The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist group with strong political and social opinions. The political movement triggered by this terrorist group is currently behind the internal conflict in Afghanistan. Members of the group have a harsh interpretation of Sharia, the Islamic law. According to their translation of Sharia, theft is punished by the removal of body limbs and murderers and adulterers are put to death publicly. The Taliban requires men to grow beards, women to wear burkas, and girls over the age of 10 to stop studying. Under their control, television, music, and movies are prohibited.
4. Organizational History and Notable Members
The Taliban political movement got its start as rebel fighters during the Soviet-led occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. In an effort to remove Soviet forces, the US and Pakistan helped fund their resistance. When the Soviet Union withdrew from the country, the movement had gained popular support because of its promise to restore law and order. In 1996, they captured control of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. During their rule, the UN Security Council urged the group to stop abusing women. They maintained majority control until 2001 when they were overthrown by US forces working with the Northern Alliance, a group of ethnic minorities. US troops withdrew in 2012 and again in 2013 when control was given to Afghan forces. Recently, the movement has once again increased its activity in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Experts believe they are funded by opium trafficking and illegal mining. Until a few years ago, Mohammed Omar was considered the spiritual leader of the Taliban and helped to establish the fundamentalist group. He reportedly began the movement with only 50 followers. He was also accused by the US of providing shelter to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda before the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He died in April of tuberculosis in 2013.
3. Campaigns and Victories
The Taliban is believed to have practiced a successful strategy in Afghanistan. The group took advantage of the disruption in power caused by the removal of US troops in 2013 to regain power across the nation. It has been able to maintain its significance due to its training practices. Members, or fighters, are taught the Taliban values since childhood. This sort of teaching creates life-long, dedicated and loyal followers who are not quick to leave the movement.
2. Challenges and Controversies
The Taliban has been heavily criticized for its human rights abuses. Leaders have committed several massacre campaigns against civilians while trying to ensure its power in the late 90’s. Additionally, they led ethnic cleansing attacks against Hazaras. The group also refused emergency food aid packages, leaving around 160,000 individuals to suffer and starve. They have run sex trafficking rings, kidnapping and selling women into sex slavery. Their brutality against women has been internationally rebuked, particularly for prohibiting women from obtaining an education and requiring a male companion when walking in public. Any woman who does not follow these rules is publicly beaten or killed.
1. Cultural Depictions and Legacy
The group has served as a subject for several films and has set the stage for many novels as well. These themes range from a direct focus on Taliban rule to the reality of living in Afghanistan. Representations of these fundamentalists are rarely if ever in good light. In fact, some individuals immediately relate the mere mention of the Taliban with violence against humanity.