Posts filed under 'Afghanistan'

2011: Scott McLaren, Highlander

1 comment July 4th, 2012 Headsman

A year ago today, 20-year-old Scott McLaren of the 4th Battalion (The Highlanders) the Royal Regiment of Scotland was captured by Afghan insurgents and summarily shot.

The baby-faced McLaren, not yet three months in Afghanistan at that point, had left his base in in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province during the middle of the night; reports suggest that he’d done so in order to retrieve mislaid night-vision goggles whose loss he would have been punished for. (This detail, while poignant, is not completely certain.)

Whatever the reason for his sortie, it ended with him being captured by Afghan insurgents.

As British, U.S., and Afghanistan forces mounted a 17-hour manhunt for the missing soldier, McLaren was reportedly stripped of his body armor and equipment and, at some point, shot in the head and dumped in a canal. The exact circumstances of his capture and death may never be known.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Borderline "Executions",England,Execution,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Ripped from the Headlines,Scotland,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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Unspecified date: British soldiers by urophagia

Add comment October 7th, 2011 Headsman

Today is the 10th anniversary of America’s post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan, two short decades after the Soviets tried the same thing with disastrous results.


Never get involved in a land war in Asia …

In honor of this impressive anniversary, we travel back in time and into the twilit frontier between fact and legend to another century’s intervention in that Graveyard of Empires — the Second Anglo-Afghan War, 1878-1880. Dr. Watson was there; maybe even his literary compatriot Sherlock Holmes, too.

It’s too bad we don’t have the services of those excellent detectives in this matter. We can’t date this particular method, or attribute any specific victim to it, or even substantiate the actuality of the practice to our liking (though there are several books by British soldiers of that war which traffick in the report). Frankly, everything about it smells. But we think you’ll agree that execution by urophagia is a story that needs to be told.

The following is an account from a biography of English officer and novelist John Masters. We’ll label it Mature Content both for what it describes and the manner of its description, just to make you really want to savor every word.

War for the Pathans [Pashtuns] was an honourable, exciting and manly exercise, in which each succeeding generation needed to prove itself, but war was also ruthless; no mercy was shown and none was expected. Neither side aimed to take prisoners. The Pathans customarily mutilated and then beheaded any wounded or dead who fell into their hands. Women often carried out these operations. A well-known torture was called the Thousand Cuts, whereby flesh woulds were newly made and grass and thorns pushed into them so that they would hurt horribly. A prisoner might be pegged out on the ground and his jaw forcibly opened with a stick so that he could not swallow, then women would urinate in his mouth until he drowned. Frank Baines, who served on the North-West Frontier and later with Masters in Burma, put it more crudely:* ‘If you got captured, you were not only killed in a lively and imaginative manner, you were carved up and quartered and had your cock cut off and stuffed in your mouth for good measure.’

-John Clay in John Masters: A Regimented Life

* Baines penned this memorable line for his book Officer Boy

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Afghanistan,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Drowned,England,Execution,History,Known But To God,Mature Content,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Torture,Urophagia,Wartime Executions

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2010: Two Afghan adulterers stoned

5 comments August 15th, 2011 Headsman

On this date last year, the Taliban carried out the public stoning of an adulterous couple who had attempted to elope in northern Afghanistan.

“Even family members were involved,” the New York Times reported, “both in the stoning and in tricking the couple into returning after they had fled.”

as a Taliban mullah prepared to read the judgment of a religious court, the lovers, a 25-year-old man named Khayyam and a 19-year-old woman named Siddiqa, defiantly confessed in public to their relationship. “They said, ‘We love each other no matter what happens,'” [local farmer Nadir] Khan said.

The executions were the latest in a series of cases where the Taliban have imposed their harsh version of Shariah law for social crimes, reminiscent of their behavior during their decade of ruling the country. In recent years, Taliban officials have sought to play down their bloody punishments of the past, as they concentrated on building up popular support.

“We see it as a sign of a new confidence on the part of the Taliban in the application of their rules, like they did in the ’90s,” said Nader Nadery, a senior commissioner on the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. “We do see it as a trend. They’re showing more strength in recent months, not just in attacks, but including their own way of implementing laws, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings.”

Apparent cell phone video of the execution later surfaced.

Warning: Mature Content. It’s two filmed stonings, after all.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Gruesome Methods,Known But To God,Mature Content,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Scandal,Sex,Stoned,Summary Executions,Women

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2000: An adulteress, by stoning

Add comment May 2nd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2000, according to the New York Times,

Afghanistan’s hard-line Taliban religious rulers stoned a mother of seven to death in northern Afghanistan today after she was found guilty of committing adultery, the Taliban radio said.

The last execution of a woman in Taliban territory was in November, when a woman was shot three times by a Taliban soldier after she was found guilty of killing her abusive husband with an ax.

