least nine people were executed publicly, in several cases by stoning to death. Islamic courts passed sentences of death and amputation. In June, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-e Islami (Party of Islam), joined forces with the government of President Borhanuddin Rabbani, taking the office of prime minister. For most of the year, Kabul, the capital, remained under road blockade and almost daily rocket attacks by the Taleban (religious students), an armed opposition group which controlled more than two thirds of Afghanistan. General Abdul Rashid Dostum, leader of Junbesh-e Melli Islami (National Islamic Movement), maintained control of the northern areas of the country. On 27 September, the Taleban seized Kabul, ousting the government. They took former President Najibullah and his brother from a UN compound, where they had been taking refuge since April 1992, beat them severely and then hanged them from lamposts in the city centre. Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taleban, later exonerated their killers, saying that Najibullah deserved his fate. Armed groups opposed to the Taleban, including forces of the ousted government, Commander Ahmad Shah Masood, General Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Shi‘a party, Hezb-e Wahdat, formed a new alliance called the Defence Council. After the fall of Kabul, the Taleban advance was halted at the mouth of Panjshir valley, the stronghold of Commander Ahmad Shah Masood. Taleban militia attempted to cross the Salang tunnel but were stopped by the forces of General Dostum. Under military pressure, the Taleban withdrew from the positions they had captured north of Kabul. Opposition forces launched counter-attacks on Kabul and surrounding areas through sporadic air raids. A second front was opened in western Afghanistan where the Taleban held territory bordering the area controlled by General Dostum. Days after the Taleban takeover of Kabul, the UN and other international agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, evacuated some of their staff from the city. On several occasions, armed Taleban fighters carried out raids on premises and personal residences of UN officials in Kabul. The humanitarian work of the UN agencies and non-governmental organizations was severely curtailed by the Taleban authorities who did not permit women staff to participate in current programs outside the health sector. Several aid agencies, including Oxfam, suspended their programs when the Taleban stopped their female staff from working. Attempts by the new head of the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan to bring about a negotiated settlement were frustrated by the warring factions' continued military confrontation. In October, the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, submitted a report to the UN General Assembly in which he urged all parties, inter alia, to respect the inherent right to life of every human being. All armed groups held people on account of their ethnic origin, their religious beliefs or their assumed political convictions. Many of these people were believed to be prisoners of conscience. Several hundred people were detained by the Taleban in Herat and Farah provinces throughout the year because they did not obey religious decrees or because they sympathized or were suspected of sympathizing with the Taleban's opponents. Many detainees appeared to be held as hostages; in some cases, they were released after paying bribes. Most were held incommunicado and family members found it difficult to trace them. Most detainees were held in prison but some were kept in metal transport containers. In the days following their takeover of Kabul, the Taleban detained hundreds, possibly over 1,000 civilians, for allegedly sympathizing with the ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani. On 10 October, Taleban members reportedly took away scores of young boys and men in raids on various mosques in Kabul. The Taleban told them that they would have to fight against forces loyal to the ousted government. Thousands of women were physically restricted to their homes under Taleban edicts, which banned women from going to work or leaving the home unless accompanied by a close male relative. The women feared physical assault by Taleban guards. The edicts also banned girls from going to school. These restrictions were applied to different degrees in Taleban-controlled areas. At least 8,000 university students and tens of thousands of professional women in Kabul were affected. Scores of women were beaten in the streets for not wearing a burqa (a garment covering the body from head to foot with a small, lace-covered opening for the eyes) or for exposing their ankles. In July, in the city of Farah, a woman named Turpeki was shot and injured by a teenaged Taleban guard for appearing in public. In October, a woman walking along a street in Kabul with her two children was whipped by Taleban guards with a car aerial because she had let her veil slip a fraction. In another incident, a married couple who had come from Samangan province to Kabul to visit friends were stopped in the market. One Taleban guard slapped the woman in the face while another beat her husband severely. They were accused of being "UN-Islamic" for planning to buy cosmetics. In October, two Afghan nurses were reportedly beaten with a tree branch by a Taleban guard for not wearing burqas. One of the women tried to run away. The guard forced her to the ground and held her between his legs while beating her with the stick. Before the fall of Kabul, reports