I think this list needs a preface:
In late 2001, much of the world began to focus on the long-neglected Afghanistan. Due to accusations made by the US government of harboring terrorists and
Operation Infinite Justice Operation Enduring Freedom, people began to turn to any news source to glean more information about the war-torn country as well as the Taliban government that was in power.
George W. Bush called the Taliban "brutal" and many reporters and lay-people decided to research more on the Taliban to back up the assertion. A good reporter can't just call it brutal and not say more. Visiting Afghanistan and witnessing the situation directly was too complicated, so everyone relied on word of mouth, or reports back from the Soviet Invasion of the 80's, or reports by foreign correspondents, though not all of them were particularly trustworthy. (Al-Jazeera's Afghanistan bureau was pretty much the first thing bombed by US forces, so press coverage of the 2001 invasion was almost entirely by non-native reporters.)
People did jump to some insane conclusions as to the status of Afghanis living in Afghanistan and under the rule of the Taliban. Commentator Andy Rooney once remarked on the news show 60 Minutes that most Afghanis were so poor that they didn't have doors on their houses. I know that he didn't see it personally, so where did he come up with that purported "fact"?
The point I am trying to make is that the Taliban were accused of being a brutal, fundamentalist/wahhabi/deobandi/male-dominated/terrorist regime, so all sorts of supposed "bans" were reported by Western media. One newspaper reported on it, and others spread it, by citing it without verifying it on their own (how could they?). USAToday had an article saying that the Hindustan times reported that the Taliban banned foo, etc. Eventually, it becomes gospel. This didn't all happen after September 11, but the problem had been building up throughout the 90's. Today, a news search will turn up newspaper articles through the late 90's describing the harsh life in Afghanistan. If any of it was exaggerated, it can't be easily verified, especially by a media source that doesn't have foreign correspondents. For instance, if I told you that in my career as a comedian I had entertained royalty in Europe, there is no way for you to check that claim.
The Taliban have been accused of:
- Banning all paper bags, with the death penalty for possession
The stated reason is that the recycled paper used to make the bags could come from the Qur'an. The Associated Press reported that it was banned in Kabul, but only quotes an anonymous "official." (http://126.96.36.199/Met63.htm) It doesn't say anything about the bag situation, other than that they were banned. Where? Kabul or nationwide? Why? Could this be in response to an actual case? Was it temporary, like other edicts? If I imported paper bags, could I skirt the prohibition? The article is dated 1997, how come it was not mentioned or reported anywhere else? This just goes against common sense. Every Muslim I've proposed this accusation to has burst out laughing, even Afghanis.
- Imposing severe punishments for teaching women literally anything
Untrue. The Taliban banned co-education schools with mixed sexes. First off, Islam is very strongly in favor of education, where each individual, man and woman, are required to learn to read. I would imagine that the Taliban wouldn't forego such a critical part of Islam, considering how strict everyone makes them out to be. There's a hadith ""Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female)." There are also other hadith that specifically say to teach women and children.
There appears to be evidence contradicting many of these claims. I have heard through the grapevine that Pakistan sent many female teachers with their husbands into Afghanistan to teach in women, as the Taliban wanted to segregate the schools by gender. Also, there was a report that Kabul had 5 female schools.
Yvonne Ridley, a notable British journalist who was captured by the Taliban then released (and later accepted Islam on her own in the UK), has said in her speeches that the women she encountered there weren't weak. She interviewed a woman who was in the country's medical school before it closed, and her brother went to the same school as well before it closed. It didn't become male-only, the conditions in the country forced it to close its doors to everyone.
I found this report online (http://www.muslimthai.com/talibanonline/text/taliban/miscon.htm#GirlSchool) attributed to a Swedish NGO, dating apparently during the Taliban's time:
Despite the limited economic resources of the Islâmic Emirate of Afghanistan to fund educational institutes, universities in Qandahar, Kabul and Nangrahar provinces are operating as usual. Several NGOs have been allowed to fund schools in Afghanistan, besides the schools funded by the government. Contrary to reports about girls education in the press, the figures obtained from the education sector in Afghanistan, reveal that girls education in rural Afghanistan is increasing. According to a survey conducted by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), almost 80 per cent of the girls schools located in rural areas under the administration of the Islâmic Emirate of Afghanistan are operating in full swing. Ms. Pia Karlsson, education advisor at the Education Technical Support Unit (ETSU) of SCA, said in a recent interview published by the Frontier Post, a Peshawar based English daily that only in Ghazni province, where the Islâmic Emirate under the leadership of TIMA has control for the last two years, approximately 85 per cent of the girls are still in schools. Ms. Karlsson says, "The picture outside the cities is totally different."
