Afghanistan launches poppy eradication force
KABUL, Feb 2 (AFP) - Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer, on Wednesday launched a new force to eradicate poppy crops across the war-torn country.
Deputy interior minister General Mohammad Daud, who inaugurated the 700-strong "Central Poppy Eradication Force", said it would have another 2,300 men by the end of the year.
Counter-narcotics forces have destroyed 14,800 hectares (36,556 acres) of poppies during the last three months, Daud said, adding that 2005 has been declared poppy eradication year in Afghanistan.
The force was created last year with funds provided by the United States under an international anti-narcotics programme, its commander General Mohammad Zahir Aghber said. According to the United Nations, last year there were about 130,000 hectares on which poppies were cultivated in the country.
"In eastern Nangarhar province 70 percent of poppy fields were eradicated, in southeastern Helmand 50 percent, and in northeastern Badakhshan poppy was not cultivated on 60 percent of the land this year," Daud claimed, refering to three main producer provinces.
Opium production in Afghanistan increased by 64 percent last year and it now accounts for 87 percent of the worldwide production of opium. In December President Hamid Karzai declared a "jihad" or holy war against drugs, while the international community decided to make the fight against drug cultivation in Afghanistan a top priority.
Afghanistan Wants No Link Between Aid and Drug War
Wed Feb 2,11:25 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Aid to Afghanistan should not be linked to progress on combating drug production, the Afghan government said on Wednesday, rejecting remarks by the United Nations anti-narcotics chief.
Despite government efforts at a crackdown, Afghan opium output has surged to near-record levels since 2001, when U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government. The U.N. says drug exports now account for more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's economy.
Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the U.N. Organization for Drugs and Crime, said after a visit to Kabul at the weekend that aid from international donors should be rescinded if drug crops were not eradicated.
Afghanistan's Ministry of Counter Narcotics said in a statement that drugs were a global issue and the international community shared responsibility in fighting the problem.
"Afghanistan will not accept the suggestion that international aid to Afghanistan be tied, in any direct or indirect way, to the fight against narcotics," it said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made the fight against the "dishonor" of drug production a priority of his new government sworn in December, urging provincial governors and regional commanders to destroy poppies by all means necessary.
Diplomats and aid workers in Afghanistan report a marked drop this year in the planting of poppies used to make opium and heroin. But that may be due to producers hoarding their stocks until prices recover following a glut on the market.
Some 30 non-governmental organizations active in Afghanistan this week urged the United States, which strongly backs the Afghan poppy eradication program, to do more to promote alternative livelihoods for farmers and arrest traffickers.
They said in an open letter to the U.S. government that a fierce program of eradication would create instability in the fledgling democracy and line the pockets of drug lords who would benefit from higher prices as they sold off their stockpiles.
Pakistan denies helping direct US artillery fire from Afghanistan
Wed Feb 2, 6:06 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan strongly rejected a US military claim that its forces were helping American troops in Afghanistan aim artillery fire at rebels on the Pakistani side of the border.
"Not at all, it is baseless, it has got no truth," military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP in response to remarks by Colonel Cardon Crawford, director of operations for the US military command in Afghanistan.
Sultan said Pakistani forces were cooperating with US-led coalition troops who are on the other side of the the porous frontier but "it is a cooperation in terms of intelligence sharing."
"It is not in terms of inviting their (coalition) fire onto our territory," Sultan said on Wednesday.
Pakistan is a key ally in Washington's so-called war on terror and has launched its own anti-militant operations near the border, but is highly sensitive to claims that its forces are in any way under US control.
It has repeatedly denied reports that US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and special forces are based in the tribal regions close to Afghanistan.
Crawford told reporters in Washington that Pakistani forward observers were directing US firepower against suspected hideouts inside Pakistan.
"Something I think you'll find interesting is the Pakistanis have adjusted our artillery fire into the Pakistani side of the border to go after any coalition militias," Crawford said.
He added that the cooperation was a "huge step forward."
The US military had supplied Pakistan with radios to improve cross-border communications while liaison officers were now posted in their respective headquarters and commanders near the border meet to work out issues, he said.
Pakistani tribal areas on the border have long been suspected of being a sanctuary for hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who fled the post-9/11 US military campaign in Afghanistan.
Two Tajik hostages freed in Afghanistan
DUSHANBE. Feb 2 (Interfax) - Tajik border guards and Afghan special services conducted an operation to release two Tajik citizens who were taken hostage by Afghan drug dealers, a high-ranking source in Tajikistan's border guard committee told Interfax on Wednesday.
