Monday, August 27, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 4


 
 









 

Tyranny in Afghanistan limits citizens

Shaun Salnave

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 planet.

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 the Buddha.

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 or distributing
information about other religions.

In early August, eight workers for Shelter Now, a German-based Christian aid group, were arrested for promoting Christianity, an offense
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 the Internet.

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 something approaching
the truth in their news instead of state propaganda.

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
rationalization.

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 while their
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 governments.

I'm just glad we don't have to worry about these things in America.

Salnave, a senior English and 
history major, can be reached at ssalnave@bayou.uh.edu.


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