Taliban militants in the streets of Kabul celebrate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on August 31 | Photo: EFE / EPA / STRINGER
Since last year, there has been talk of a “new Taliban”, now a supposedly more moderate group, representative and eager to be recognized by the international community. This key began to be touched with the intensification of negotiations between Donald Trump’s administration and the group in Doha, Qatar. He climbed a few steps with meetings between Taliban leaders and representatives from Turkey and China. Little by little, however, the speech and the publicity separate from the reality, which shows its face.
During the evacuation of Kabul, for example, Joe Biden’s government cooperated with the Taliban. Okay, pragmatically, cooperation would be needed to secure the boarding of people, but it didn’t have to get to the point where American officials would share lists of American people of interest. What would be one way of making it easier to identify these people at Taliban checkpoints can, and will, be described in the list of people, or family members, who will be harassed and harassed in the near future.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that while there is no “foreseeable recognition” of the Taliban government, the UK will “negotiate directly” with the group in “relevant negotiations” . This, of course, speaking of Western governments, since cooperation with Qatar and Pakistan, among others, is pretty clear. The Qataris are even making the technical adaptations necessary for the reopening of operations at the Kabul international airport, which will most likely be renamed, former President Hamid Karzai not being well regarded by the Taliban.
The expectation, and in a way a promise, is therefore that of a moderate Taliban, adept at dialogue, cooperation and more representative. Well. On Wednesday August 25, Zabihullah Mujahid, one of the spokesman for the Taliban, said in an interview that music will not be tolerated in public and that “music is prohibited in Islam”. This is an extremely radical interpretation and the wide range of artists of Muslim origin, including traditional music, shows it. Regardless, the National Institute of Music of Afghanistan, founded in 2010, has already closed its doors.
During the first Afghan emirate, in the 1990s, musical instruments were destroyed, with the exception of percussion instruments, such as the daf tambourine, since this type of instrument is present in hadiths, all laws and reports on the life of Muhammad. This time, the spokesperson said, perhaps a little cynically, that “we hope we can persuade people not to do these things, rather than pressure them.” Andarabi had been executed by the Taliban.
On September 2, it was the turn of the leading Afghan LGBT human rights activist, Nemat Sadat, to denounce the ongoing crackdown on the Taliban. He resides in the United States and is one of a group of fifteen seeking to coordinate the evacuation of approximately 700 LGBT people from Afghanistan. Sadat said the international community has neglected these people, who are vulnerable to the Taliban and risk being killed. More than that, he shared the tragic fate of a homosexual man from Kabul who was publicly beaten and beheaded.
According to Sadat, LGBT people, especially gay men, face an “automatic death sentence on the basis of their mere existence”. Something far removed from the “peace and love” propaganda of the Taliban, ready to reconcile and forgive its former enemies. It is important to put in perspective that homosexuals were already discriminated against before the Taliban, and that, even under the collapsed republic, “sodomy” was a crime, punishable by up to two years in prison. In addition, families often expel these people from their coexistence, or even kill them to preserve a so-called “family honor”.
A similar scenario occurs in Pakistan, for example, neighboring Afghanistan. While this is not a scenario exclusive to the Taliban, it is undeniable that the group’s violence and authoritarianism leaves the Afghan context with few possible comparisons. A person dragged down the street, beaten and beheaded is not acceptable. And the reader has no doubt that it can be done, as images from the 1990s still haunt the internet, such as the death of former socialist president Mohammad Najibullah.
“Well, that’s their religion, that’s normal in the area.” The same week the Taliban killed someone for their sexuality, Bangladesh led the way in the opposite direction. The country is one of the ten most populous in the world, where 90% of the population is Muslim, the majority Sunni. On August 31, the country’s Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal sentenced to hanging six men linked to the Ansar al-Islam group, a group itself linked to al-Qaeda. “Hanging” in this case is literal, as the death penalty in Bangladesh is carried out by hanging.
The grounds for conviction are the 2016 murders of two LGBT human rights activists. One of them, Xulhaz Mannan, worked at the US Embassy in Dhaka and was the founder of Roopbaan magazine, Bangladesh’s first publication focused on gay people. The other victim was his partner, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, and they were stabbed to death in their apartment. Even in the country, same-sex relationships are still criminalized, it is not a progressive paradise. Which doesn’t mean that people can murder others for their sexual orientation.
The last two US governments believed the Taliban would keep their promises. They were wrong. The history of the group is marked by betrayal and the lack of concessions. Are there people who believe in this “new” moderate Taliban? Apparently yes. And unfortunately, since nothing concrete indicates this path. In fact, they point to the opposite path, that of violence and intolerance. Whoever wants to be ridiculed, with the forgiveness of the Portuguese, so be it, but it will not be for lack of warning.