One of the drug dealers and his bodyguard were killed during the operation, the source said. "Another four people working for [the drug dealer] were captured by special operations units," he said.
Four Tajiks taken hostage by Afghan drug traders
MOSCOW, Feb 2 (AFP) - Afghan drug traders have taken hostage two Tajik border guards who illegally traded narcotics and two other Tajik civilians after their failure to pay for a drug shipment, officials said Wednesday.
The incident involving the two frontier guards occurred in southern Tajik mountains near the Afghan border in the largely lawless Shurobad region, officials said. Afghan drug traders also kidnapped two other Tajiks in the same vicinity for their failure to pay for a drug shipment.
Drugs run rampant across the 1,340-kilometer (800-mile) border, which will be policed entirely by Tajik troops after the Russian soldiers withdraw from the border completely at the end of the year.
Tajik and Russian law enforcement agents confiscated 8.1 million tonnes of drugs at the Tajik-Afghan border last year, 4.8 million tonnes of which was heroin destined for Russian and European markets.
ADB pledges $200m to help Afghan farmers
By Zarghona Salehi
KABUL, Feb. 02, (Pajhwok Afghan News) -- The Asian Development Bank(ADB) will provide $200 million to Afghanistan's Ministry of Agriculture and Food for the development of agriculture.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Eng. Sharif Sharif said on Tuesday that half of the money would be aid and the rest a long-term loan. He said the money would be used for developing horticulture, renovation of irrigation systems and providing improved seeds and fertilizers to farmers.
A portion of the money will be also used in the counter-narcotics offensive. "We will distribute tractors, fertilizers and improved seeds in five-year loans to farmers who quit cultivating poppies," Sharif said.
Eighty-five percent of the total population of Afghanistan has been dependant on agriculture for their livelihood but six years of consecutive drought and more than two decades of war have severely damaged them.
Combatants who disabled each other are friends today
By Qadam Ali Nikpai
KABUL, Feb. 02, (Pajhwok Afghan News) – Enemies on opposite sides of the battlefront, two men who disabled each other on the frontlines of Afghanistan's civil war met again 18 years later in the offices of the Ministry of Disabled and Martyrs to become friends.
In 1986 Saleem was a soldier accompanying a government convoy of food items on the Salang highway in northern Afghanistan when the convoy was stopped by Abdul Rahman and other mujahideen fighters who was fighting the Soviet backed government installed in Kabul.
Saleem and Abdul Rahman opened fire on each other with automatic rifles and Kalashnikovs and lobbed grenades. Saleem lost one leg in the encounter while Abdul Rahman had his jawbone and six teeth broken.
Saleem vividly recalls that spring day when he was escorting cooking oil and flour supplies to Kabul as Abdul Rahman and his mujahideen colleagues opened fire on them in the Takhta Sang area of Khenjan district in Northern Salang. Several people were killed in the fighting.
"Abdul Rahman and me confronted each other from two verges of a small bridge (over a canal). He threw a hand grenade towards me and I fired at him with my Kalashnikov. Then we both lost conciousness" Saleem told Pajhwok.
What happened then? "We came to consciousness after some days in a ward of a Pul-e-Khumri hospital where both of us were hospitalized and recognized each other," Abdul Rahman said.
The fighting turned Saleem into an amputee and Abdul Rahman's face was so disfigured that he has to cover his face in any public space. Today both earn a living hawking credit cards for mobile phones on the streets of Kabul.
The passage of time and lessons learnt from the turbulent life has changed the mind of these two middle-age men and they hate all war. Though they disabled each other in that fight, the two men are friends today, just as their leaders, formerly enemy warlords confronting each other, now sit around one table.
"We, the disabled, whichever front we belonged to then, are today not enemies of each other but friends. We share our sympathies and are struggling for our rights and participating in demonstrations as members of one association of the Afghan disabled," said Nuruddin, another disabled who fought with mujahideen.
It seems clear now that war has no market in Afghanistan and lots of calamities, including disability and poverty have woken Afghans to the dreadful atrocities of war which yields nothing except further calamity.
"Our superiors and commanders involved us in the fighting. Many people died and were wounded while our leaders got benefits. Ultimately they became drug smugglers who not only do not care for the disabled but insult them," said Akhtar Gul, a disabled who lost his left leg during the war fighting as a government soldier.
