HERAT -- Taliban militants committed atrocities against residents in western Afghanistan before security forces recently swept the area of fighters, residents say.
Afghan forces October 4 liberated 10 villages in Keshk Rabat Sangi District of Herat Province. The villages were under the Taliban's control for several years.
"The Taliban had a district governor, a judge, a commander and everything [in the district]," said Jan Mohammad, a resident of Keshk Rabat Sangi District. "They collected ushr from our wheat and poppy yields. They also collected 3 AFN ($0.04) per kilowatt of electricity from us" through extortion and "told us to give them food and tea".
"The Taliban planted mines in our areas and attacked government checkpoints," he said.
In addition, the Taliban forced young locals to join their ranks and threatened them with death if they did not take up weapons and fight against government forces, Mohammad added.
Ab Kamari District, Badghis Province, was another area controlled by the Taliban until six months ago, when security forces eliminated Taliban fighters with the help of public uprising forces and local inhabitants.
Residents say they were fed up with the Taliban's atrocities and organised armed resistance against the group.
"[The Taliban] tortured locals, extorted their money and collected ushr [from residents]," said Muhammad Arif, a resident of Ab Kamari District. "They forced civilians to join the Taliban and fight against the system [the Afghan government]."
"We were desperate, and as we couldn't accept the Taliban, we took up weapons against them last year," he added.
"The Taliban have no mercy on anyone," Arif said. "They didn't even have any respect for children or women; they beat them up too. The Taliban didn't allow us to watch TV or listen to the radio."
"I took up weapons because of the Taliban, as they harassed civilians greatly," said Abdul Malik, also a resident of Ab Kamari District. "They would come to our area to collect ushr from us, and they tortured residents. We had to take up weapons and expel them from our area."
"After we stood up against the Taliban and ousted them from our village, they attacked us six months ago, and two of my brothers were killed in the battle that broke out between us and the Taliban," he added. "They attacked our village several times and looted all our belongings."
Crimes against humanity and Islam
The atrocities committed by the Taliban violate the teachings of Islam and the principles of human rights, say religious scholars and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
When the Taliban commit violent acts against civilians, they breach the civilians' human rights, said Abdul Qader Rahimi, AIHRC operations director.
"The Taliban's atrocities against civilians in villages and districts are alarming," he said.
"The Taliban provide no public services in areas they control, and they don't give [any support] to the civilians," Rahimi said. "On the contrary, they extort money and extract ushr."
Rahimi thanked the Afghan security forces for liberating these areas from the Taliban's control.
"Countries that receive the Taliban in luxury hotels should ask them why they torture innocent civilians," he said. "These countries are aware of the Taliban's atrocities, but they overlook these crimes for their own benefit."
Maulawi Ali Muhammad Rahmani, a religious scholar in Herat Province, condemned all types of tortures committed by the Taliban against civilians and called them a breach of Islamic values.
"God has ordered Muslims in the Koran to refrain from killing and harassing [fellow] Muslims," he said. "No one has the right to commit violence against the innocent on any pretext. Civilians have the right to live in peace and security, and they shouldn't be subjected to any torture."
Clearing out the Taliban
Troops expelled the Taliban from Obe, Pashtun Zarghun, Karukh, Keshk Rabat Sangi and Keshk Kuhna districts in the past six months, said Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for the Herat governor.
They cleared Keshk Rabat Sangi and Keshk Kuhna districts in October, he added.
"After the districts were cleared, residents have been rescued from the Taliban's atrocities, and an opportunity has emerged for implementing rehabilitation and construction projects," he said.
"The operations are under way in some of the areas, and we won't allow the Taliban to rule over ... remote areas and villages," Farhad added.
Security forces in the province have expelled the Taliban from the outskirts of Farah city, said Mohibullah Mohib, spokesman for the Farah police.
"The security and defence forces have launched various operations on the Taliban in the past two months," he added. "Eight large neighbourhoods of Farah city ... were under the Taliban's control for a few months, but the security forces ousted the Taliban from these villages in a few hours, allowing the residents to resume their normal life."
Security forces have cleared more than 20 villages in the vicinity of Qala-e-Naw, Badghis Province, as well as the Maqur and Qadis districts in the past month, said Brig. Hasibullah Akhundzada, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the National Army in Badghis Province.
"The casualties we have inflicted on the enemy during our operations have weakened them greatly," Akhundzada said. "Nearly 100 Taliban fighters including prominent commanders have been killed in the past month's operations in Badghis Province, and their safe havens have been destroyed."
Security forces in the province have cleared the Taliban from dozens of large neighbourhoods in the outskirts of Firoz Koh city as well as the Shahrak and Saghar districts, said Abdulhai Khatibi, a spokesperson for the Ghor governor. Such operations have occurred sporadically during the past five months, he said.
"The Taliban tortured civilians in these areas and districts and held kangaroo courts," said Khatibi. "Upon clearing these areas, the security forces provided an opportunity for peaceful living. [But] the Taliban withheld no violence against the public."