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Executions and Arrests Under Taliban Rule

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Sofia A. Diaz 

Staff Writer 

On February 26, the Taliban held what is reported to be the fifth public execution since the near finalization of withdrawing U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan and their success in regaining power over the territory in 2021. Monday’s execution was witnessed by thousands as they watched at a sports stadium, reports The Associated Press

The execution occurred in Shibirghan, which is known to be the capital of Afghanistan’s northern province. The legally condemned man sentenced to execution, later identified as Nazar Mohammad from a statement by the Taliban’s Supreme Court, was convicted of murder. Mohammad was convicted for the murder of Khal Mohammad in Jawzjan Province, according to The Associated Press. An anonymous witness who spoke with reporters from The Associated Press noted that the execution was performed by the murder victim’s brother and mentioned the use of a rifle. The witness detailed the enforcement of security measures around the stadium. 

Similar events of public executions, also taking place in a sports stadium, were reported from the southern province of Ghazni only a few days earlier. On February 22, the Taliban held a public double execution, allowing for the thousands gathered to bear witness, NBC News says. The Taliban’s Supreme Court formally announced that the pair were to be held accountable for murder, according to a court statement, which later identified the pair as Gul Khan and Syed Jamal. 

A spokesperson for the Ghazni police, Abu Khalid Sarhadi, told NBC that relatives of the murder victims executed Khan and Jamal. Although he did not specify the kinds of weapons used, he claims he heard 15 bullets fired, eight of which were directed at one in the pair and seven at the other. Sarhadi tells NBC how ambulances came soon after to remove the bodies from the area. 

The United Nations has announced its criticism regarding the Taliban holding public executions and other practices that are of the same nature, such as lashing and stoning. UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Jeremy Laurence stated on behalf of the UN, “Public executions are a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” according to UN News. Laurence added, “More generally, we call on the de facto authorities to ensure full respect for due process and fair trial rights, in particular access to legal representation, for anyone confronted with criminal charges,” UN News says.

Furthermore, the Taliban attracted even more news attention with the recent release of a far-right nationalist from Austria. 84-year-old Herbert Fritz was arrested in Afghanistan last year in May; however, was released and received aid outside of Afghanistan’s borders, according to Al Jazeera

Despite the Austrian warnings regarding travel to Afghanistan, a far-right Freedom Party in Austria claims Fritz’s motive surrounded the purpose of researching a book located there, reported by Austrian media sources such as Der Standard. Shortly after Fritz’s arrest, the Der Standard newspaper made comments on the matter, stating that Fritz had been positively reporting on what life is like in Afghanistan, Al Jazeera says. The paper seemingly stood in a similar nature to anti-immigration discourse by highlighting this in Fritz’s published article, entitled ‘Vacations with the Taliban,’ posted to a far-right media outlet. The Taliban arrested Fritz on suspicions of being a spy. Since the arrest, multiple parties pressed the urgency of securing Fritz’s release, including The Austrian Foreign Ministry, reports Reuters

Shortly after Fritz’s release, Austria’s government formally declared the news detailing how he had now been transported to Doha, Qatar to receive medical assistance if necessary. Upon his arrival in Doha, Fritz told reporters, “I think it was bad luck but I want to visit again,” according to Al Jazeera

Qatar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry made an announcement on X, formerly known as Twitter, following Fritz’s release, stating they are “pleased by the decision of the caretaker government” in Afghanistan, says DW News. The State of Qatar also expressed encouragement for Afghanistan to pursue “a constructive dialogue approach to achieve the aspirations of the Afghan people,” according to DW. 

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