When Saleem and Abdul Rahman met in the ministry of disabled and martyrs affairs in Kabul two years ago they regretted the past wars. "Saleem and me regretted our old craziness and now we are friends and go to each other's home and share our happiness and grief," Abdul Rahman told Pajhwok.
Saleem got married ten years ago and now has three children. Abdul Rahman says he hasn’t earned enough money so far to afford expenses of marriage. That his disfigured face would make it difficult for him to get married is something that he doesn't say.
Government owned enterprise fails to pay poor farmers
By Rohullah Arman
KUNDUZ, Feb. 02, (Pajhwok Afghan News) – Selling cotton crop to the government has turned out to be a costly exercise for some cotton farmers of Kunduz. Three months after the sale they are still awaiting payment from the state-owned Spinzar Enterprises.
Criticising the company and its officials for delaying the payment the farmers complained they waited every day in front of the company's office for their payment in vain. The wait is made more difficult for the farmers because of the dire circumstances in which they have survived for so many years.
Mohammad Wazir, a 56-year old farmer from Sidarak village told Pajhwok: "Twenty-five years of oppression, trouble and waiting is enough for us. We voted for Karzai hoping to get rid of these calamities but the old robbers are still there, trying to rob people's wealth while Karzai boasts of doing this and that." Wazir said the farmers had sold 7000 kilos of cotton at a price of 15 Afs per kilo three months ago but were yet to receive any payment.
On 27 January, during a visit to Kunduz, the Minister of Mines and Industries, Eng. Mohammad Seddiq promised that the problems would be solved soon with the transfer of money form Kabul.
Jabarkhil Zazai, acting president of the Spinzar company said : "due to the bad weather and continuous rain, transfer of the money from Kabul to Kunduz by airplane was delayed for some time and as soon as we get it we'll pay the farmers." He said the problem of the factory was shortage of cash and if there was enough they would encourage the farmers to increase their production.
Arbab Bahadar Khan from Gul Tapa village of Kunduz however said : "Is it right that the government levies fines if people delay the payment of their dues to the government, but there is no such fine when the government delays its payment to the people?" Spinzar was established in 1935 as a joint-stock company called Shamali but changed to a state enterprise in 1983.
Afghanistan: A cry for justice
Sima Samar and Nader Nadery International Herald Tribune Thursday, February 3, 2005
KABUL Haji Qudos, a middle-aged man from Nangarhar Province, is one of a vast majority of Afghans who are willing to commit their lives to promote peace and stability in order to pave the way for a sustainable democracy. But peace and stability in our country are possible only if the United States and the international community help the Afghan people bring to justice those who have committed crimes against humanity.
Haji's wife, sons and daughters were killed in front of his eyes in his house on June 7, 1995. Those responsible now hold very powerful political positions in the country and work closely with U.S. military officials in the war against terror.
Hundreds of ordinary Afghans like Haji from remote areas of the country travel every month to our office at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission here to recount atrocities. Haji told us that in 1995, after he refused to let his 16-year-old daughter marry a local commander, militia forces loyal to the warlord slaughtered his family and tortured him in an underground cell. Worried for his safety, I asked him if he was concerned that the warlord would find out about his visit. He said, "I am here to seek justice, and I am not worried about what will happen to me."
Like many Afghans, I am grateful for American-led efforts to bring democracy and rebuild the country. But if the United States wants to retain the faith of the Afghan people, it should act immediately to help people like Haji achieve justice for past crimes and to protect them from future ones.
Millions of ordinary Afghans had hoped that they would benefit from the establishment of the rule of law after the Taliban fell. But while some courthouses are being reconstructed and limited efforts are being made to train judges and lawyers, much of Afghanistan lacks a functioning judicial system. In a national poll we conducted, 65 percent of respondents had little or no faith in the current judicial system, with courts staffed by untrained or corrupt judges often acting under the orders of the warlords.
The power of Afghanistan's central government is limited, with private armies controlling large parts of the country and continuing to commit human rights abuses. The U.S. military has fought the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the south and east, but has not prevented infighting among warlords, often over control of the opium trade. Civilians are the most common victims of these bloodbaths, and local militias as well as common criminals often enjoy impunity from prosecution.
Some say that while justice and human rights are vital, Afghans must wait until the country is more secure and a democratically elected central government is formed. But three-quarters of those who responded to our poll believe that bringing human rights violators to justice will bolster peace, stability, and security. Afghans believe that democracy and freedom are meaningless without justice and the rule of law.