The SCA which has been supporting elementary education in Afghanistan since 1984, currently supports 422 boys schools, 125 girls schools and 897 mixed schools (co-education) in the forms of primary schools and home schools. During the survey, she concentrated on 100 SCA supported girls schools in the nine provinces: Kabul, Kunar, Laghman, Ningarhar, Ghzani, Logar, Paktika, Paktya and Wardak. All these provinces are under the administration of the Islâmic Emirate of Afghanistan. According to the survey, female attendance was at 94 per cent and of the 7834 girls enrolled, 7341 were found present. More significantly, at least 170 female teachers were found teaching in these schools. Similarly, in Kunduz province, 122 schools are operating with 390 female teachers teaching at the schools. The Islâmic Emirate is ready to open girls and boys schools with appropriate foreign assistance. and in Kandahar. there are more girls students studying in the faculty of medical sciences than boys are.
Contact: Information Unit, Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, GPO Box 689 Peshawar, Pakistan
- banning all female schools, including female-only schools
The Taliban did have schools that exist even now, but the problem is the resources. They could not expand these programs. Before their government, numerous curriculums were going on. There were curriculums that preached for the kings, replaced by curriculums that preached for the communists, and then curriculums from all the seven parties. The Taliban started to unify the curriculum, but their country was still poor. The Shuhada Organization enrolled more than 14,000 students at 28 schools for the 2000 Academic school year. About 1/3 of the students were female. The fact that they could do it in numerous districts does say that this couldn't have been a nationwide ban, if there was one at all.
- banning women from picnic spots or tourist attractions
Tourist attractions? Afghanistan really is a beautiful country, but I'm hard-pressed to think of what counts as a "tourist attraction." Maybe one of those international hotels, but who knows.
- banning women from working
CNN and BBC gave headlines about women not allowed to work, go to schools or even go out of their houses. This was true only temporarily directly after the war. Women are allowed to work and to go to school since 1997, this was true only for a few months following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in September 1996. There is corroborating proof, there are news articles that said Afghan women were working in UN relief agencies inside Afghanistan, after the ban was rescinded (and some articles saying it wasn't a smooth process, not everyone approved I guess). The Taliban did stop the sale of women, which was a cultural practice before their time in power.
Health facilities for women had increased 200% during Taliban administration. Prior to the Taliban Islâmic Movement's taking control of Kabul, there were 350 beds in all hospitals in Kabul. Pre-9/11, there were more than 950 beds for women in exclusive women's hospitals. Some hospitals which have specifically been allocated to women include Rabia Balkhi Hospital, Malali Hospital, Khair Khana Hospital, Indira Gandhi Child Health Hospital, Atta Turk Hospital, Kuwait Red Crescent Hospital, Contagious Disease Hospital and T.B. Hospital. Moreover, there are 32 mother and child health clinics. In addition to this, women receive treatment at ICRC and the Sandy Gal Orthopaedic Centers. In all these hospitals and clinics, women work as doctors and nurses to provide health services to female patients.
True, women were not working in the ministry of defense, like other countries. But they did work (I don't know about now, the NA is another matter). They worked in the Ministry of Health, Interior, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Affairs, and so on.
- Banning all profanity, with death penalty by stoning if caught
- This was in the review of the movie Osama. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/27/movies/27DVD.html?8dpc I'm unable to verify the claim
- Banning women for showing ankles (punished by whipping)
- Banning women from laughing loudly
- Banning women from wearing high-heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking.
- Banning women from riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with relatives or husbands.
- Banning women from gathering for festive occasions such as holidays, or for any recreational purposes
- Banning women from wearing nail polish.
From what I hear, some conservative Muslims believe you cannot make wudu(ablution) properly before prayer if you have nail polish on, as you can't wash under it. However, nobody goes as far as to say its forbidden, as there are times when it's allowed even under the above circumstances. A proper Muslim jurist is extremely careful when dealing with the issue of whether something is forbidden or not; falsely calling something forbidden is definately sinful. I can't deny this one entirely, but it seems pretty implausible, and falls under the same questions: who allegedly banned it, where, and when?
