Victim’s Name: Ghulam Hassan
Date of Incident: September 1998
Place of Incident: Qezel Abad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province
We were having breakfast on an early September morning when we heard that the Taliban were advancing from the airport. Few moments later, their jeeps were in the bazaar. My brother-in-law who was an elder of the village advised everyone to avoid any sort of direct and indirect clash with the Taliban. If the Taliban were to rule over the country, we had to obey just as we had to obey any other government. He asked all men to come to the bazaar and welcome the Taliban because that was the only way to survive. My husband and other relatives joined him to welcome the Taliban. The Taliban crossed the village peacefully but a little further from the village, militia men related to the opposite Jihadi groups opened fire on their caravan, punctured their cars tires and injured a few of their men.
The Taliban thought the villagers had attacked them and provoked them. They returned and started killing innocent civilians on their way to the village. My husband was sick so he asked me to leave with our children and go to his aunt’s house, while he stayed behind. I begged him to leave with us and argued that he will be killed as that the Taliban had shown no mercy on other civilians. He said he would follow us, so I took my children and left. We hid in a neighboring street for three days and nights. To protect my three sons, I had disguised them in girls’ clothes. Taliban discovered our hiding place and put guns to our heads to hand them our weapons. I begged and swore that we had no weapon. Three days later, as the Taliban were forced to retreat from Mazar-e-Sharif, we were able to come out of hiding.
I found out that my husband was killed on that first day. The Taliban had skinned my brother-in-law’s head and threw it on his face. My cousin and nephew were tied together and shot in the head. Blood flowed like a river. I took my children and escaped Qezel Abad, stayed in the mountains for a few months, walked to and stayed in a village called Dara-e-Ali for a while, the moved to the Ali Chapan area in Mazar-e-Sharif, and then moved to the city and stayed there for another six years before returning to Qezel-Abad. Returning to Qezel-Abad after almost seven years, we found out that most of the families and relatives living there were no longer alive. They were buried in mass graves.
My husband was 45 years old when he was killed. I added his belongings to the Memory Box to keep his memories alive and to teach the future generations about the tragedies of war and the hatred it leaves behind.