Without any consideration for the desires of the Afghan people and the effects on democracy and justice, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General David Barno, recently announced an initiative to grant amnesty to Taliban perpetrators. Yet 61 percent of Afghans in the poll showed no desire for amnesty and rejected it, particularly when imposed by non-Afghans.
Afghans want a special court established to ensure that war criminals and other human rights offenders are prosecuted. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have witnessed or been victims of abuses under different regimes since the early 1980s. Nearly 70 percent of those we polled identified themselves or immediate family members as direct victims of human rights violations during the conflicts.
The international community must stand by the Afghan people and respect and heed their cries for justice. It must help us rebuild our judicial system into one that can be trusted to deliver swift and impartial justice. Otherwise, Haji Qudos and millions of other Afghans will once again lose hope, and the prospects for a peaceful and secure society based on the rule of law will be significantly set back.
Without justice, sustainable peace will remain forever elusive.
(Sima Samar, who chairs the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, was the first woman to serve as Afghan vice president and minister of women’s affairs. Nader Nadery is a member of the commission, in charge of transitional justice.)
Afghan DPs' census may be inaccurate
Dawn, Pakistan 02/02/2005
KOHAT - The second phase of census and screening of Afghan refugees may have to be an exercise in futility because as the local government has not yet identified aliens who have been living in urban areas and have been issued computerized national identity cards, a senior official of Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR) told Dawn here on Tuesday.
In view of this problem, an attempt would be made this time to involve Afghan elders for conducting the census and identifying the aliens inside and outside the refugee camps.
This was decided at a meeting held between the CAR representatives and UNHCR team headed by Miss Aneela. Mr Ibraheem Khattak, district administrator of Afghan refugees Kohat, informed that different UNHCR teams were preparing ground for holding census and to send back the refugees back by December 2005.
These teams after conducting surveys of the refugee camps would have to complete the census process in 15 days, he said. Presently, the problem being faced by the government and the UNHCR was that most of the refugees were settled in the urban areas and those residing in the camps may not be present in their homes at the time of the census as most of them worked outside the camps.
According to the rules laid down by the UNHCR only those persons would be counted who are physically present at the time of the census in their respective camps. Moreover, he said, the UNHCR figures of the refugees residing there were between 500,000 to 600,000 in the country, whereas according to CAR, more than four million refugees were still in the country.
He said the UNHCR was relying on the actual figures of the camps, whereas majority of the refugees had shifted to urban areas and established their businesses and remained unaccounted for.
Similarly, the refugees constantly moved between Pakistan and Afghan which is called seasonal migration therefore their population figures varied from time to time. He said that after the suspension of foreign aid feeding and controlling such a large number of refugees had resulted in lawlessness because the government could not provide food or jobs to these aliens.
Similarly, the hospitals were facing problems where more than 40 per cent visitors were refugees. He disclosed that this time the refugees who wanted to go back would be paid stipend according to the distance and not in lump sum as was the case last time.
Answering a question, he said that a small number of the refugees repatriated last time by the UNHCR had again entered Pakistan through legal checkpoints and unfrequented routes but now the number of such people was expected to decrease considerably due to increased economic activity in their homeland and restoration of peace to some extent.
Moreover the UNHCR had been able to construct homes for them inside Afghanistan and as the conditions improved in the war-torn country the refugees themselves would leave Pakistan for their homeland. But it is going to be a slow and long process, Mr Ibraheem remarked.
Afghans shut down guest houses in vice crackdown
KABUL, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Afghan authorities have closed down several guest houses in the capital, Kabul, in a crackdown on illegal alcohol sales and prostitution, officials said on Wednesday.
The move by President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government follows complaints about growing immorality in post-Taliban Afghanistan, Interior Ministry officials said.
The officials, who did not want to be identified, said police had raided several guest houses run by ethnic Chinese in Kabul since Monday and at least four had been closed down.
They said no arrests had been made but the government was keen to close down all guest houses and businesses involved in selling alcohol or engaged in prostitution.
Dozens of guest houses and restaurants have sprung up in Kabul since the overthrow of the strict Islamic Taliban in late 2001, mainly catering to the city's 2,000-strong foreign community.
Some are run by foreigners and serve alcohol, despite a ban on such sales in the Islamic country. Some have also served as fronts for prostitution, which is also forbidden in Islam.
the Taliban punished such breaches of Islamic law with public floggings or executions, but those harsh punishments have been relaxed under Karzai's U.S.-backed government.
Human rights warning in Pakistan
By Zaffar Abbas / BBC News, Islamabad Tuesday, 1 February, 2005
Pakistan's most prominent human rights group has expressed serious concern over what it says is the growing militarisation of the country.
