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Full Text of Ahmad Shafi Article

Full Text of Ahmad Shafi Article

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Published by NPRombudsman

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Published by: NPRombudsman on Jul 20, 2012
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Full text of Ahmad Shafi’s article
before it was removed and replaced withan 
 on July 9, 2012
. Sentences taken from Jason Burke’s
2001 report are underlined.
 A Taliban Execution Brings Back Painful MemoriesBy Ahmad Shafi, NPRWhen I saw the video
of the Taliban’s latest public execution, it immediately
brought back terrible memories of the first such public execution that Iwitnessed. That one was also the work of the Taliban, and I saw it in person, at
Kabul’s main soccer stadium in 1998.
 Back then, I was working for a British journalist, and she asked to go to one of the public executions that had become almost regular weekly events since theTaliban had taken control of Afghanistan two years earlier, in 1996. Everyonewas aware of these executio
ns, but I had avoided going because it didn’t feel
right. Residents of Kabul had already seen enough violence over the previousyears of civil war.When we arrived at the stadium, we were taken onto the field, close to one goalpost. Just after 2 p.m., the stadium began to fill with people. Dozens of kids withcigarettes, snacks and refreshments stacked neatly on carts sold their goods tothe people in the stands.The crowd fell silent when a dark green Toyota pickup truck rolled into thestadium, driving slowly toward the goal post where we were standing. A groupof young Taliban emerged, their distinctive black and white turbans low over their tanned foreheads. A Taliban judge began reading the murder verdict against the condemned man,who was then led out of the pickup truck. He was young, probably in his 20s,and wore a golden skullcap and a shabby tunic.He was forced to kneel in front of the goal post. He had no blindfold and I couldsee his pale face, dark hair and thin features. The Taliban soldiers tied his armsbehind his back, though he made no attempt to escape.He glanced at me and the British reporter, standing just a few paces away. TheTaliban judge announced that the convicted murderer would be punishedaccording to the principle of an eye-for-an-eye. The brother of the murder victimwas handed an AK-47 rifle. There was a short pause and I could hear themurmur in the crowd.
Several shots rang out in loud bursts. The muzzle of the weapon jerked upwardand to the right. The condemned man fell to the ground as the bullets hit him. As he was dying, he gasped for air. He turned and looked helplessly toward us.He may have been trying to say something, but all we could hear was a purringsound. Another burst of gunfire followed, and he was dead.I then ran toward the exit -- confused and horrified.Though this happened 14 years ago, it still bothers me when I recall thisepisode. I never want to see another execution. And when the Taliban were driven out of Kabul in 2001, it seemed that theseexecutions may have come to an end.But here we are more than a decade later, and they are still taking place just ashort distance from Kabul. The Taliban no longer control the capital, but themilitant group can still do largely what they please in some of their traditionalstrongholds. The authority of the central government is still weak, especially asyou get further from the capital.The latest execution, which has appeared on YouTube and elsewhere, shows alarge crowd in a village watching and cheering as a single gunman shoots the22-year-old woman from behind and at close range as she is squatting on theground. She was accused of adultery.
In many areas, the Taliban have been able to exploit people’s grievances and
an Afghan justice system that is either corrupt on non-existent.Capital punishment is legal in Afghanistan. There have been a dozen or so
executions carried out by President Hamid Karzai’s government, which tookover after the Taliban’s regime was ousted.
However, the Taliban’s public execu
tions target mostly women and take placewithout anything resembling a public trial.There have been at least half a dozen public executions by the Taliban since2009. The most shocking one took place in 2010, when the militants flogged apregnant woman accused of adultery and then shot her dead. This happened inBadghis province in northern Afghanistan.The Afghan government has reportedly launched a manhunt for the Talibanmembers involved in the latest public execution. This came about after mounting outrage by many Afghan rights groups and international human rightsorganizations.

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