A co-founder of the Taliban and its chief enforcer of Sharia law under their rule in Afghanistan in the 1990s said the same strict guidelines will affect their new guidelines, including executions and amputations of hands.
Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, in an interview with The Associated Press, brushed off concerns about the Taliban’s past brutality, which was often performed publicly in the stadium. Turabi warned other world leaders not to stick their noses into Taliban dealings.
“Everyone criticized us for the punishments at the stadium, but we never said anything about their laws and punishments,” Turabi told The Associated Press in Kabul. “Nobody will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws according to the Koran.”
More coverage from the Associated Press can be found below.
Since the Taliban overran Kabul on August 15 and took control of the country, Afghans and the world have been watching to see if they will rebuild their harsh rule of the late 1990s. Turabi’s comments indicated how the group’s leaders remain rooted in a deeply conservative, harsh worldview, even as they embrace technological changes like video and cell phones.
Turabi, now in his early 60s, was Justice Minister and head of the so-called Ministry of Virtue Propaganda and Vice Prevention – practically the religious police – during the earlier Taliban rule.
At that time, the world condemned the Taliban’s punishments, which took place in the Kabul sports stadium or on the grounds of the sprawling Eid-Gah mosque, often attended by hundreds of Afghan men.
Executions of convicted murderers were usually carried out with a single shot in the head, carried out by the victim’s family, who had the option of accepting “blood money” and leaving the perpetrator alive. For convicted thieves, the punishment was amputation of a hand. Those convicted of street robberies had one hand and one foot amputated.
Trials and convictions were seldom public, and the judiciary was weighted in favor of Islamic clergymen, whose legal knowledge was limited to religious orders.
Turabi said this time judges – including women – would decide cases, but the basis of Afghan law would be the Koran. He said the same sentences would be revived.
“Cutting off the hands is very necessary for safety reasons,” he said, saying it had a deterrent effect. He said the cabinet was examining whether it should publicly punish and would “develop a policy”.
In the past few days, Taliban militants in Kabul have revived a punishment they had widely used in the past – the public shaming of men accused of petty theft.
On at least two occasions in the past week, Kabul men have been grabbed into the back of a pickup truck with their hands tied and shown around to humiliate them. In one case, their faces were painted to identify them as thieves. In the other, stale bread was hung around their necks or stuffed into their mouths. It wasn’t immediately clear what their crimes were.
With a white turban and a bushy, unkempt white beard, the stocky Turabi limped slightly on his prosthetic leg. He lost a leg and an eye in fighting with Soviet troops in the 1980s.
Under the new Taliban government, he is responsible for prisons. He is part of a number of Taliban leaders, including members of the male-only transitional cabinet on a United Nations sanctions list.
During the previous Taliban rule, he was one of the group’s cruelest and most uncompromising enforcers. When the Taliban took power in 1996, one of his first acts was yelling at a journalist and telling her to leave a room full of men and then slapping a man who resisted.
Turabi was notorious for ripping music tapes from cars and lining up hundreds of feet of broken tapes in trees and signposts. He required men to wear turbans in all government offices, and his henchmen routinely beat men whose beards had been trimmed. Sport was banned and Turabi’s enforcers forced men to pray in the mosque five times a day.
In an interview with the AP this week, Turabi spoke to a journalist.
“We are changed by the past,” he said.
He said the Taliban would now allow television, cell phones, photos and videos “because this is the people’s need and we are serious about it.” He suggested that the Taliban see the media as a way to get their message across. “Now we know we can reach millions instead of just reaching hundreds,” he said. He added that if punishments are made public, people may be allowed to take videos or photos to spread the deterrent effect.
The US and its allies have tried to use the looming isolation – and the resulting economic damage – to pressure the Taliban to moderate their rule and to give other factions, minorities and women a place in power.
However, Turabi rejected criticism of the earlier Taliban rule, arguing that stability had been created. “We had absolute security in every part of the country,” he said in the late 1990s.
As Kabul residents voice their fear of their new Taliban rulers, some grudgingly admit that the capital has only become safer in the past month. Before the Taliban came to power, gangs of thieves roamed the streets and relentless crime had driven most people off the streets after dark.
“It’s not good to see these people getting embarrassed in public, but it stops the criminals because when people see this they think, ‘I don’t want this to be me,'” said Amaan, a shop owner at Center of Kabul. He asked to be identified by name only.
Another shop owner said it was a human rights violation, but he was also happy to open his shop after dark.