Taliban executions still haunt Afghan soccer field

Sat Sep 13, 2008 12:48am EDT
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By Sanjeev Miglani

KABUL (Reuters) - The grass has grown in Kabul's soccer stadium where the Taliban used to stage public executions, but few Afghans dare visit in the evenings, believing that the souls of the victims still roam the sprawling grounds.

"Too much blood has flown here," says Mohammad Nasim as he mowed the lush green grass in the stadium under a warm afternoon sun, a little oasis ringed by brown hills away from the bustle of the street.

The goalposts, where the black-turbaned Taliban used to force convicts to kneel before executing them or from which they hung the severed arms or legs of thieves for all to see, have been given a fresh coat of white paint.

New portraits of Afghanistan's leaders, including late King Zahir Shah, President Hamid Karzai, anti-Taliban hero Ahmad Shah Masood and the country's latest star, Olympic taekwondo bronze medalist Rohallah Nikpai, hang from the empty stands.

The Afghanistan Olympic Committee has set up its office in the stadium's red building and there are pictures of Nikpai, the country's first Olympic medal winner, being feted.

But try as they might, few Afghans can put behind them the brutality of the Taliban years when men, and sometimes cowering women in their pale blue, all-enveloping burqas, were brought into the stadium to be either stoned or shot dead at close range.

Others had limbs amputated for crimes ranging from robbery to adultery and murder.

The stands would be full of people, including children, either coming of their own volition or brought in to witness how the Taliban enforced its version of justice.   Continued...

<p>People climb up a tower during a gathering in Kabul's stadium February 23, 2007. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>