Kinder, gentler Taliban hang corpses from crane in public

Back in the days when “classic rock” was just rock and roll, The Who once sang, “Meet the new boss same as the old boss.” Flash forward a little more than fifty years and they could have been singing about the Taliban in Afghanistan. After their assurances to the world that they would establish a more modern, inclusive government, the Taliban was up to its old tricks again this week. Four men in the city of Herat who were accused of engaging in some sort of crime were executed, which isn’t all that unusual for the Taliban. But to ensure that their point was being made to the public, their bodies were dragged to the central square in the city. One of them was hung from a crane, while the other three were taken to other squares to be similarly displayed. So remind me again how this Taliban is different from the oppressive, fundamentalist Islamic regime that enforced a barbaric version of Sharia law on the people in the 90s? (Associated Press)

The Taliban hanged a dead body from a crane in the main square of Herat city in western Afghanistan, a witness said Saturday, in a gruesome display that signaled a return to some of the Taliban’s methods of the past.

Wazir Ahmad Seddiqi, who runs a pharmacy on the side of the square, told The Associated Press that four bodies were brought to the square and three bodies were moved to other squares in the city to be displayed.

Seddiqi said the Taliban announced in the square that the four were caught taking part in a kidnapping and were killed by police. It was not immediately clear if the four were killed in a firefight with police or after their arrest.

Another name that hasn’t cropped up in a while was giving interviews to the press this weekend. Mullah Nooruddin Turabi is remembered as one of the first leaders of the Taliban when they took power in the 90s and was designated as the “chief enforcer” of Sharia law. He told the Associated Press that these displays are intended to send a message. The group will “carry out executions and amputations of hands.” In a nod to their new, more moderate positions, he added, “but perhaps not in public.”

The four men were accused of attempting to take part in a kidnapping by a Taliban spokesperson. In their version of the story, they were killed by the police, but who really knows what these animals are up to? Even if we assume that story is true (a huge assumption), were they given a trial? Even then, hanging corpses in the public square is still a page straight out of the playbook of the middle ages, where the Taliban mindset clearly still resides.

The person I really feel sorry for here is Wazir Ahmad Seddiqi, the pharmacist from Herat who is quoted in the linked article above. Shouldn’t the Associated Press have known better than to print his name, as well as the location of his business? Anyone found spilling dirt to the western press and making the Taliban look bad may have a crane with their name on it lined up in the near future.

During the past week, Herat was the scene of additional atrocities. A group of formerly influential women in the city told Human Rights Watch that several female leaders had been sought out and taken away. Attempted protests organized by women after the Taliban took control were met with whippings and indiscriminate gunfire. No girls above sixth grade are being allowed to return to school and women are no longer allowed to leave their homes without a mahram (male family member) as a chaperone. Conditions for women and girls in Herat are not measurably different than they were under Sharia law before the allies arrived twenty years ago.

I’ll close with your periodic reminder that the Taliban now possess one of the largest collections of modern military equipment in the entire region, courtesy of the United States. They have foreign aid flowing in from Pakistan, China, Russia, and the United Nations. And we still have no idea what sort of deals the Biden administration cut with them as we negotiated our departure, how much cash we sent them, nor what other promises were made. When will the congressional hearings begin so those questions can be asked?

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