It says there is too heavy a reliance on the security forces in dealing with mainly civil or social conflicts.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also accused the government of blocking access or aid to tribal regions in Waziristan and Balochistan.
The findings are published in the HCRP's annual report for 2004.
The HRCP's annual report has, in recent years, acquired the reputation of being the most reliable account of the state of human rights in Pakistan.
This year's report comprehensively covers all key issues, ranging from the matters of democracy and governance, rights of children, women and minorities, and religious and sectarian violence.
HRCP chairman Tahir Mohammed Khan said the commission has noted with deep concern the way the military's involvement has increased in almost all spheres of society.
He said senior military officials were being posted to run all big and small corporations, which he said was gradually militarising the entire society.
Mr Khan said the commission had serious reservations on the increased use of security forces to deal with either the law and order problem or political issues.
He said this practice was more prevalent in the tribal region of South Waziristan and Balochistan province, where the authorities have either been fighting Islamic militants or local tribal groups that have been agitating for their rights.
He said the HRCP has been monitoring a constant displacement of people from conflict zones, but was more concerned about the welfare of the population in these areas as humanitarian groups or journalists were not being allowed access there.
The commission's report, while covering various issues in detail, has expressed its concern at the marked rise in sectarian violence, the growing intolerance towards religious minorities and increased violence against women, and the lack of legislation to address these issues.
The report, quoting official figures, said over a thousand women died last year in honour killings.
Thousands more, it said, were subjected to domestic violence.
The report says 35% of the Pakistani population was living below the poverty line, and over 33,000 people holding post-graduate degrees were without jobs.
The Commission's director, IA Rehman, however, praised the peace process with India initiated during 2004, but said much more needs to be done to remove misgivings and improve relations with India.
Tradition Traps Widows
Traditional values are making it difficult for women who have lost their husbands to marry who they wish.
By Shahabuddin Tarakhil (ARR No. 159, 31-Jan-05) Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Sahra, 22, has come to the ministry of women's affairs from her native Wardak, seeking support. Her burka has been thrown up to reveal a tense, pale face, and dark, red-rimmed eyes.
"If they cannot help me, I will kill myself," she said.
Sahra is a widow, and wants to marry again. But her brother-in-law will not allow it.
"If I marry someone else, he will kill me," she said.
Afghanistan is full of young widows. The wars and violence that have plagued the country for the past 25 years have decimated the male population. According to Fauzia Amini, head of the legal branch of the ministry of women's affairs, "The large number of widows is due to the fighting that began when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. This was followed by more fighting between Afghans themselves."
These widows are caught between Afghan culture and Islamic law. According to Afghan tradition, they can only marry close relatives of the deceased husband. But six years ago, during the Taleban's ultra-conservative reign, its leader Mullah Omar issued a decree allowing widows to marry whomever they wished.
Since the fall of the Taleban, a little over three years ago, the temporary freedom of choice accorded them has eroded, leaving a woman who has lost her husband very little choice about her future. If she is allowed to marry again, it will be to her brother-in-law or another close relative in her husband's family.
Soraya, 24, has been a widow for the past three years. She told IWPR, "My father-in- law wants me to marry his 13-year-old son, who is also disabled, but I don't want him." Soraya said her father has quarrelled with her father-in-law, and she is afraid it will escalate into violence.
Soraya may well be trapped. Once a woman is married, under Afghan tradition, she becomes a member of her husband's household, and hence is subject to the will of her husband's father.
As Haji Raza Khan, 60, whose own son has died, leaving a bereaved wife, put it this way, "If a widow leaves the father-in-law's home, it is as if she is running away." A widow should marry her brother-in-law, he added, otherwise she should stay in her father-in-law's home.
The government is attempting to help. Fauzia Amini told IWPR, "The custom of forcing a widow to marry her brother-in-law or another close relative of her dead husband is very bad; we are trying to break the hold these traditions have on the population."
The ministry is working with mullahs, or religious leaders, she said, to try and get more freedom of choice for women whose husbands have died.
Islam does not dictate that woman must marry within her husband's family, say religious scholars. Shaikh Zada, a mullah from Kabul province, said that those who refuse freedom of choice for widows are foolish, and do not know the dictates of their religion.
"Islam allows widows to marry relatives or non-relatives alike, provided that the person she marries, is Muslim," he told IWPR. When asked whether he agreed with the Taleban's ruling on this subject, he said, "This is the will of Allah and his Prophet, not of Mullah Omar."