- Banning women from washing clothes next to rivers
- Yvonne Ridley was a guest speaker at a local fundraiser here, she said (and told BBC in 2001) that the prison official had to call in the Taliban deputy foreign minister whe she refused to take her laundry down from the clothesline which was in view of the soldiers. He tried to ask her to at least take the underwear down. "He said, 'Look, if they see those things they will have impure thoughts'...Afghanistan was about to be bombed by the world superopower and all they were concerned about was my big, flappy, black knickers." My assumption is that it's unseeming to have such things in plain sight, not that women can't wash their clothes in a river. I don't see any evidence that this was codified law, it could have just been manners. I'm not sure if its related, but Saudi Arabia blocks public ads of women, yet its malls have risqué female underwear in the storefront windows.
- Modification of all place names including the word "women." For example, "women's garden" has been renamed "spring garden".
- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes.
I think this was more likely to have been a suggestion, I don't see any quote by a government official, nor any official date of issue. One Feminist article says they had to paint the windows black. Even the US State Department mentioned it in a briefing (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/6185.htm). The Associated Press reported that it was only a suggestion by a Taliban member to paint the windows over to stop snooping, however, other sources reported it as if it was a major crime not to do so. As my Afghani friend said to me when I asked him, "You think Afghanis don't have curtains?" Well, every Afghan family I've visited owned curtains.
- Banning women from wearing flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.
- banning leather jackets
Noted in http://www.animalrights.net/articles/1999/000093.html Why? This makes no sense. What's wrong with leather? Maybe the reporter confused them with Hindus. There is no reason to ban leather jackets when in any Muslim country you'll find leather socks (khuffs) to be extremely popular.
- banning white socks
Noted in the novel The World's Most Dangerous Places, also at http://www.comebackalive.com/df/dplaces/afghanis/index.htm Why? This also makes no sense. Even the most right-wing Muslims I can think of wouldn't say that white socks should be forbidden. White (ie. clean) socks are encouraged everywhere else I've seen, and Muslims like to wear white. This sounds like plain propaganda to add interest to an otherwise boring story.
- banning all sports played between late afternoon and evening to avoid disturbing prayers
That doesn't make any sense either. Have these "reporters" ever met Muslims? Not even Mecca does that. My guess is that a local imam may have said it, but that doesn't mean the entire Taliban did. It sounds like an isolated incident. Why should I have to disprove this, if I can't find proof of it? I found one link ( http://rawa.fancymarketing.net/sports.htm), but I don't recognize the News outlet. Anyone?
- banning all foreign currency
I don't recall where I heard that one, but an online Pakistani newspaper reported in 2000 that the Pakistani rupee was worth far more than Afghani currency, and that it was accepted in a lot of places over the Afghani. Interestingly, one of the reasons cited in the article was the US sanctions on Afghanistan, which allegedly damaged the economy worse. (http://www.institute-for-afghan-studies.org/ECONOMY/Rupee%20replacing%20Afghani%20in%20its%20hometown.htm)
- Banning all film and talking pictures
- Banned TV and VCRs
- Ordered that all people with non-Islamic names change them to Islamic ones.
Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, which has its own Deobandi followers and Taliban sympathizers, has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever made any laws or demands like this one. It doesn't sound legit, I mean, I could point out many cases of the sahabas not changing names
- Ordered that men wear Islamic clothes and a cap.
- Forced all men (including non-Muslim) to wear beards
- Ordered that all people attend prayers in mosques five times daily.
- Banning the keeping of pigeons and playing with the birds, describing it as un-Islamic. The violators will be imprisoned and the birds shall be killed.
- Forcing Hindus to wear Hindu ID patches on their clothing
Hindus that wanted to continue to drink alcohol, smoke and shave their beards or not wear a headscarf, etc. didn't want to be disturbed by the Afghan police. Their solution was to carry around and show ID that showed they weren't Muslim, and thus exempt. I can find no evidence or article that directly says they were forced to wear such ID, although it was suggested (by who?). Even Saudi Arabia doesn't have such a policy, the worst they do is make a notation on your driver's license.
- Ordered that all boy students must wear turbans. They say "No turban, no education".
Well, all the photos I've seen of Afghanistan have children wearing kufis or caps. Come to think of it, I've never seen any children wear a turban. I think we can bust this myth.
- Banning kite flying
I'm receiving reports now that kite flying was banned because there was an Afghan custom of 4-player kite-fighting with glass on the strings of giant kites; you cut your opponent's string to win. This was often gambled on, so kite flying was banned as a result. As a possible alternative explanation, Pakistan was considering forbidding kite flying because it was considered to be a copy of the Hindu kite festivals.
- Banned celebrating the Shia new year
The Taliban supposedly banned the celebrations, on the grounds that it has a Zoroastrian origin, based on fire-worship and therefore alien to Islam. The Taliban followed the Deobandi school of thought, so they didn't do many things that Shias do. The article I discovered this in (Bangkok Post, March 24, 2001), was only an editorial, and a biased one at that. No information nor quotations or source. I'm searching further back for corroborating information.
