Taliban's whipping of Ghor couple reminds of atrocities

The February incident provides more evidence that the Taliban's attitude remains harsh and hasn't changed, analysts say.

By Hasan Khan


KABUL – The Afghan Taliban's reported whipping of a young couple in Ghor Province February 15 has elicited memories of some of the horrors associated with the Taliban's reign (1996-2001) over Afghanistan, say analysts and political observers.

A Ghor Province couple reportedly were whipped for having an illegal relationship – the man 27 times in front of a local mosque and the woman 27 times in her home before she was expelled from the province.

The Taliban's reign in Afghanistan was marked by beheadings, amputations and public floggings at football stadiums. Many are terming the recent whipping as "only the tip of the iceberg" – saying violence and humiliation of ordinary Afghans at the hands of militants are a matter of routine in areas under insurgent influence.

"Whipping is a minor punishment compared to the atrocities and humiliations the Afghans suffered during the Taliban years," Zia Bomya, an Afghan analyst and president of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) Afghan chapter, told Central Asia Online. "I can still visualise the scenes of cutting off of heads and chopping off of hands by the Taliban moral police at the football stadium (in Kabul)."

Some supposed "offenders" were forced to stand under mud walls that the Taliban would then let collapse on them, he said. "This [burying alive] was the sentence for those accused of immoral acts with males," Bomya said.

Afghan women suffered most during Taliban rule, Habibi Naibi, a former parliamentarian and women's rights activist from northern Afghanistan, said.

"The Taliban philosophy of life and religion is woven around women," Naibi told Central Asia Online. "Women were just commodities – beaten or even killed for sport by the Taliban."

During the Taliban's reign, stadiums and public parks served as sites for thousands of spectators to watch executions and amputations, Naibi recalled.

Change in Taliban approach called unlikely

Afghans are largely sceptical that the Taliban will turn a new leaf if they ever regain power. Taliban insurgents still harbour a village tribal mentality, Shahnawaz Tanai, a formerr Afghan defence minister, said.

"I don't see any change in [the Taliban belief] in violence as a tool for promoting ideology," Tanai told Central Asia Online.

"People believing the Taliban will change their policy and approach are living in a fool's paradise," said Juma Khan Sufi, a Kabul based professor and author of several books on Afghanistan.

"The media reports suggesting that the Taliban have realised their mistakes and will not repeat the same in the future are misleading," Sufi told Central Asia Online. Bomya agreed.

"The Taliban are still pursuing the same policies," he said. "The Ghor incident is just the tip of an iceberg."

"People are suffering more violence in areas where the Taliban have some control," he said. "They [the Taliban] do not believe in rule of law, the constitution or in a formal governance system."

Brutality remains a Taliban trademark

Violence and terror are trademarks of the Taliban, Bomya said. "The Taliban know better than us that if they accept rule of law and the constitution, they will lose – even the group will disperse," he said.

"They are using violence as a tool of suppression," Sufi said. "If they discard violence, then no one will be left in the group; … it will vanish and the Taliban leadership knows this fact."

Afghans have a history of internecine wars and ethnic conflicts; however, the reign of the Taliban marked a national nadir of making violence a state policy, Sufi explained, citing the beheadings, live burials and amputations perpetrated by the Taliban during their rule.

The Taliban have learned nothing from the past and harbour the same approach to society and religion that they have always had, Dr. Atta Ullah, an Afghan professor teaching Islamic studies at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, told Central Asia Online.

They had control over almost 95% of the country and had only a small opposition in the north, he said, but they still failed to win public trust and sustain their rule because of the violence and humiliation, which created an environment of fear.

"The Taliban need to understand that their policy of violence is not sustainable," he said. "They have to change if they want to be accepted by the people."

However, change seems "unlikely," he said, because "every Talib believes the implementation of Islam is in his capacity and that the use of force for such an act is permissible in Islam."

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