- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan Gulam Abbas was decapitated on a limestone plateau high above the Bamiyan Valley in the heart of the Hindu Kush, one of the loveliest and loneliest places on earth.
Here, on a rocky slope overlooking the empty alcoves where the destroyed Buddha colossuses stood, he and 11 other young men were executed by the Taliban. Their bodies were found only by chance, 25 days later, by a young farmer who alerted the villagers nearby.
Mr. Abbas had been walking in the bazaar with his two younger brothers when he was stopped by the Taliban, hauled into a Datsun pickup truck and taken away.
He was executed because his hair was longer than the short cut mandated by the Taliban, but his real crime was that he was a Hazara, a member of the Shi'ite Muslim minority that was subjected to a vicious ethnic-cleansing campaign by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Arab followers.
Over the past two years, hundreds of young men in villages across Hazarajat, the mountain stronghold that had been a Buddhist sanctuary 15 centuries ago, have been hunted down and butchered, while their houses and mosques have been burned or destroyed.
With the final fall of the Taliban this month, families that had fled to the high mountains or refugee camps were tentatively returning to the region, their possessions bundled on donkeys. But many villagers are still traumatized and, most of all, their children are afraid.
In Sangi Surakh, a mud village perched on a cliff above the wintry Foladi Valley, 4-year-old Sajat bawled when Western visitors arrived, begging his aunt to take him "away from the Taliban." His sister and two brothers looked at the strangers, solemn faced, while the other children of the village, their natural bubbling curiosity gone, ran away.
In March last year, these children fled with the other 76 families of the village to Zardsang mountain, a snowy peak two hours away, pursued by Taliban in pickup trucks and on horseback.
Among the 35 men they dragged from behind rocks and executed were Sajat's elder brothers, Javad, 25, and Mysam, 12.
Mysam had been clinging to his older brother in terror when the Taliban caught him. The soldiers sliced his hands off his brother's neck, severing them at the finger joints. Then they fatally shot the brothers.
"I'm now caring for Javad's children. His wife, Fatima, has gone mad," said Javad's mother-in-law, Khurshid, whose husband also was killed that day.
That same day, in the village of Nawjoey on a nearby plateau, two young farmers and Latifa, an 11-year-old girl, were shot while trying to escape to the high mountains.
The soldiers then rode their horses over the bodies in a pattern of desecration repeated throughout a region where at least one corpse has been skinned while the terrified children of the village watched.
Across the mountain in Dasht-i-Said village, yet more Taliban soldiers executed 35 men, shooting them in the eyes. They then wrenched a 6-day-old baby and his 5-month-old cousin from their mothers' arms and fatally shot them.


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