When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, one of its founders and the primary enforcer of its brutal interpretation of Islamic law predicted the hard-line organization would resume executions and amputations of hands. Though perhaps not in public. Mullah Nooruddin Turabi rejected criticism over the Taliban’s previous killings. They sometimes took place in front of stadium audiences, in an interview with The Associated Press. He warned the world against interfering with Afghanistan’s new authorities.
“Everyone criticized us for the punishments in the stadium. But we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments,” Turabi told The Associated Press, speaking in Kabul. “No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”
Afghans and the rest of the world are watching to see if the Taliban will recreate its brutal reign of the late 1990s. They overran Kabul on Aug. 15 and took control of the country. Turabi’s remarks demonstrated how the group’s leaders maintain a staunchly orthodox, hard-line mindset; despite their embrace of technical advances such as video and cell phones.
Mullah Nooruddin Turabi: Justice minister and head of the so-called Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice
During the Taliban’s previous regime, Turabi, now in his early 60s, was justice minister and head of the so-called Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — effectively, the religious police.
The world condemned the Taliban’s executions, which took place in Kabul’s sports stadium or on the grounds of the vast Eid Gah mosque. Hundreds of Afghan men frequently attended it, at the time.
The victim’s family shot the convicted murderers’ heads for typical execution. They had the option of receiving “blood money” and letting the perpetrator live. Amputation of a hand was the punishment for convicted thieves. A hand and a foot were cut for individuals convicted of highway robbery.
The judiciary favored Islamic clerics, whose knowledge of the law limits to religious injunctions, and trials and convictions were rarely public.
Turabi stated that judges, including women, would adjudicate disputes this time. But the Quran would remain the cornerstone of Afghanistan’s laws. He stated that the same penalties would reinstate.
“Cutting off of hands is very necessary for security”; he said, saying it had a deterrent effect. He said the Cabinet was studying whether to do punishments in public and will “develop a policy.”
In recent days, Taliban fighters in Kabul have resurrected a punishment they used to deploy frequently in the past. It is public humiliating of men suspected of minor larceny.
Kabul men were put into the back of a pickup vehicle; their hands tied and paraded around to humiliate them on at least two occasions in the previous week. Their faces had been painted to identify them as robbers in one case. Stale bread was hanged around their necks or crammed into their mouths in the other. It was unclear what their crimes were at the time.
“We are changed from the past”
Turabi limped slightly on his artificial limb, wearing a white turban and a thick, unkempt white beard. During 1980s combat with Soviet troops, he lost a leg and one eye.
Turabi was famous for ripping music recordings from cars and putting them up in trees and signposts for hundreds of meters. His followers often beat men whose beards were short. He insisted that males wear turbans in all government buildings. Turabi’s legion of enforcers outlawed sports and compelled men to worship five times a day in the mosque.
Turabi spoke to a female journalist in an interview with the Associated Press this week.
“We are changed from the past,” he said.
He said now the Taliban would allow television, mobile phones, photos, and video “because this is the necessity of the people, and we are serious about it”. He suggested that the Taliban saw the media as a way to spread their message. “Now we know instead of reaching just hundreds, we can reach millions,” he said. He added that if punishments are public, then people may take videos or take photos to spread the deterrent effect.
“We had complete safety in every part of the country”
The United States and its allies have been attempting to use the fear of isolation — and the resulting economic harm — to persuade the Taliban to soften their rule and give other factions, minorities, and women a voice in power.
Turabi, on the other hand, ignored criticism of the former Taliban regime, claiming that it had brought stability to the country. In the late 1990s, he added, “We had complete safety in every part of the country.”
Even though many in Kabul express concern about their new Taliban rulers, others grudgingly admit that the capital has become safer in the last month. Before the Taliban took control of the country, gangs of robbers roamed the streets, and persistent criminality had forced the majority of people off the streets after nightfall.
“It’s not a good thing to see these people being shamed in public. But it stops the criminals because when people see it, they think ‘I don’t want that to be me,’” said Amaan, a store owner in the center of Kabul. He asked to be identified by just one name.
Another shopkeeper called it a human rights infringement but added that he was glad he could operate his shop after dark.
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