When the Taliban (or “Students of Islamic Knowledge Movement”) came to power in 1996, Afghanistan was perhaps the poorest and most miserable country on earth. War against the Soviet occupiers during the 1980s hadbeen followed by years of civil war between warlords. Large parts of the major cities (Kabal and Kandahar) were rubble. Roads between major cities were rutted trails. Vital irrigations systems were destroyed. There were literally millions of landmines buried in roads and fields through the country …
Infant morality was the worst in the world
Afhganistan: 163 deaths per 1000 births
Developing world as a whole: 70 per 1000
Percentage of children who died before their 5th birthday was 10x the level of the rest of the 3rd world.
Developing world as a whole: 2 1/2%
A staggering 1700 mothers out of 100,000 died giving birth.
Afghanistan: 43-44 years
Developing world as a whole: 61 years
Population with “access to health care”…
Developing world as a whole: 80%
Population with “access to safe water”
Developing world as a whole: 70%
Children died of simple, preventable diseases like measles and diarrhoea because there was no health facilities and no clean water.
(source: UNCP Country Development Indicators, 1995)
So what were the Taliban’s priorities in this situation?
What did they get to work on after they came to power in Kabul?
Here’s one of their first edicts, a proclamation of
“General Presidency of Amr Bil Maruf.
Kabul December 1996″
[translated from Dari to English by the Taliban.]
To prevent sedition and female uncovers (Be Hejabi). No drivers are allowed to pick up women who are using Iranian burqa. In case of violation the driver will be imprisoned. If such kind of female are observed in the street their house will be found and their husband punished. If the women use stimulating and attractive cloth and there is no accompany of close male relative with the, the drivers should not pick them up.
To prevent music. To be broadcasted by the public information resources. In shops, hotels, vehicles and rickshaws cassettes and music are prohibited. This matter should be monitored within five days. If any music cassette found in a shop, the shopkeeper should be imprisoned and the shop locked. If five people guarantee the shop should be opened the criminal released later. If cassette found in the vehicle, the vehicle and the driver will be imprisoned. If five people guarantee the vehicle will be released and the criminal released later.
To prevent beard shaving and its cutting. After one and a half months if anyone observed who has shaved and/or cut his beard, they should be arrested and imprisoned until their beard gets bushy.
To prevent keeping pigeons and playing with birds. Within ten days this habit/hobby should stop. After ten days this should be monitored and the pigeons and any other playing birds should be killed.
To prevent kite-flying. The kite shops in the city should be abolished.
To prevent idolatory [sic]. In vehicles, shops, hotels, room and any other place pictures/portraits should be abolished. The monitors should tear up all pictures in the above places.
To prevent gambling. In collaboration with the security police the main centers should be found and the gamblers imprisoned for one month.
To eradicate the use of addiction. Addicts should be imprisoned and investigation made to find the supplier and the shop. The shop should be locked and the owner and user should be imprisoned and punished.
To prevent the British and American hairstyles. People with long hair should be arrested and taken to the Religious Police department to shave their hair. The criminal has to pay the barber.
To prevent interest on loans, charge on changing small denomination notes and charge on money orders. All money exchangers should be informed that the above three types of exchanging the money should be prohibited. In case of violation criminals will be imprisoned for a long time.
To prevent washing cloth by young ladies along with water streams in the city. Violator ladies should be picked up with respectful Islamic manner, taken to their houses and their husbands severely punished.
To prevent music and dances in wedding parties. In the case of violation the head of the family will be arrested and punished.
To prevent the playing of music drum. The prohibition of this should be announced. If anybody does this then the religious elders can decide about it.
To prevent sewing ladies cloth and taking female body measures by tailor. If women or fashion magazines are seen in the shop the tailor should be imprisoned.
To prevent sorcery. All the related books should be burnt and the magicians should be imprisoned until his repentance.
To prevent not praying and order gathering pray at the bazaar. Prayer should be done on their due times in all districts. Transportation should be strictly prohibited and all people are obliged to go to the mosque. If young people are seen in the shops they will be immediately imprisoned.
“Most Afghans felt demoralized by the fact that the Islamic world declined to take up the talk of condemning the Taliban’s extremism. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states have never issued a single statement on the need for women’s education or human rights in Afghanistan.”
(Ahmed Rashid in his book Taliban : Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia) http://gemsofislamism.tripod.com/