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Torture of young man by Taliban commander

The harrowing video of a young Afghan man being tortured by a Taliban commander sparked global outrage.


3 Jul 2024

On 21 June 2024, a video began circulating on social media showing a semi-naked male, restrained and on the ground, being penetrated with a wooden phallic object. The victim had several visible injuries on his back, buttocks, and thighs, consistent with beatings.

A second video, shared on 24 June 2024, appeared to show more details of the torture endured by the victim. 

The incident was covered by various Afghan news agencies, who identified the victim as a 20-year-old man. According to sources contacted by these outlets, the torture took place inside the house of Qari Bilal, the Taliban Security Commander of Balcharagh district, Faryab province, on the second day of Eid al-Adha (17 or 18 June 2024, depending on the standard followed). 

The victim was reportedly accused of having a phone call with a girl; following the call, he was allegedly tortured. According to information obtained by media outlet Etilaatroz, the girl in question was Bilal’s sister, however, AW was unable to verify this information.

As a result of his injuries, the victim was taken to a hospital, where a Tolo News reporter spoke with the young man and his father. The victim recounted that he was blindfolded, had his hands and legs tied, and was tortured by “a number of Islamic Emirate forces”. The victim’s father, who was in the room with the victim, demanded the perpetrators be punished with Qisas (retribution).

Following the incident, and the circulation of the video on social media, the Taliban issued an official statement. On 25 June, both the Ministry of Interior (MoI), and MoI Spokesperson Abdul Mateen Qani, stated on X (formerly Twitter) that ten people had been identified in connection to the incident, six of whom had already been arrested. The statement added: “Based on initial investigations, the young boy was tortured due to personal and social animosity inside the house of the perpetrators.”

Qani did not acknowledge the claim that the accused was a Taliban commander, nor did he comment on the identities of those arrested in connection with the incident. As of 26 June, no further information regarding the perpetrators has been disclosed by Afghan news agencies, or by the Taliban.

Videos showing the assault were widely shared outside of the Afghan information environment, and gathered attention from the international community on X. On 26 June, Visegrad24, an account often criticised for spreading disinformation and propaganda, shared a screenshot from the video with their one million followers; this action resulted in the account’s automatic suspension for sharing child sexual abuse imagery. 

The issue was addressed by X owner Elon Musk, who confirmed the suspension was related to the “picture of that poor kid in Afghanistan being sodomised with a stick, which triggered an automatic child exploitation suspension.” Musk assured users that the Visegrad24 account would be restored soon. As of 27 June 2024, Visegrad24’s account was back online.

Since July 2023, AW has recorded 160 claims of torture, 16 of which specifically involved male minors as targets; 39 of the 160 claims included sexual violence, of which six involved a male victim. Out of these six, five were minors, and in all cases, the alleged perpetrators were Taliban members.

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