Rights group calls for a halt in forcible eviction of Afghan Hazaras and others and urged the Taliban to try land disputes according to the law.
Taliban officials have forcibly displaced Hazara Shia families and people associated with the former government, partly to distribute land to their supporters, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says, urging the group for a halt in forcible eviction and to try land disputes according to the law.
The New York-based organisation said in a new report on Friday that the Taliban and associated militias forcibly evicted hundreds of Hazara families from the southern Helmand province and the northern Balkh province, following evictions from Daikundi, Uruzgan, and Kandahar provinces.
After conducting more than a dozen interviews with residents, HRW said the Taliban gave only a few days’ notice to the families where they were unable to take their belongings or complete harvesting their crops.
“The Taliban are forcibly evicting Hazaras and others on the basis of ethnicity or political opinion to reward Taliban supporters,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.
“These evictions, carried out with threats of force and without any legal process, are serious abuses that amount to collective punishment."
Taliban officials say the evictions were based on a court order, but those who were evicted said they own the land since the 1970s.
Issues of land ownership in those areas date back to hundreds of years.
Between the 80s and 90s, large swathes of land were rewarded to powerful men in power and their successors.
If such land was lived and cultivated on for more than 25 years without dispute, the resident gained ownership of it, according to the previous government's law.
Now that the Hazara families have worked and lived on the lands for decades, they claim to be the true owners of the lands, but strongmen loyal to the Taliban are now claiming it back.
The largest displacements took place in 15 villages in Daikundi and Uruzgan provinces, where at least 2,800 Hazara residents were evicted in September.
Taliban officials have retracted some eviction orders in Daikundi villages following media coverage of the evictions.
HRW further said the forced evictions in Afghanistan are taking place at a time of severe drought, economic hardship and conflict "with 665,000 people newly displaced in 2021, even before the Taliban takeover".
Around four million people are displaced across the country.
“It’s particularly cruel to displace families during harvest and just before winter sets in,” Gossman said.
“The Taliban should cease forcible evicting Hazaras and others and adjudicate land disputes according to the law and a fair process.”
The Hazara people are an ethnic group, predominantly Shia, who are native to the mountainous region of Hazarajat in central Afghanistan.
They have a long history of persecution and discrimination in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan and Pakistan.