KABUL — Allegations that Afghanistan’s first vice president brutally assaulted a former provincial governor while holding him captive in his private compound prompted condemnation and calls for an investigation Tuesday by U.S. and European officials.
Abdurrashid Dostum, a former ethnic Uzbek militia leader who has been accused of human rights abuses in the past, was accused of ordering his armed guards to seize Ahmad Ishchi during an outdoor polo match in northern Afghanistan two weeks ago.
Dostum allegedly kept Ishchi prisoner in his compound in Jowzjan province for five days, beat him and ordered him to be sexually assaulted.
“General Dostum put me in a basement and told me to take off my clothes,” Ishchi, a gray-haired former provincial governor from Dostum’s political party, said in an interview Tuesday evening on Tolo TV News.
“He beat me and then he ordered his bodyguards to have sexual intercourse with me until I bled, then take pictures and bring them to him,” Ishchi said softly, speaking in Dari.
Ishchi said the guards pretended to obey but did not attack him. After five days in the basement, he said, he was handed over to the national intelligence police and given medical treatment. His release was negotiated by a group of provincial elders.
Officials of Dostum’s party denied the allegations as “baseless,” Tolo reported. There has been no comment by President Ashraf Ghani or other officials.
After news of the incident reached Kabul on Tuesday, numerous Western governments expressed outrage and called for an investigation of Dostum for human rights abuses. The U.S. Embassy, in a statement, said the “unlawful detention and reported mistreatment of Mr. Ishchi by the First Vice President raises serious concerns. We would welcome the Afghan government’s move to swiftly investigate these allegations.”
Dostum, the longtime head of the ethnic Uzbek party Jumbush-i-Milli, is a former army general and was a powerful militia leader during the civil war and Taliban rule. He has been accused previously of atrocities against Taliban prisoners and of personally assaulting his own soldiers and associates when displeased with them.
Although he nominally serves in Kabul under Ghani, Dostum spends much of his time at his stronghold in Jowzjan, where he raised private forces to fight the Taliban. He has a reputation for rogue behavior and recently sent armed men to stop a group of marchers from reburying a long-dead king in Kabul.
Recently, Dostum criticized Ghani harshly in public and retreated to Jowzjan in anger. He complained that the government failed to help when his convoy was ambushed during a military operation two months ago, killing several of his men. Later he accused the government’s national security adviser and intelligence chief of plotting against him.
Dostum’s displeasure with Ishchi apparently stemmed from longtime differences and erupted during a match of buzkashi, or polo, played with a goat carcass instead of a ball. Dostum was hosting the event, and Ishchi was playing on the field atop his horse when Dostum called him to the stands. They argued, then Dostum reportedly punched Ishchi and had his guards beat him and take him captive.
Pamela Constable contributed to this report.