Ghazni’s Jaghori district has traditionally been known for the people’s relatively liberal attitude towards education and the role of women. During the Taliban years, it was one of the few districts in Afghanistan where schools, including those for young girls, did not close. In the post-Taliban years it punched above its weight in population in producing a large number of girls and boys to successfully enroll into Afghanistan’s universities. Among the people to have called Jaghori home are the chairperson of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission and Nobel Prize nominee Seema Samar, and Maoist leader and founder of the Progressive Youth Movement Akram Yari. People from other parts of the Hazarajat generally mock the people of Jaghori saying – Mardoom-e Jaghori Aql Dara, Imaan Nadara – the people of Jaghori have wisdom but no religious faith.
However, the recent history of the district has been bloodier and more shameful than it appears to be on the surface. In the 1980s, the Islamist parties led by the Nasr, Harakat and Nahzat parties enforced Shari’a across the Hazarajat region including Jaghori. During this period, hundreds of people were summarily tried and punished on charges ranging from blasphemy to sodomy. Among the many cases are the stoning of a young boy and girl in the village of Dawoud after they attempted to elope and runaway to Pakistan. A teenager was burned alive in the middle of the Sang-e Masha bazar after he was accused of having had a sexual relationship with the one of the shop-keepers. Jihadis attacked the residence of Ali Madad Khan, Jaghori’s aging tribal elder, and killed him and many other male members of his family. Ali Madad Khan, accused of apostasy by the mullahs, was summarily executed and his body was fed to the wolves and jackals. Female members of his family were sexually assaulted. Mullahs issued fatwa terming opposition to the ruling theocrats as equivalent to apostasy and therefore punishable by death. Hundreds of teachers, engineers, poets, public servants and educated youth were either imprisoned or forced to run for their lives after being accused of apostasy. In their sermons, the mullahs preached against enrolling children into the mainstream schools, accusing the schools of spreading atheism and communism. Well-to-do families bribed the teachers to keep their children out of school and instead enrolled them into Islamic madrassas. These were not isolated incidents but a systematic and organized attempt at changing the very structure of the society in pursuit of religious goals set forward and exported by Khomeini’s Islamic Republic of Iran. Religious sermons included a session where participants chanted slogans against the United States, The Soviet Union and Israel. Other mullahs had convinced many people that Khomeini’s face in fact appeared on the moon, and that the true believers could witness this miracle.
That was then, and fast forward to 2012/13, the venomous tentacles of the Shi’a Talibanism appears to have returned to the district as well as to the Hazarajat. This is the result of a decade of gradual downfall as thousands upon thousands of mullahs returned to Jaghori and Hazarajat after years and decades of religious training in Qom, Iran. Today, religious fundamentalism and extremism are on the rise and so is the madness that goes along with it. In 2010/11 the female singer in the following video, her husband and family were forced to flee Jaghori overnight after the local mullahs accused them of violating Shari’a and mobilized an angry to have them punished at the hands of vigilantes:
In the same year, the mullas issued a fatwa forbidding a music concert from taking place in Sang-e Masha. Their fatwa was later hailed by the Taliban in a letter addressed to the people of the district.
This from September 2012:
The girl was whipped with 80 lashes under the mullahs’ edict, and the young man – whose age was not disclosed – was ordered to pay around 80,000 Afs ($1,600) as a punishment, according to Ghazni provincial head of women’s affairs Shukria Wali.
The whipping happened two weeks ago in the girl’s home in the Hout Qoul area of Ghazni’s Jaghori district, Wali said.
However, it is not clear what was the nature of the relationship or whether it was consensual because local officials declined to discuss the matter in detail.
“The girl was freed after 80 lashes at her house and she is still in the district. The man was fined nearly 80,000 Afghani by the religious leaders,” Wali told TOLOnews.
And more recently:
Two Afghan singers, Mohammad Anwar Azad and Abass Neshat, were to perform at the concert in Ghazni’s Jaghori district to celebrate the Persian new year, but the district government and Ulema council forbade it, forcing it to be cancelled.
The district council and the religious Ulema said in a statement said that music is prohibited in Islam, calling it “haram” – forbidden.
One of leading mullahs behind this madness goes by the name Mirzayee. He is a member of Sheikh Asif Mohsini’s (the mullah with the grand madrassa in West Kabul) Harakat Party. Mulla Mirzayee returned to Jaghori following the overthrow of the Taliban and the arrival of the NATO/US forces. He has since established a madrassa, he has been distributing extremist religious books imported from Iran, he has opened an Islamic library, and has been active in organizing large group prayers and sermons. Despite spouting extraordinarily heavy dose of West-bashing in his sermons, he has made many trips to the West, including Australia, and has raised a lot of money.
Like those of his peers, Mirzayee’s resume is very self-explanatory and tells volumes about where he comes from and what he is very probably up to. He has lived and trained in Qom for over two decades. While living and training in the religious seminaries in Iran, his assignments include work as Shi’a preacher in Iran’s Sunni dominated areas of Zahedan & Chabahar, where the theocratic regime has been trying to convert locals. He is widely rumored to be working in Jaghori in behalf on Irani intelligence agencies. He is but one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of mullas actively promoting a Shi’a version of Talibanism in Afghanistan’s central highlands. The sooner the Afghan government acts to stop this madness from spreading, the better.
The larger and more important issue here is not that of particular mullahs, not even the instances of summary trials and punishments by Shari’a freaks. What is significant is that despite the bloody history of violence between adherents of Shi’a and Sunni branches of Islam, when it comes of curtailing basic rights and liberties, suppressing and oppressing minority groups, opposing the hard-earned but limited freedoms of the last decade, opposing the limited liberation of women, supporting religious dictatorship, vigilante in-justice, and blindly blaming others for their own madness and corruption, the Shi’a and Sunni mullahs are on the same page.