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The U.S. and U.N. Refuse to Provide Protection for Witnesses of Massacres: Dr. Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission

June 11, 2003

"We keep asking the [UN] Human Rights Commission for an inquiry and investigation into [the mass graves]…I don’t know why it’s delayed…because we do believe in peace with justice…but there is a lot of argument that they don’t want to exchange stability for justice."

On Friday, May 23rd, the nationwide, public radio and television show Democracy Now! premiered Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death, a controversial documentary film alleging U.S. military involvement in a massacre of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan. The film, never before shown in the U.S., aired during the Friday broadcast of Democracy Now!, at 9 a.m. EST. Afghan Massacre: the Convoy of Death has been broadcast on national television in Britain, Germany, Italy and Australia and has been screened by the European parliament.

Produced and directed by Irish filmmaker and former BBC producer Jamie Doran, the film tells the story of thousands of prisoners who surrendered to the US military’s Afghan allies after the siege of Kunduz. According to the film, some three thousand of the prisoners were forced into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks for transport to Sheberghan prison. When the prisoners began shouting for air, U.S.-allied Afghan soldiers fired directly into the truck, killing many of them. The rest suffered through an appalling road trip lasting up to four days, so thirsty they clawed at the skin of their fellow prisoners as they licked perspiration and even drank blood from open wounds.

Witnesses say that when the trucks arrived and soldiers opened the containers, most of the people inside were dead. They also say US Special Forces re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried. Now, up to three thousand bodies lie buried in a mass grave.

Outraged human rights groups and lawyers are calling for an investigation but the U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan refuses any U.N.-backed investigation until the Afghan government can protect witnesses. Two of the witnesses in the film have already been killed.

Dr. Sima Samar is the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. During the six-month interim Afghan government, Dr. Samar served as the Minister for Women’s Affairs.

According to the Guardian of London, Dr. Samar led a group of women to confront the warlords during the loya jirga to choose the new Afghan government exactly one year ago. Dr. Samar set the tone when she said: "This is not democracy. This is a rubber stamp. Everything here has already been decided by those with the power. This jirga includes all the warlords. None of them is left out." Then, her deputy, Taj Kokar, and a group of women delegates confronted the former president Burhanuddin Rabbani. Kokar asked, "Why have you killed and raped our women? Why do we have so many widows in this country?"

President Hamid Karzai turned her down for the post of Women’s Affairs Minister in the new government after conservative religious factions launched a campaign of slander and intimidation against her.

Today, in Washington, D.C., Dr. Samar receives a new United Nations human rights award.

  • Dr. Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

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