Afghanistan: the “unthinkable” release of Taliban prisoners for the families of their victims

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Kabul | When Juma Khan realized that a suspected murderer of his son would soon be released, he felt “as though stabbed in the heart”. In Afghanistan, the families of victims of Taliban attacks are struggling to accept the imminent release of their perpetrators in the name of a hypothetical peace process.

On May 31, 2017, a truck bomb exploded outside the diplomatic enclave in Kabul. The attack, not claimed but attributed to the insurgents by the authorities, killed more than 150 people. Among them, Naween, 24, the youngest of her four sons.

“It was the worst day of my life,” recalls Juma Khan, who said he “passed out when he saw (Naween’s) body in a coffin.” The shock then caused a stroke in this frail septuagenarian now half paralyzed.

“We all want peace, but they never asked our opinion, the victims,” ​​regrets Juma Khan, for whom “there will not be peace” after the release of 400 Taliban prisoners, while those – here, “the killers of my son, of our people, will be free.”

For several months, the fate of these detainees had acted as a brake on the start of negotiations between the rebels and the Afghan government, which had been repeatedly postponed, provided for in an agreement signed at the end of February by the United States and the insurgents.

In this text not ratified by Kabul, Washington and the Taliban had also agreed on an exchange of prisoners: some 5,000 insurgents against a thousand members of the Afghan forces.

“Hardened criminals”

If the Afghan authorities have already released a large part of the captives, they were reluctant to release the last 400, some of whom were involved in deadly attacks that killed Afghans and foreigners.

But last Sunday, a “loya jirga”, a large Afghan assembly made up of thousands of dignitaries, state officials and tribal leaders, accepted the principle of their enlargement.

The release of “hardened criminals” and drug traffickers will “likely pose a danger to us, to (the United States) and to the world,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned Thursday.

It also amounts to “preventing justice and healing the families of those they killed,” he commented on Friday, as 80 of them were released from prison, according to his government.

The family of Bettina Goislard, Frenchwoman killed on November 16, 2003 in Ghazni (East), thus qualified as “inconceivable” the “liberation against the background of bargaining” of the two assassins of this UN employee.


Both should, however, be enlarged, as should a former Afghan soldier who, in 2012 in Kapisa province, killed five French soldiers and wounded 13 others.

Faiz Ali Ahmadi, a security guard, was also killed in the monstrous truck bomb attack. His widow Shahnaaz, 42, cannot recover from the “unthinkable” decision of the loya jirga. “How could they have done this? We all cried that day ”, regrets this mother of seven children.

“We have gone through so much since the loss of my father, both financially and emotionally,” recalls Gulbahar, a daughter of the deceased, interviewed by AFP. “They should have been executed a long time ago. I can never forgive them for taking my father from me. ”

Abdul Rahman Sayed, whose 34-year-old brother Ahmad Farzam was killed in a 2018 attack on the luxurious Intercontinental hotel in Kabul, wants to remain optimistic, however. He is ready to forgive and to move forward in the name of peace.

“If I, as the brother of a victim of this war, I oppose the release of his murderer, then this war will continue forever,” observes this inhabitant of Kandahar, capital of a southern Afghanistan largely under control of the Taliban. “Now is the time for forgiveness.”

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