A month and a half after the unforeseen rise to power of the Taliban, the newly established government has formed its cabinet and is now trying to exert control on the country. Global leaders are observing the Islamic militia’s political leadership to define whether they will keep their promises of creating a peaceful and representative order for Afghanistan. Indeed, after conquering Kabul and progressing through the rest of the country, the Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had guaranteed that the group was “working to establish an inclusive government that represents all the people of Afghanistan”. According to the Taliban spokesperson, the current Islamic authority “would like to live peacefully”. However, the reality seems to be far away from the rulers’ words. Since having established their rule on the 15th of August, the Taliban have threatened and attacked journalists, banned women from playing sports, and, forbid unofficial protests. Moreover, gruesome practices the state had abandoned – such as executions and punishments – are now resuming, further confirming that the Taliban may not have changed that much compared to 20 years ago. As the regime is still organizing itself, the international community is carefully observing the Islamic Emirate's actions to understand how to establish potential future relations. Indeed, the American administration has indicated that the recognition of the Taliban-led government could be conceivable only if it abides according to human rights.
The Taliban seem to have re-established their forceful mindset and methods to the population. One of the most recent clues of this is the arrest and beating of two Afghani journalists who were covering the women’s demonstration in Herat. This event is part of a wider attack on the country’s press and media. On the 17th of August, a spokesman of the Islamic group, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that “(P)rivate media can continue to be free and independent; they can continue their activities … Impartiality of the media is very important. They can critique our work so that we can improve”. However, the tolerant words were soon to be forgotten when on the 19th of September, the Taliban imposed strict limitations on the press by introducing a rule to restrict free speech. According to the International Federation of Journalists, these bans enforce a limit to the freedom of speech and “forbid journalists and media organisations from publishing or broadcasting stories ‘contrary to Islam’, insulting national figures or violating privacy”.
To further establish their grip on the population and face the ongoing protests, the Taliban have announced that any demonstration that has not been officially approved would be banned. They also added that those who might try to oppose the decision will face “severe legal consequences”. Moreover, women too have been targeted by the new draconian rules. Indeed, according to the organization Human Rights Watch, the Islamic fighters have been “searching out high-profile women; denying women freedom of movement outside their homes; imposing compulsory dress codes; severely curtailing access to employment and education; and restricting the right to peaceful assembly”. Females have been prohibited from playing sports on the grounds that these could lead them to situations that would get them “exposed” and therefore, in opposition to the group’s interpretation of Islam.
However, the international community’ fear is mounting with the declaration of Mullah Nooruddin Turabi - the Taliban's chief of prisons and a member of the government’s cabinet. Indeed, he recently announced that executions and punishment will resume. Turabi has affirmed that the Emirate will bring back these practices that were commonly used in the 1990s when the Taliban first ruled Afghanistan. According to the leader, “(C)utting off of hands is very necessary for security”. He dismissed international opposition to this decision by affirming that “(E)veryone criticised us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments” and that “(N)o one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Qur’an”. He concluded by asserting that the Taliban “will bring peace and stability. Once we introduce our rules, no one will dare to break them”.
The resuming of this method of justice has generated mixed feelings in the population, leaving some people scared of these punishments and others approving the militia’s actions. For example, before the group was even able to take control of Afghanistan, a Taliban judge openly professed his support for the fighters, inasmuch as their methods followed the literal interpretation of the Islamic religious laws.
Since their takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban have tried to persuade global leaders that they changed and are trying to reorganize the country peacefully. It could be argued that in some aspects they did alter their previous methods. However, not in a desirable way. For example, the journalist Kathy Gannon said that when interviewing the Taliban leader Turabi “(I)t was clear that he understood the value of photographs, the value of social media to get their message out. But I'm not sure the message itself has changed”.
As the Islamic group resumed their public punishments by executing four alleged kidnappers and exposed their hung bodies in the public square of Herat, international leaders condemned their actions. Ned Price, the United States State Department spokesperson, has commented on the punishments saying that they “would constitute clear gross abuses of human rights”. Moving forward, it is safe to say that only by upholding human rights the new Taliban-led government will have a chance of establishing relations with international governments and therefore, become a politically recognized entity.
Written by Cinzia Saro
Cinzia Saro is a columnist at DecipherGrey.