Mullah Nooruddin Turabi: Some Things Never Change in Afghanistan

Some things never change. That should become the slogan for the Taliban. In keeping with its tradition of cruelty and barbarism, the Taliban, now in control of Afghanistan, have announced they will resume with Sharia-inspired law tactics by enacting executions as well as amputations of hands when justified by their code. Despite overtures of fairness to include more Western elements of justice in their long-range strategic plans, the Taliban appear to be going “old school” with their use of violence and intimidation as a means of control, with Mullah Nooruddin Turabi at the helm.

Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, the new face of the Taliban

Turabi, who was justice minister and head of the “ministry of propagation of virtue and prevention of vice” (a spinoff of Miami Vice?) during the Taliban’s previous rule is now the head chief of prisons, a position of the highest esteem, I’m sure, though I hear their health benefits are skimpy.

The Taliban have drawn criticism for their public display of executions in the past, which sometimes took place in front of crowds at a stadium, according to NPR.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Turabi was defiant, stating, “Everyone criticised us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments. No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Qur’an” adding, “Cutting off of hands is very necessary for security.” Well, okay Mr. crankypants, does someone need a nap? 

Turabi also seems clear about the role of amputation, specifically hand cutting. As he told Al Jazeera, “People worry about some of our rules, for example cutting hands. But this is public demand. If you cut off a hand of a person, he will not commit the same crime again. People are now corrupt, extorting money from others, taking bribes.” Well, there’s no arguing that logic. I just hope Turabi doesn’t get too generous and offer any two-for deals. 

However, when it comes to overseeing these subtle acts of justice, Turabi does seem to have a soft spot for the newly emerging role of women in his country. As NPR reports, “Turabi said that this time, judges — including women — would adjudicate cases, but the foundation of Afghanistan’s laws will be the Quran.” You mean women now get to be in leadership roles as they help strip the rights and dignity of fellow women without any real due process? Wow, somebody contact NOW so they induct Turabi into an advocacy group for third-wave feminism!

It appears that the Taliban are off to a rousing start under the grizzled veteran’s leadership. Showing a softer, gentler side in their punishment, one that takes into account the “whole person,” the Taliban rounded up accused men, tied their hands, packed them into the back of a pickup truck, and  “paraded around to humiliate them” according to the Daily Mail.

And just for good measure, “In one case, their faces were painted to identify them as thieves. In the other, stale bread was hung from their necks or stuffed in their mouth. It wasn’t clear what their crimes were.” My guess is that they were probably hungry. I guess tough love is making a comeback in Afghanistan! My heart is all melty and stuff. 

And, in a nod to the 21st century, Mr. Turabi has announced a massive technology infrastructure plan by allowing television, mobile phones, photos and video, proudly explaining,  ‘because this is the necessity of the people, and we are serious about it.” Oooh, television? Mobile phones? What’s next, free myspace accounts for all? Unlimited use of 1G network? Redacted Wikipedia pages?  Access to Napster archives? Three cheers for the Turabimeister! 

In fact, Turabi was almost beside himself about the possibility of technology, like a giddy teenage girl, exclaiming, “Now we know instead of reaching just hundreds, we can reach millions.” Of course, he was referring to the broadcasting of public punishments, an idea that will no doubt lead to Afghanistan’s new reality television show called, “Hacking is Caring,” a sort of “Afghanistan’s Got Talent” meets “Hell’s Kitchen,” with a special emphasis on cutlery. 

In all seriousness, to understand the future of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, you need to understand the past. Although they may dress up their rhetoric and soften some of their stances in negligible ways, they are going to rule as they always have: with an iron fist.

The reality is that the Taliban is repeating a set of patterns they used when they previously ruled.  As Ali A. Olomi, Assistant Professor of History at  Penn State writes, “When you understand the history of the Taliban, you can recognize these patterns – and what might happen next. At the moment, the Taliban are telling the world they will allow women to have an education and rights. They said the exact same thing in the 1990s. But like in the 1990s, their promises always have qualifiers. The last time they were in power, those promises were replaced by brutal oppression.” Some things never change, including our belief that others will. 

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