Taliban Rule: Past and Present

By Sylvain Falquet | Contributing Writer

The new Taliban government arrives in Kabul. Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

After the whirlwind 10 day offensive and the subsequent collapse of the U.S backed Afghanistan government during this summer, the Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan. They have declared the country as an Islamic Emirate and subsequently formed an interim government. To understand how a Taliban government may look like, it may be helpful to give some background on the Taliban itself.

 The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s led to many refugees fleeing to neighboring Pakistan. Many children of these refugees attended Madrasas, ultra-conservative Islamic schools. Thus the group name “Taliban” meaning “student” in Pashto. In addition, most Taliban members are ethnically Pashtun, the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan alongside minorities such as Uzbeks, Hazaras, and Tajik. During the chaos in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban saw themselves as a group pushing for social order. In a situation reminiscent of recent events, the Taliban quickly overthrew the inept and corrupt government and established themselves in the capital of Kabul. 

During their rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban enforced a very conservative interpretation of Islamic law, known as Sharia Law. Morality police belonging to the Ministry of Vice and Virtue patrolled the streets of Kabul, beating anyone who violated such laws as playing foreign music or men’s beards being too short. The accused would then be tried by the religious Shariah Court system. Certain crimes faced even harsher punishments. Accused thieves would publicly have their hands and arms cut off in Kabul’s soccer stadium, while others accused of opposing Taliban rule would be beheaded, shot, or hung from goal posts. Women were forced to live under gender apartheid, completely separated from men and public life. Any infraction of these strict gender laws would result in beatings or death. Some of these laws included women being banned from attending school past the age of ten, not being allowed to go anywhere in public without a close male relative, and being forced to wear a traditional full-body covering called a burqa.

Image courtesy of BBC News.

As the Taliban once again begin their rule over the country, many Afghans today fear a return to the harsh rule of the 1990s. In the last 20 years, women have had greater access to education in Afghanistan and therefore more opportunities to participate in society and the economy. The Taliban seem to recognize the importance of appearing legitimate on the world stage since the group has tried to assure the global community that they will not resort to the old ways. Moreover, according to the BBC “The Taliban have said they will not prevent women from being educated or having jobs.”  Although there are still many questions on what the future of Afghanistan will look like, recent news appears to show a return to ultra-conservative rule. The Taliban announced several new rulings for the country since coming into power: 

-Male and female university students would be segregated, and a new Islamic-based curriculum would be taught separately to each. 

-Women have been encouraged to stay at home and away from work for supposed safety reasons since mid-August. 

-In a seemingly symbolic act, the Women’s Affairs Ministry was recently replaced by the infamous Ministry of Vice and Virtue. 

As many Afghans struggle to leave the country, the world will have to wait and see what the new government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will do concerning the rights of its own citizens. 

Sylvain Falquet is a junior and a contributing writer for The College Reporter. His email is: sfalquet@fandm.edu.

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