The unforgettable day of my life

Friday, 29th August 1999

11.30 p.m.

Dear Diary,

Today was a long tiring day; it was tiring not just because of the exertion that I experienced due to travelling to the other end of the city but also because it was an emotionally taxing day for me. Something happened today which offered an alternative perception to my worldview; it made me deliberate about the whether Taliban –an organization which I viewed in a negative light- is that bad or not. The reason for my perplexed state of mind is the following incident that took place right before my eyes:

It was approximately 11:00 in the morning. I was on my way to my cousin’s place for lunch. He lived in Khair Khania, Kabul in 1999. Almost the entire Afghanistan, except two provinces, was ruled by Taliban. Taliban had a very harsh dictatorship to discipline the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban sought to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. They misused Islam for legitimating their cause in the eyes of their countrymen. On my way to his place, I saw a crowd of people who had gathered in the street. I heard dissenting, disappointed voices among them. The loud rebellious noises attracted me towards themselves. When I approached the crowd, I have seen a couple of men who were being brutally beaten with long sticks by some men who belonged to the infamous Taliban. This made me inquire the terrorized group of two men who silently saw the whole spectacle about the reasons behind this heinous violence. Initially, they were too numb with fear and hesitated to reply. While I was trying to probe them for answers, I caught the attention of one of the men from Taliban.  ‘Do you know why we are beating up these two men?’, he said. Nobody responded as everyone really petrified. He said ‘we caught these men red-handed stealing cash from the nearby shop’. He added that ‘these two men are spoiling the name of Islam, for Sharia law prohibits a man to steal. Hence, we are only punishing them for their ill-deeds’.

The Taliban made the thieves faces black with ink and paraded them around with garlands of cash in their necks shouting slogans about their bad deed. They even instructed the thieves to repeat the sentence ‘those who steal anything would face punish and humiliation like us. I recommend to all of you not to steal anything; or else you would be treated like us”. The mob of people gathered on streets shouted insulting remarks against the thieves.

I observed that due to the fundamentalist regime of Taliban, much of the population in Afghanistan experienced restrictions on their freedom and violations of their human rights. Women were banned from working, and girls were forbidden to attend schools or universities and were requested to observe Burqa or Purdah and to abstain from using obscenities. Ban on women being treated by male doctor, ban on women from using cosmetics, ban on women’s presence in radio, TV. Ban on listening to music, TV, videos for everyone. Ban on celebrating the traditional new year (Nowroz). Those who resisted were punished. Communists were systematically executed and thieves were punished by amputating one or their hands or feet.

I was really disappointed to witness the whole episode and to not be able to go to see my cousin. Once I came back home, I tried to keep myself preoccupied with my impending chores but I struggled hard to take my mind off the whole incident of the torturing of the two men.

Yours faithfully,

Hashmat

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