"When it is the time of conflict, everyone dies, it doesn't matter if you have guns or not. It is the time of war." - The Taliban.
The world has seen the most decent and the awful of Homo Sapiens. Be it the advancement in the field of technology, science, or economics, humans have reached out to the moon and constantly strive higher every day. However, the spectrum has its deep ends unfolding every day projecting the lowest principles and ethics of the same advanced species. The persecution of minorities, deforestation, pollution, religious violence, rape, murder, and the list goes on. According to Hinduism, the present age Kali Yuga, also known as the “age of darkness” bystanders the atrocities of humans and the current news is justifying the Hindu belief. Among several such incidents, one cruelty that instills fear in humans is the Taliban. The tumbling down of the Afghan regime has led the wings of the Taliban to unfurl in Afghanistan again and the lives of the locals are revamped into a living agony. What horror lies ahead for the people of Afghanistan? Will history repeat itself under the brutality of the Taliban? Will the Taliban and their atrocities in the past pave its way to the future?
In late 1979, the Soviet Union intruded on Afghanistan and alleged its power as a pro-Soviet regime in the country. However, the Soviets were not entertained by the local guerilla fighters known as the Mujahideen and they declared a jihad against the communist rule of the Soviet Union. A pro-communist president, Mohammad Najibullah groomed by the Soviets was appointed in 1987. The forces of Mujahideen were backed mainly by the U.S. Government with modern missiles and guns to fight against the Soviet forces. The nine-year Soviet-Afghan war brought the country to ruins killing at least 1 million Afghan civilians and a million more fled to Pakistan and Iran. The mass destruction caused by the war and the Geneva peace treaty signed by Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, the U.S., and Pakistan demanded the Soviets to withdraw from the country in 1989. By 1991, the Soviet forces completely collapsed and withdrew from the country. However, the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan war was the emergence of the Taliban and the phase of civil war which buried the war-torn nation under irreparable damage.
The Civil war unrest: Post Soviet withdrawal, the Mujahideen forces attacked Kabul and looted the city. The pro-communist government leader Najibullah took shelter in the Kabul United Nations compound for four years. The mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar carried out brutal attacks on the religious minorities, national museums leaving the city in a pile of over 50,000 dead bodies. An interim government was set up with a rotation policy of power between the forces. However, even after the expiration of his two-year presidential term, Burhanuddin Rabbani refused to give up his position to his successor. As a consequence, Hekmatyar carried out rocket attacks on the capital and destroyed the city.
In response to this, a group of ultraconservative Afghan student-warriors known as the Taliban, in Pashto Ṭālebān emerged from the forces in 1994 led by a former Mujahideen fighter, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Employing students from Pakistan and Kandahar, the Taliban created an army to fight against the troops of Mujahideen and Rabbani’s government. In successfully conquering the province of Kandahar, the Taliban gained its importance by the Pakistan officials and were generously funded by the Saudi Arabia government. Several mujahideen defectors, students, and former communist fighters joined the organization and strengthened its power. Finally, the Taliban persuaded the Pashtuns and united them to fight against the Rabbani government. In September 1995, Herat, the third-largest city in Afghanistan fell under the control of the Taliban. Eventually, Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif were captured by the Taliban in 1996 and1998 respectively. The subsequent years saw the fall of many cities and by 2001, the Taliban’s power extended over 90% of the country. But the rise of the Taliban is inscribed in several inhuman and barbaric events which continue to haunt the past, present, and future of Afghanistan.
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The Taliban’s rule of Extremism: When the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan came to power in 1996, the Taliban initially promised a peaceful rule in the country. Backed mainly by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who foresaw a peaceful future in Afghanistan, the Taliban was supplied with fighters, ammunition, and funds from both countries. During their rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban carried out several atrocities across Afghanistan. Soon, strict Sharia rules were brought in place foreboding women from their basic rights of freedom. Military campaigns were launched to persecute Shi’ite Muslims in an attempt to restore the Pashtun dominance in the country. The Taliban-led government became a strong base for terrorism. In 1996, Najibullah was dragged out of the U.N. compound and executed publicly. Peace became a far-fetched hope in a country of turmoil and chaos.
The dreaded Sharia law: The first rule of the Taliban was the imposition of Sharia rule, Islam’s legal law which must be strictly adhered to by all the Muslims across Afghanistan. Under the law, crimes were divided into tazir and hadd. While tazir was presented in front of a judge, hadd was considered a serious crime with grave punishments. Furthermore, the harsh implementation of the Sharia questioned the modern rights and freedom of women. The last time the Taliban ruled, the Sharia law prevented women from going to work and were house arrested. Women had to wear a burqa and cover their faces in public places. They were not allowed to step outside their homes without a male companion. Further, high-heeled shoes were discouraged, girls over the age of 10 were restricted from attending schools, and public display of photographs of women was not allowed. The punishments that followed for breaking the rules were barbaric. Women were dragged to a city center and stoned to death. In one extreme case, a woman had her thumb cut off for wearing nail polish. The modern city of Kabul was hindered back a decade and the streets of Afghanistan wailed at the inhuman treatment of women by the Taliban.
