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The Azadi Briefing: Public Executions On The Rise Under Taliban Rule 

The Taliban held two public executions last week and it is likely to hold more as it seeks to create a "pure" Islamic system in Afghanistan. (file photo)
The Taliban held two public executions last week and it is likely to hold more as it seeks to create a "pure" Islamic system in Afghanistan. (file photo)

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban held the public execution of two men accused of murder in southeastern Afghanistan on February 22.

The two men -- Syed Jamaluddin and Gul Khan -- were killed by gunfire by the relatives of the victims in a soccer stadium in Ghazni Province.

The Taliban said the men were executed according to the Islamic concept of qisas, or retributive justice, under which a convicted murderer can be publicly killed at the request of the murder victim’s relatives.

Several thousand people witnessed the executions in Ghazni, but were banned from recording the incident.

“One was shot eight times while the other received six bullets,” an eyewitness who requested anonymity told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

Why It’s Important: The killings were the third and fourth known executions to have been carried out by the Taliban since it seized power in 2021. Three people have been executed in the last seven months, suggesting an uptick.

The Taliban’s use of corporal and capital punishments and retributive justice underscores its commitment to imposing strict Islamic Shari'a law.

In November 2022, the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, ordered the use of qisas and hudood punishments, which allow "eye-for-an-eye" retribution and corporal punishments for offenses considered to be in violation of the boundaries set by God.

Since then, hundreds across Afghanistan have been publicly flogged or had body parts amputated for crimes such as theft and adultery.

These punishments have provoked strong criticism from human rights watchdogs and Afghans. Meanwhile, Islamic scholars have questioned whether the Taliban has met the stringent conditions required by Islamic law in implementing such harsh punishments.

Livia Saccardi, Amnesty International’s deputy director for South Asia, said in a statement on February 23 that the executions were “a gross affront to human dignity as well as a violation of international laws.”

What's Next: Despite international criticism, the Taliban appears set to continue to impose capital punishments and retributive justice.

With the Taliban bent on creating a “pure” Islamic system in Afghanistan, the group is likely to increase its use of harsh Islamic punishments.

Under the Taliban’s first regime in the 1990s, public executions were common. The group gained international notoriety for using sports stadiums to carry out the killings.

What To Keep An Eye On

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has described the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan as one of the world’s “most challenging” crises.

The organization said this week that the political upheaval following the Taliban takeover has plunged the country of around 40 million people into turmoil.

“Afghanistan is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” IOM said. “Two-thirds of the population require humanitarian assistance.”

The IOM said the humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by the deadly earthquakes that devastated western Afghanistan last year and the deportation of around 1 million Afghan refugees from neighboring Pakistan and Iran in recent months.

"It's raining, it's winter, we don't have shelter even as we are sick,” Abdul Qadir, an Afghan refugee who recently returned from Pakistan told Radio Azadi. “We can’t buy medicine for our children. There's no work.”

Why It's Important: The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, already the world’s largest, is likely to worsen as international aid recedes.

Aid agencies operating in Afghanistan have urgently called for more international funding amid fears of a widespread famine. Millions of Afghans are on the verge of starvation.

The Taliban government, which remains unrecognized and has been hit by sanctions from the international community, appears unable to address the humanitarian needs of Afghans.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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