But tradition dies hard in Afghanistan.
Hanifa, 27, cannot read or write. She has been a widow for the past 12 years. She told IWPR, "When Mullah Omar issued his decree, I married someone who was not a relative of my husband. Three years ago, when the Taleban were defeated, my brother-in-law took my four children away from me."
Now Hanifa has two children with her new husband. But, she said, "My former brother-in-law has sent me a letter, saying that now there are no Taleban, I will not let you live." She, too, has come to the ministry of women's affairs for help.
But the ministry can only do so much and many observers agree that traditions here are hard to break.
"This depressing phenomenon is due to the low level of knowledge in Afghanistan," said Ahmad Shad Mirdad, a department head in the Independent Human Rights Commission. "Until people learn more, these traditions will not diminish."
Shahabuddin Tarakhil is a staff reporter with IWPR in Kabul.
Indian film to premiere in Afghanistan
New Kerala Media (newkerala.com)
[India News]: Mumbai, Feb 2 : Top Afghan leaders are expected to attend the premiere of "Bullet - Ek Dhamaka", said to be the first Indian film to be released in Afghanistan.
The film directed by Irfan Khan will premiere in Kabul Friday, the same day as its worldwide release.
Produced by Asad Sikander, "Bullet - Ek Dhamaka" stars Iqbal Khan, Asseem Merchant, Asad Sikander, Saadhika, Rosy, Saasha and Natalie Kurgova. Anand Raaj Anand has composed the music.
Indo-Asian News Service
One of Afghanistan's Last Two Jews Buried
Wed Feb 2, 9:15 PM ET By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press writer
JERUSALEM - Ishaq Levin, one of Afghanistan's last two Jews, had said he feared dying alone in Kabul without a Jewish funeral.
On Wednesday, surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and siblings, he was interred in the most revered Jewish burial site on Jerusalem's Mt. of Olives.
"He was buried with honor in the land of the Jewish people. I'm glad he ended up here," his 74-year-old brother Avraham said moments after Ishaq was lowered into the grave.
Four years ago when the Taliban ruled the country, two Jews were found living at opposite ends of the same synagogue, refusing to speak to each other.
The bitter feud between Levin and Zebulon Simentov — the sole remaining members of Afghanistan's once thriving Jewish community — made news headlines and ended with Levin's death two weeks ago, apparently of natural causes, at around age 80.
Levin's family learned of his death through Simentov's relatives in Israel, and contacted the Red Cross to have his body flown to Israel. The process took two weeks and involved handing Levin's remains to Israeli Embassy officials in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.
The last time any family member had seen Levin was 26 years ago when he made a monthlong visit to Israel. Some were eager to know what his final years had been like in Kabul, and those who knew him said he was well liked by his neighbors there but that he lived with few comforts.
Levin lit Sabbath candles one evening a few months before the United States invaded Afghanistan and worried aloud about his fight with Simentov and what that would mean in death.
"I begged him not to be my enemy," Levin said of Simentov. "If I die tomorrow, who will bury me in the traditions of my religion?"
Israel's chief Sephardic rabbi attended his funeral Wednesday and recited the proper blessings. Levin's wife sobbed as he was lowered into the grave amid a cold wind sweeping off the hills of Jerusalem. She ripped a piece of her clothing along with Levin's children and siblings in a traditional Jewish mourning ritual.
Israel arranged for him to be buried on the Mt. of Olives — a great honor in Judaism and an expensive option that few Israelis can afford.
In Kabul, Levin had no phone, only sporadic electricity and rude sticks for furniture.
"He was a very happy person. He loved to laugh," said his niece, Rivka Hakmon.
Levin's death halved Kabul's tiny Jewish community, leaving just 45-year-old Simentov. The two would glare at each other when they passed in the synagogue's courtyard. It wasn't entirely clear why they disliked each other, but they blamed one another other for the loss of the synagogue's sole remaining Torah, apparently confiscated by the Taliban.
Afghanistan's Jewish community numbered as many as 40,000 in the late 19th century, after Persian Jews fled forced conversion in neighboring Iran. But by the mid-20th century, only about 5,000 remained, and most emigrated after Israel's creation in 1948.
According to Simentov, the last eight or nine families left after the 1979 Soviet invasion. But Levin — the synagogue's shamash, or caretaker — stayed on, even through the repressive rule of the Taliban.
Simentov and Levin had feuded for years, blaming each other for arrests and beatings at the hands of the Taliban.
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