Topography of Terror

Total Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of all of those murdered in 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.


Having covered some of the processes that led to the generation and publication of the Death Lists, we can begin to examine some of the (possible) maps that one might produce from them. This page contains a series of "heat maps" (the principle of which was explained in the introduction) produced in Google Fusion Tables, although throughout other parts of Shattering Afghanistan the user can find heat maps produced via ARCGIS. (For technical reasons, it was too difficult to produce time-stamped heat maps with ARCGIS, due to the way that ARC carries out estimations of what is known as kernel density.)

A later page in this section covers the geography of killing in 1979 on a more granular, day-by-day basis, but what do we find in the heat maps?

April 1979 Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of those murdered in April 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.

The first heat map, showing the total "topography of terror," gives us some sense of the general pattern of killing in Afghanistan during the period that the Death Lists record: a heavy concentration of "activity" around Kabul as well as other major centers of killing like Ghazni, Merkazi Behsud, Baghlan, and Moqor (a settlement in southern Ghazni province). (This map, it bears stating, omits the locations of several prisoners originally from Pakistan, as well as one man from Iran.)

Yet looking at the maps on a month-by-month basis gives us some sense of how the pattern of killing ramped up over time. Again, it bears emphasizing, these are not "live" maps of killing: we don't know when prisoners were kidnapped and taken to Pul-i Khumri. The maps only tell us about the origins of prisoners who were killed in given months.

That said, we see in the first monthly map to the right - covering April 1979 - that the killing initially covered a wide swath of locations. The KhAD had, after all, already been in operation for more than a year, and obviously had the capability of plucking Afghans from areas far away from the capital. Note, too, the relative lack of representation for Ghazni and Logar Provinces (to the southwest and southeast of the capital), even though people from those provinces will soon be murdered, too.

May 1979 Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of those murdered in May 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.

 

 

This picture becomes more "concentrated" in May of the same year, as the killing in the north becomes more confined to Pul-i Khumri (the city where Jabaar, the man interviewed, was from). The core geography of the killing begins to become more consolidated at this point, generally restricted to about a dozen sites - Behsud, Ghazni, Moqor, Jalalabad - within reach of the capital.

June 1979 Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of those murdered in June 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.

 

With some of the largest mass killings taking place in June, the intensity of the map changes around Kabul. Not only that, many of the prisoners presumably recently abducted from Ghazni are killed in this month, as the city (the red splotch to the south of Kabul) lights up during this month.

Further to the west, we see that Ghor Province (initially targeted lightly) begins to become a site of origin for more of those murdered in spite of its relative inaccesibility.

At the same time, an uptick in killing of people from remote mountainous Badakhshan province, in northwestern Afghanistan, begins to register.

July 1979 Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of those murdered in July 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.

 

 

July marks a lense intense month of killing than June, although the basic topography remains the same. Note the urban nature of the killing: most victims are from either the capital or Ghazni. July also marks the first month in the Death Lists that the KhAD engages in killings of non-Afghan citizens, evidenced by the pale green around Peshawar (either listed directly in the lists or used in my geocoding as a proxy for "Pashtunistan" or "Free Frontier Area").

August 1979 Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of those murdered in August 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.

 

 

This pattern largely continues into August.

September 1979 Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of those murdered in September 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.

 

Killing picks up again at the rural level (notice the increase in yellow between Kabul and Ghazni) in September 1979, the last month of Assadullah Sarwari's command of the KhAD. By the end of the month, Sarwari will be hiding in the Soviet Embassy as Hafizullah Amin's brother takes over the security service.

November 1979 Heat Map

Heat map of places of origin of those murdered on November 28, 1979. Produced through Afghan Death Lists and Google Fusion Tables.

 

The data for the final recorded day of killing (and the only date in November): note how the killing around Ghazni has subsided, even though the basic topography of killing - centered around Kabul with continuous attention devoted to Ghor Province and selected cities and towns in the north - remains consistent.

Reign of Terror
Topography of Terror