- Banning all English language classes
This I have no idea or proof about. A Pakistani informed me that the resources for english classes may have gone back into teaching and setting up schools for the existing afghani framework. Remember nearly three generations had been without proper schools. The Taliban were trying to fast track a lot of people to fill posts inthe new more organized Afghanistan they were making. This is of course assuming that the classes were banned. Perhaps Kabul University stopped offering the class, that wouldn't exactly be making English illegal.
- Banning the display of any drawings or sculptures of living things at workplaces
This makes sense in light of Islam's prohibition on graven images; You can't pray in a room with drawings or paintings of humans or animals. There is a similar prohibition in Judaism, I believe the biblical phrase is "graven images." Most Muslims I know don't have anything like that aside from photos, and they keep them elsewhere. You wouln't want to pray in front of a photograph of someone, it could distract your prayer. Also, Muslims believe that angels won't come into those rooms.
Look at this list, does any of this sound realistic? Now come on, do you really think the Taliban would ban paper bags? Why? Also, why should I trust an Indian newspaper that drops an unsubstantiated "fact" like that in an editorial? Or a radical dissident group that were nobodies until 2001? I don't trust it. The Taliban supposedly were a harsh regime, but claimed to do it because of their (i.e. not everyone's) interpretation of Islamic law. How come no other so-called "Islamic" countries have done the same? I don't see Saudi Arabia banning kite flying, or Pakistan banning English classes, or Malaysia banning leather jackets. Why aren't there protests in the streets in Indonesia to stop women from riding bicycles?
These charges make no sense. If I heard on Al-Jazeera that Americans banned all shoes in public, should I just believe it? Logic and common sense tells me that it can't be true.
Some of these could possibly be exaggerations. Very few say that the Taliban's Radio Shariat reported these bans, so it is conceivable that a few of these have some truth to them. For example, some of these report that a specific province banned this activity. Perhaps they do apply to a small locale, and were laws created by a local governor. Somehow, the Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar get the blame for what local governors did, which may or may not be fair. Case in point:A mayor in Florida has officially banned Satan from the town, but you cannot go and hold George W. Bush accountable for that. Afghanistan was a pretty unstable country, it appears that rural and city laws and enforcement were two entirely different situations.
It appears all of these accusations can be rebutted by reporter's accounts and sound logic.
My (mr100percent's) opinion is simple: I don't believe any of the stuff on this list is true. They're just too outrageous. IF any of those things did happen, I would be the first to speak out and say how wrong that is, and back up my reasoning with secular and religious references. Note that I don't support oppression, but I don't believe these accusations of oppression that I have listed above.
Things the Taliban supposedly banned for Good reasons:
- The Taliban banned Opium
The Taliban stopped the opium production of 4,000 tons a year 75% of the worlds supply - Opium production requires much less water than other crops do so in Afghanistan, (a country with severe drought and with the threat of cross pollination with biogenetically engineered crops from neighboring Pakistan that could result in terminator seeds or crops demanding even more than average amounts of water). The Taliban banned and burned production, skyrocketing the street price of Heroin from $55 per kilogram to $500. They got millions of dollars in US aid for it.
- Banned the use of Land Mines in their fight against rebel factions and the Northern Alliance.
- Banned prostitution
There were reported to be 41 brothels in Kabul. The Taliban closed all of them. Interestingly, the feminist organization NOW accuses the Taliban of frequenting them, as well as them being run by educated women. It sounds like an exaggeration to me.
- Banned the sale of women
Before the Taliban came to power, women were powerless. Due to cultural practices by some or just unscrupulous actions by unscrupulus characters, they were sold for money. They had no say in who they could marry, and some say that the situation hasn't improved much today. Another thing that used to happen in Afghanistan was women were exchanged as gifts. Of course, this was not something religious; this was something cultural. When two fighting tribes wanted reconciliation, they would exchange women. And this has been stopped. The Taliban stopped the sale of women, and tried to get rid of many pre-Islamic practices that had lingered despite the people being Muslim for centuries. Some critics asserted that the polices were chauvinistic, and treated women like the weaker gender, but one must remember the fact that kidnap as well as rape were (and still are) serious issues that go unreported. News accounts by some actually state that those are on the rise now that the Taliban are gone and the countryside is unstable.
Various online outlets, and many varied international newspapers
If you do find evidence to the contrary, please /msg me and I will both correct this and stand corrected.