The stoning today was carried out at a sports stadium in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan before several thousand spectators.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Afghanistan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Public Executions,Sex,Stoned,Women

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1999: Zarmeena

4 comments November 16th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1999,* a burka-clad woman known only as Zarmeena (alternatively, Zarmina … or in some early reports, Zareena) was executed by gunshot in Kabul’s Ghazi Sports Stadium.

This first public execution of a woman under the Taliban — ordered because she had supposedly killed her husband** — was secretly filmed by a Revolutionary Association of the Woman of Afghanistan activist smuggling a camera under her own burka.

Caution: This video is (in)famous enough, thanks to its inclusion in the documentary Beneath the Veil, that you’ve probably already seen it. But it’s still a graphic image of a woman shot through the head at point-blank range. (From around 2:20)

The book With All Our Strength: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan expands somewhat on RAWA’s calculations on this occasion, on the young activist who pulled off the risky filming, and on the purportedly hostile-to-the-Taliban crowd reaction.

* Some web resources give Nov. 17 as the date, but all the (admittedly limited) primary documentation available appears to me to point definitively to Nov. 16. RAWA, which shot the video, posts it with this date; wire copy that ran in western papers on Nov. 16 (here) and Nov. 17 (here) attributed the execution to Nov. 16.

** It’s not clear to me how dependable the information about the executee is; it’s said that she had been in prison well over a year but was rather suddenly executed for the Taliban’s exigent reasons of public intimidation. It’s also said that her husband’s family forgave her — which, under sharia as practiced by, e.g., Saudi Arabia, ought to have spared her life — and that Zarmeena herself may not have understood or believed that she was actually going to be executed until the very last moment.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Afghanistan,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Known But To God,Mature Content,Milestones,Murder,Public Executions,Shot,Women

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2004: Abdullah Shah, Zardad’s dog

Add comment April 20th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 2004, an Afghanistan liberated from the Taliban enjoyed its first freedom-execution: the secret shooting for various war atrocities of Abdullah Shah.

Shah worked for Afghan warload Zardad Khan during the early 1990s civil war that brought the Taliban to power.

And by “worked for,” we mean that Zardad kept Shah chained up in a cave, and used him to bite his prisoners and (!) devour their testicles.

Michael Vick, eat your balls out.

“Zardad’s Dog” — the guy’s nickname, as well as the title of a short film made about his case, which was also the first capital prosecution in post-Taliban Afghanistan — was well-qualified for his bestial career.

Implicated in possibly hundreds of deaths, his 20 murder convictions included three of his wives (another of his wives, whom Shah tried to burn to death, testified against him) and five of his own children.

“The president felt compelled by the need to ensure justice to the victims,” a Karzai spokesman said. “Especially in view of the nature of the crimes he [Abdullah Shah] committed.” So compelled was he that the government only publicly declared the execution a week later.

Skeptical observers have noted that Karzai might have also felt this particular “need to ensure justice to the victims” in a case where the condemned had the goods on some of the top men in Karzai’s own government, who resided further up Shah’s own chain of command.

Amnesty International considered his case rife with other irregularities. Kabul temporarily suspended judicial executions thereafter; the country would not carry out another execution until 2007 (pdf).

Shah’s eponymous boss, Zardad, slipped into England on asylum. A year after his “dog’s” execution, Zardad drew a 20-year sentence at the Old Bailey for various acts of torture and summary execution during Afghanistan’s civil war.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Milestones,Murder,Shot,Soldiers,Torture

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2007: Ajmal Naqshbandi, Fixer

4 comments April 8th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 2007, the Taliban beheaded hostage Ajmal Naqshbandi, an Afghan “fixer” who arranged local contacts for foreign journalists.

Naqshbandi had been pinched on March 6 with La Repubblica writer Daniele Mastrogiacomo while both were out on a story together, even though Naqshbandi himself had set up Taliban interviews before.*

Quiet negotiations over several weeks produced a swap that would free the scribes, but a last-minute breach by the authorities — who decided not to return one of the agreed-upon prisoners — caused the Taliban to hang onto the Fixer. (Mastrogiacomo was set free. The man who was driving these two had been beheaded at the outset to prove the captors meant business.)

The story wasn’t quiet any longer, and as it mushroomed into a worldwide cause celebre with a scramble to save Ajmal, the Taliban evidently perceived a political advantage in butchering its hostage.

Success! Afghan President Hamid Karzai looked like a total stooge, willing to ransom a foreigner but not an Afghan.

So, for that matter, did the Italian government, which got it from both sides for being abject enough to deal with terrorists in the first place, and then ignoble enough once it did so to bail out its own national while letting his local partner die.

Naqshbandi is the subject of the (aptly titled) documentary Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (review).

Fellow-hostage Daniele Mastrogiacomo wrote this book about the ordeal.

The film follows Ajmal’s work with journalist Christian Parenti.

Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer interviewed Christian Parenti in the second half of this August 2009 episode from his (highly recommended, though rarely death penalty-related) WBAI radio program/podcast Behind the News, with intriguing coverage of the political context and the role of Pakistani intelligence:

[audio:http://shout.lbo-talk.org/lbo/RadioArchive/2009/09_08_15.mp3]

(Another leftist outlet, Democracy Now!, interviewed Parenti here.)

