Dostum apologizes for war crimes

Below is the full English version text of Dostum’s apology, read on 7 October 2013. I edited the translation, using the Dari original of the speech to ensure it corresponds closely.


The apology created a huge commotion, as it is the first of its kind. Dostum encourages other warlords to apologize too, noting he has taken the first step (pishqadami). Reactions from across the (social) media were very positive.

It gave an incredible boost to Ashraf Ghani’s candidacy. Since it was publicly announced, on the evening of 5 October, that Dostum would be the first Vice-President on Ashraf’s ticket, a storm of criticism had arisen, both from the Pashto voters Ghani claims to represent, and from Afghan civil society, who saw it as tantamount to treason. After Dostum’s apologies, the perception was that Dr. Ghani had managed to make the powerful Uzbek warlord buckle to his enlightened view of Afghanistan’s future.

In fact Ghani was made to accept, against his initial will, to force Dostum to read this declaration by pressure that came notably from the civil society / human rights community. Apparently Dostum found it less of a problem than Ghani had thought, probably because he really believes it is time to ‘move on’. Another motivation may be that he’d like to avoid arrest as a war criminal when traveling abroad.

President Karzai was reportedly very angry at this move by Ghani, knowing it will make the Ghani-Dostum-Sarwar Danish ticket very strong, and that it will cast doubts on Karzai’s own unwillingness to tackle the question of past war crimes of currently powerful Afghans. Since 2005 Karzai has actively obstructed any form of transitional justice, always alleging that it could destabilize political processes in the country.

As both Dostum’s speech and the reactions of Afghan society seem to prove, this might be but another instance of Karzai being out of touch with reality. The evening after Dostum’s much repeated speech on television, Karzai tried to garner media attention with yet another outburst against ‘foreign interference in the Afghan electoral process’ in what seems an indirect response to Dostum’s apologies: an attempt to make Afghans suspect Dostum made the apologies under foreign pressure.

Other warlords, including those on Dr. Abdullah’s ticket and those on Sayyaf’s, did not respond to Dostum’s declaration. They might be waiting to see what kind of effect it will have on his popularity ratings.


Statement of the founder and leader of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, General Abdul Rashid Dostum

In the name of Allah, the most merciful and mighty


Our beloved country, Afghanistan, is burdened by the painful legacy of war and chaos. Unfortunately this threatens the peaceful and brotherly coexistence, based on justice, between our people and ethnic groups. In order to bring sustainable peace and stability to our society and to move from a dark past to a shared future, we need to boldly address the suffering and pain of our people and develop a common understanding of the painful events of the past. So that in the future we can avoid the reoccurrence of these horrible events and prevent setting into motion the cycle of vengeance. The awful events of the past two decades have caused suffering to all ethnic groups. They have all been victims of the atrocities.

In my opinion, the Turkic people of Afghanistan were not the only innocent victims of these cruelties. Other countrymen, including Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and others, also suffered immensely – we all share the pain of this suffering.

War is the worst human action; it takes the lives of innocent people, and it leads to distrust and divisions amongst the masses. This bitter truth must one day be courageously acknowledged.

Today, as we advance towards the presidential elections with the commitment to initiate reforms for a prosperous future of our country, we plan to base these reforms on brotherhood, justice, and compromise – so that the sufferings of the past are not repeated. Using this historical opportunity, I would like to categorically state that in the bitter days of the past all of the ethnicities of Afghanistan were victims, as were my fellow citizens in Jowzjan, Faryab and Mazar.

There were no white doves [i.e. no guiltless people] in the civil war of the past two decades. It is time that we all apologize for the negative effects of our past politics. I wish to make the first step in apologizing to the people who have suffered on both sides of the conflict. Through the current electoral process I hope to introduce a new type of politics in the country – where we reach a national consensus through tolerance and dialogue, not through war.

I hope that from this day on we will no longer repeat the mistakes of the past. We desire to initiate a new era with a new way of acting, where we can bravely acknowledge our mistakes and work collectively to prevent them from recurring.

If our noble people grant us the opportunity to serve them, we pledge to use this historic opportunity to heal the pains of the people. We shall dedicate our utmost efforts to repatriate internally displaced people. We commit to make our country once again the common house for all Afghans, where pain and cruelty can no longer take place. We want to transform Afghanistan into a country where the dignity of all citizens is guaranteed. We want an inclusive homeland where we live peacefully under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – a country where social justice and mutual respect is the basis for progress and prosperity.


General Abdul Rashid Dostum


Report about Dostum’s statement on RFE/RL

An article about Sayyaf, another candidate, and his view on the Taliban


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