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The blood of Hazara minority: The religious violence between the Shi’ite and Suni Muslims dates back to a century. During the reign of Emir Abdur Rahman Khan, the Hazaras were considered an outcast and were brutally murdered, erasing a staggering 60% of their population from the face of history. The Taliban walked in the path of the Emir and continued to persecute the Hazaras during and after their rule. In 1998, as revenge for the massacre of 3,000 Taliban prisoners during the Afghan Civil war, the Taliban entered the streets of Mazar-i-Sharif, home to the Hazaras, and fired at everything, killing men, women, children, and animals. 8,000 Hazara civilians were killed in Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan. They intimidated the Hazaras from burying the dead bodies, left them to wither in the summer heat, and were reportedly devoured by stray dogs. In another extremity, the Taliban either shot or slit the throats of the men of the house in front of their families by visiting every Hazara household. In the year 2000 and 2001 mass murders took place in Robatak Pass and Bamiyan territory killing 31 and 170 people respectively. Rockets were launched over a local mosque which provided shelter to women, children, and old people. The barbaric genocide in the name of ethnic cleansing left 20,000 Hazaras executed across the city. A recent report revealed that the Taliban murdered 9 Hazara men in July 2021 in the eastern Ghazni province. Six of them were shot in the face or head and three others were tortured to death. An eyewitness stated that they were strangled to death and their arms were sliced off. Such atrocities indicate the horror that may unfold under the Taliban's rule. Today, the Taliban has once again gained power over Afghanistan and the Hazaras fear the worst soon.
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The Bamiyan Buddhas ceased to exist: The tallest standing Buddhas came crumbling down when the Taliban demolished the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bamiyan in 2001. Bamiyan Valley, situated along the Silk Road, was a significant trade route for merchants, traders, and rulers. During the rapid spread of Buddhism in the 5th century, several stupas, monasteries, and the Bamiyan Buddhas were constructed to reflect faith. The 55 and 38 meters high-standing Buddhas were declared a cultural heritage site to be conserved. However, in February 2001, Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, announced the elimination of non-Islamic statues and idols across the country, and the Buddhas stood in their line of sight. Though opposed by world leaders and UNESCO, the Taliban used all the ammunition available at their disposal, rockets, missiles, and dynamites, to obliterate the statues. Today, the Buddhas of Bamiyan, an artifact from the past, are a pile of rocks and dust.
Image Credits: Google Images
Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks: On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, four airlines struck different parts of America. The world stood still when two of the California-based airlines were hijacked and flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. The 110-story building came crumbling down like a pack of cards in less than two hours. Another airline crashed into the West of the Pentagon in Virginia and the fourth flight crashed in an open field near Pennsylvania. The hijackers were the Al-Qaeda terrorists who worked under the author of the attack Osama Bin laden. Though Al-Qaeda was held accountable for the terrorist attack, the roots traced back to the Taliban. When Bin Laden was expelled from Sudan in 1996, the Taliban provided shelter and a haven for terrorism in Afghanistan. Muhammad Omar, the late Taliban leader hosted the organization and supported its plan to attack the World Trade Center in New York. However, when the U.S. Government ordered the extradition of Osama Bin Laden, Omar refused to give him up to the U.S. authorities and failed to comply with their demands. As a result, the U.S forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and ousted the Taliban from their power.
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Present Day: After 20 years, the U.S. government slowly pulled its troops out from Afghanistan leaving the country in a state of vulnerability under the hands of the Afghan government and forces. Looking at the opportunity, the Taliban made its move and captured key provinces and cities with a motive to gain control over the capital city Kabul. The clash between the Afghan forces and the Taliban led to the death of over 1000 civilians in July and August. On 15 August, the Taliban knocked at the gates of Kabul and captured the main city. Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan fled the country while the Afghan government collapsed. The country transformed into a state of anarchy, leaving thousands of desperate civilians trying to flee the country at the Kabul airport. Protests led by Afghan women erupted against the Taliban in several regions and Afghan flags were raised on the occasion of Afghanistan Independence Day. Anti-Taliban slogans were exclaimed, the Taliban flags were lowered to display resistance to the new Taliban government. However, the protests were violently dispersed by opening fire and leaving 3 dead. Another video was circulated where the police chief General Haji Mullah Achakzai was blindfolded and shot dead near Herat. The General had fought against the jihadist group and was recently captured and executed. Was this the public amnesty Taliban promised?
A door-to-door hunt has been conducted by the Taliban in search of journalists and murdered in cold blood. On August 16 July 2021, Photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was brutally murdered by the Taliban. Siddiqui was on an assignment in Afghanistan covering the conflict between Afghan security forces and Taliban forces. In another case, the Taliban has shot dead a family member of a DW journalist while searching. 2 female journalists were prohibited from anchoring in TV channels, and in their place, a Taliban-appointed newscaster relayed the information. The Taliban has turned the country into a graveyard for journalists and women.
Image Credits: stevemccurry.com
The future of the women of Afghanistan continues to deteriorate under the rule of the Taliban. The ads displaying the modernity of women are painted in white across the streets of the country. In a brutal attack in the Northern village, a woman Najia was killed for not abiding by the demands of the Taliban. Reportedly, Najia’s daughter Manizha said that her mother was ordered to cook for 15 Taliban fighters. When Najia pleaded that she was poor and couldn’t feed them, the Taliban beat her with AK47s and killed her. In another incident near Takhar province, a woman was killed for being out in public without covering her head. Salima Mazari, one of the first women governors of Afghanistan, also a Hazara Muslim was captured by the Taliban who claimed that they respected women's rights. Though she picked up her arms and put up a fight, the Taliban has imprisoned her. According to a recent report, an Afghan woman was set ablaze by the Taliban fighters for her cooking. The fighters are forcing civilians to cook food for them and when opposed or dissatisfied, they carry out a series of killings. The atrocities of the Taliban worsen by the day, subjecting women, children, and the ethnic minorities of Afghanistan to a dark fate.
“While the bullets flew, dead bodies rot, and fear spurred, the doors of Afghanistan closed with the cries of its people. The shackles are clenched in the tight grip of the Taliban as the world watches in silence”.
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