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Editorial: What’s the truth of the matter?

About two weeks back, the Guardian newspaper and the TOLONews published an investigative report, quoting the Logar Civil Society Association Head, Musa Mahmoodi, about sexual abuse of male school students in the province. The report had said that 546 boy students of six schools in Logar were sexually misused by a circle of teachers, senior students and powerful figures. Mahmoodi’s expression raised doubts regarding the country’s educational institutions and sparked protests by a number of Logar residents, who demanded the arrest of the activist along with his fellow colleague Ihsanullah Hamidi. The two civil society activists then went missing for a few days but later on Tuesday the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said Mahmoodi had been transferred to a safe place – in fact being arrested – and his sodomy claims were baseless and aimed at seeking asylum in a foreign country.

On the other hand, some international and local human rights organizations, as well as the US, Germany and a number of other countries’ envoys in Kabul, expressed concerns over the arbitrary forced detention of the duo. While calling this move illegal, they asked for the immediate release of the human rights defenders. After becoming under extreme fire and because President Ashraf Ghani asked the intelligence operatives to halt their proceedings, the detained human rights campaigners were on Wednesday handed over by NDS to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which confirmed receiving them. Amidst these happenings, the Parliament and the Ministry of Education have also tasked their teams to investigate the allegations.

Surprisingly, the NDS released a video of the civil society activists under detention when they backpedaled on their research and said it was incomplete and inaccurate while begging forgiveness from all Afghans. But critics dubbed the detention as a ‘coerced confession’. After these sickening allegations and the publication of the report, the donors have also reportedly stopped paying salaries of teachers. Meanwhile, the two activists are supposed to share further information about their sodomy claims after one day of rest on Thursday. As much as these allegations are deplorable, the truth of the matter is not yet known. Because detention of the two whistleblowers seems to be in clear contradiction with human rights standards, the NDS should present facts regarding why did they do it? Although it’s unlikely that this deplorable scandal could be completely ruled out and proved groundless because we have had some reports child-abusing in the past across Afghanistan, there is a possibility of exaggeration on the part of the activists. The probes launched by the parliament should share the results as soon as possible in order for people to be able to decide whether NDS has acted in its legitimate mandate of protecting national interests and that the whistleblowers have been actually seeking asylum in a foreign country. Otherwise, if the allegations have some truth to it, the defenders should be protected against threats from state and non-state actors. But if it was not true, there is law that should be implemented on everyone.

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