Pretty brutal.

But then, war is hell for journalists.

* “This work is very dangerous,” Naqshbandi said a few months before his death. “I bring one enemy to meet another.”

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Borderline "Executions",Cycle of Violence,Execution,History,Hostages,Innocent Bystanders,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Political Expedience,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Scandal,Wartime Executions

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1996: Dr. Mohammad Najibullah

87 comments September 27th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1996, the man who once ruled ruled Afghanistan under the aegis of a superpower succumbed to the tender mercies of his country’s fundamentalist insurgency.

Mohammad Najibullah was the last president of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Unfortunately for Najibullah, he was on the job when Moscow decided to throw in the towel on the Soviet-Afghan War.

After losing the subsequent civil war, the former President was trapped for a nervous few years in Kabul — blocked from joining his family in flight to India by the offices of former Soviet client and present-day American client Abdul Rashid Dostum.

When Kabul finally surrendered to the Taliban in 1996, the hated onetime Communist viceroy — whose stepping-stone to that post was heading the hated Afghan secret police — had a problem.

At the instigation of future Taliban second-in-command Mohammad Rabbani, Najibullah and his brother were hauled out of the U.N. compound where they had taken refuge, publicly beaten, tortured and castrated, and strung up on a traffic barricade.

There was a new sheriff in town.



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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Afghanistan,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Doctors,Execution,Hanged,Heads of State,History,Lynching,Mature Content,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Summary Executions,The Worm Turns,Torture,Wartime Executions

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1979: Hafizullah Amin

7 comments December 27th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1979, the 104-day term of Afghan president Hafizullah Amin met a violent end as a Soviet-engineered coup raised the curtain on a war destined to bring misery to both Cold War combatants.

The Soviet Union’s ongoing intervention in Afghan politics had through the 1970’s steadily mired it deeper into an unstable political situation.

Now, it was running out of patience with the country’s president, Hafizullah Amin.

He’d got the best of rival Nur Mohammad Taraki in a power struggle that September, but to the political chaos and the blossoming Islamic insurgency roiling his country, Amin added a level of brutality that was all his own, and a streak of diplomatic independence that was distinctly unwelcome in Moscow.

Amin was a Communist himself, and both he and the predecessor he’d murdered had wanted ever-increasing Soviet aid to keep the country stable.

But that proved to be a Faustian bargain.

Though Kabul radio would announce that Amin had been tried and summarily executed for “crimes against the state,” the short-lived dictator’s fate had been decided two weeks before when the Soviet Politburo passed a secret resolution for his ouster — having lost whatever confidence it had once held in him as a dependable satellite governor.

“The Soviet Union,” said the New York Times in a more innocent time,

has seemed deeply troubled by the inability of either the Taraki or Amin governments to put down the rebellions in Afghanistan, which have been largely tribal but also militantly anti-Communist.

Amin survived a KGB poisoning, so the Red Army dispensed with subtlety by raiding the palace, plucking their preferred satrap out of exile in eastern Europe to take Amin’s place.

It would not see the last of Afghanistan until 10 years, 15,000 Soviet dead, and hundreds of thousands of Afghan casualties later.


A memorial in Ekaterinburg, Russia, to the Soviet dead in the Afghan war. Image courtesy of beatdrifter (Andy Holmes).

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Afghanistan,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Heads of State,History,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Power,Russia,Shot,Summary Executions,Treason,USSR,Wartime Executions

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2002: Ahmed Sultan and Mohammad Humayun, who murdered Meena

1 comment May 7th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2002, the killers of one of Afghanistan’s most noted feminists were hanged in Mach Jail outside Quetta, Pakistan.

Afghan feminist Meena Keshwar Kamal had founded in 1977 the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. RAWA works (and has done so against the successive Soviet, Taliban and Karzai regimes) for secularism, democracy and equality — per this poetic manifesto of its founder (Source):

I am a woman who has awoken
I have arisen and become a tempest through the ashes of my burnt children
I have arisen from the rivulets of my brother’s blood
My nation’s wrath has empowered me
My ruined and burnet villages replete me with hatred against the enemy
O compatriot, no longer regard me as weak and incapable
My voice has mingled with thousands of arisen women
My fists are clenched with fists of thousands of compatriots
To break together all these sufferings, all these fetters of slavery
I am the woman who has awoken
I’ve found my path and will never return.

Meena was assassinated in Quetta in 1987 just shy of her 31st birthday; that her killer(s) be brought to justice was long one of RAWA’s key political demands, and the organization supported this day’s hanging.

RAWA itself — which enjoyed a brief turn at the height of worldwide vogue as the United States prepared to invade Afghanistan and found itself suddenly inspired by the plight of women under the mullahs — holds its fallen founder as a martyr and continues to agitate.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Pakistan,Ripped from the Headlines

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