Salem Alketbi

Taliban: the dilemma of false pretenses

الأربعاء - 13 أكتوبر 2021

Wed - 13 Oct 2021

Afghanistan’s female judges have gone back into hiding to escape the Taliban. The bodies were tied to the country’s lampposts. Fear and terror returned to Afghanistan.

Barbers refused to trim beards. Students returned to class without the female students. Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, reports and news stories about the movement’s negative practices have continued to reflect the lack of fundamental change in its ideological beliefs and vision for governance and politics.

The movement continues to repress its opponents. Orders and instructions are issued with the same content and frameworks that made its previous term (1996-2001) a great prison for the majority of the Afghan people.

Among all the news articles mentioning these negative practices, I was challenged by a BBC report on more than 220 Afghan judges who are in hiding for fear of Taliban reprisals. This media outlet spoke to six of these women and stated that they spoke from secret locations throughout Afghanistan.

Taliban members reportedly searched their homes for them, causing them to go into hiding and constantly move away from where they live. The movement’s spokesperson officially denies all such practices. He says that women judges should not be threatened and that any complaints of violations of their rights should be investigated.

But this is all part of an “should,” and in the context of the movement’s attempt to deny what is happening on the ground and try to present a different image to the world. The issue of changing the Taliban’s intellectual, ideological, and political behavior and beliefs is moot, primarily because the movement’s legitimacy in the eyes of its supporters is fully earned from these beliefs and ideas.

Therefore, if the movement’s leadership attempts to make formal changes to its governance and political behavior, it will find itself in direct confrontation with its supporters. This means the loss of the tribal and religious ground on which the movement relies, and the decline of sympathy for it to the point of completely weakening its position against its opponents at home and abroad.

This also means that it is difficult to convince the old guard of the movement’s leadership to abandon the radical ideas and interpretations of Islamic law, from which the movement was launched since its founding. Any real change in the style of governance and politics threatens the movement with division and internal conflict.

Moreover, there would be a loss of legitimacy and popularity in its main spheres of influence. Betting on the possibility of radical or relative change in Taliban behavior and beliefs seems risky to me. The Taliban has not transformed itself into a political party so that it can say it is revising its ideas.

It is a purely religious movement and it acts on that basis. It wants the international community to accept its actions simply because it has pledged not to harbor terrorist elements in the territories it controls.

But all indications are that it is replicating itself again; all it has done in the last two decades is marketing and public relations art, similar to what the Iranian regime is doing. The political discourse is going in one direction and the practices on the ground in a completely different direction.

Taliban leaders know that their political destiny depends on adhering to the principles on which the movement was founded, spread, and gained support among its elements. Thus, any talk of real change in behavior and beliefs must be accompanied by translation on the ground, not just promises and pledges.

The reality of Afghanistan is not as easy as some imagine, and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a jumping-off point for terrorist organizations again requires serious international cooperation to encourage the movement to embrace real change that will ensure international acceptance.

Our role as an observer is not to condemn one side or the other, but to try to understand what is going on in an objective context. So I think that the Taliban are still far from their stated positions and policies, especially in education and women’s employment, and the indicators in this regard do not give cause for optimism.