Tyranny in Afghanistan
Living in the United States, there's much
we take for granted, like not having a government run by a reactionary,
right-wing, overly religious
fanatic bent on forcing his beliefs on
the rest of the nation.
Not quite, anyway.
There are other places in the world, though,
where they do have such wonderful people in charge -- places like Afghanistan.
The Taliban of Afghanistan is a fundamentalist
militia bent on securing the country for its version of traditional Islam,
regardless of whether
the rest of the country wants it or not.
So far, it has managed to alienate most
of the world with a comprehensive program whose goal seems to be to make
Afghanistan the most
backward, fundamentalist nation on the
It started with a program requiring all
non-Muslims in the country to wear yellow badges, a move many found reminiscent
of the treatment
of Jews in Nazi Germany. Then came the
destruction of some of the nation's greatest treasures: giant statues of
This move was followed by Afghanistan's
harboring of Osama bin Laden, a terrorist from Saudi Arabia accused by
the U.S. government of
planning several bombings and suspected
of being involved in the bombing of the USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000.
As if that weren't enough, the Taliban
proceeded to systematically lower the status of females. Women were forbidden
to drive or ride in
taxis alone, leave the house without a
male escort, work or attend Afghan universities. Women are also required
to wear the burqa, a large
piece of cloth that covers the woman head
to toe, allowing no part of her to be seen. (For more information on the
plight of women in
Afghanistan, see the Revolutionary Association
of the Women of Afghanistan's Web page at www.rawa.org.)
The Taliban's ferocious advocacy of Islam
has resulted in restrictions on foreigners, forbidding them to drink alcohol,
eat pork, listen to
loud music or have "inappropriate contact"
with members of the opposite sex. They are also banned from discussing
information about other religions.
In early August, eight workers for Shelter
Now, a German-based Christian aid group, were arrested for promoting Christianity,
punishable by death. The workers were
kept in seclusion and prohibited from contact with representatives of their
governments or any
international non-governmental organizations
until Sunday, when the Red Cross was allowed to visit them.
Also this weekend, the Taliban's ministry
for the promotion of virtue and the suppression of vice -- more frequently
known as the religious
police -- forbade the nation access to
This isn't a change that affects many.
Only a small portion of the Afghani population has access to telephones,
let alone Internet service
providers -- usually located across the
border in Pakistan -- so the ban may not seem to make too much of a difference.
However, in a state of heavily controlled
domestic media, the Internet was the last outside source for many to get
the truth in their news instead of state
The Taliban hasn't released any information
about the reason for the ban, which really isn't very surprising as, "we
want to make sure no
one learns the truth about the rest of
the world enjoying freedoms we deny to this country," probably wouldn't
be too popular a
I'm not sure if it's just that I hadn't
noticed these things in the past, but it seems like there's been an upswing
recently in governments using
beliefs that are far from universal in
order to legislate whatever they like. There's also a marked tendency to
ignore the consequences.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations
on earth, and the Taliban's restrictions on non-governmental organizations
are making it more
and more difficult for them to provide
aid in the form of food for the starving -- of which there are a lot --
and disease relief.
The rampant misogyny of the regime is having
its effects, too. Suicide, drug use and depression are at all-time highs
in the country, with
many women who formerly had high-paying
jobs now forced to remain in their homes and watch their families go hungry
education and training goes to waste.
The Taliban's accomplishments, such as
they are -- increased religious sentiment and a mostly successful war on
drugs -- hardly
outweigh the enormous problems the country
is facing. But in the blindness of any government bent on achieving an
agenda rather than
actually taking care of its citizens,
it is ignoring the negative consequences and the censure of most world
I'm just glad we don't have to worry about
these things in America.