of women being raped by armed guards of the government of then President Rabbani continued to be received but in almost all cases the perpetrators remained unpunished. In one instance, five guards belonging to the forces of Commander Masood reportedly abducted a nurse from Nazwana Clinic in the Shahr Nou District of Kabul in January and held her for about a week, subjecting her to repeated rape. Dozens of men were beaten in the streets by the Taleban and forced to attend Friday prayers in the mosque. Early in the year, over a dozen residents of Herat were beaten to punish them for anti-Taleban slogans on the walls of their houses. A number of prisoners died, reportedly while digging trenches in mined areas, or as a result of torture by the Taleban. Journalists reporting human rights abuses against women were targeted. Two Argentine television journalists, together with their local interpreter and driver, were reportedly detained for about 24 hours by the Taleban in October. They told reporters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that they had been held incommunicado by the Taleban, beaten with rifle butts and robbed of their equipment and papers. The two journalists were reportedly released after negotiations between UN officials and the Taleban, but their local interpreter and driver both remained in custody at the end of the year. Indiscriminate rocket attacks on Kabul continued almost daily, with irregular intensity, for most of the year, as the Taleban laid siege to the city. At least nine civilians were killed and more than a dozen were injured in a Taleban rocket attack on 25 September. Bombs dropped from a Taleban plane on 24 October killed at least 20 people, mostly children, in the village of Kalakan. The anti-Taleban alliance was also responsible for indiscriminate attacks on Kabul. In several instances bombs dropped from planes hit civilian areas of the city with no sign of military activity, killing several people. In November, three children were killed when anti-Taleban forces dropped two bombs on a residential area northwest of Kabul. Civilians' houses were deliberately destroyed in the continuing conflict. On 22 October, at least 116 homes in the village of Sarcheshma, north of Kabul, were almost completely burnt out by the Taleban forces in retribution for the civilian villagers' failure to resist anti-Taleban forces. Scores of people were killed deliberately and arbitrarily for supposed opposition to various factions. On 15 July, at least 30 young men were removed from Herat Prison and summarily executed. Several other mass executions reportedly took place in Herat. At least one man was reportedly killed deliberately and arbitrarily by the Taleban in early October in Kabul for not attending the mosque. At least nine people were executed publicly. In February, an 18-year-old man alleged to have killed two Taleban guards was executed in public in Herat. Eye-witnesses observed that he had already been beaten close to death. He had reportedly been forced to sign a statement saying that he agreed with his death sentence. In the first executions in Kabul since 1992, three men convicted of murder were hanged in March, under President Rabbani's government. They included two members of the government armed forces. Islamic courts passed sentences of death and amputation. In July, a man named Turiolai, and a young woman, Nurbibi, were stoned to death in the city of Kandahar. Turiolai had reportedly been involved in an affair with his father's widow, Nurbibi, for some years. On discovering the affair, the Taleban reportedly established an Islamic court which sentenced the couple to death by stoning. Taleban members threw the first stones and ordered bystanders to join in. More than a dozen prisoners were subjected to amputations. Some of these were carried out after the victims had been sentenced by Islamic courts convened by the Taleban which often decided a dozen cases a day in sessions which took only a few minutes. There were reportedly no provisions for legal counsel or the presumption of innocence. Verdicts were final, with no mechanism for appeal. In April, the Taleban arrested Abduallah and Abdul Mahmood, two men from Uruzgan, on charges of theft. Taleban guards reportedly beat them severely, then cut off their left hands and right feet. The guards reportedly pressed red-hot iron plates against the wounds to stop the bleeding. At the end of the year, about one million Afghan refugees were believed to be in Pakistan and about 1.4 million living in Iran. Throughout the year, Amnesty International expressed concern about deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against residential areas of Kabul. In July, the organization visited Afghanistan for the first time in 14 years, meeting members of the government of Borhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul and the Junbesh-e Melli Islami of General Abdul Rashid Dostum in Mazar-e Sharif. The Amnesty International delegates raised cases of human rights abuses by government forces and armed opposition groups. They called on all parties to halt indiscriminate attacks on civilians and on the international community to work for human rights protection in Afghanistan. In November, Amnesty International published a report, Afghanistan: Grave abuses in the name of religion, detailing abuses in Taleban-held areas, including arbitrary and unacknowledged detention of civilians, torture and ill-treatment, deliberate and arbitrary killings, amputations, stoning and executions.

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