be somewhere you want to visit. Its history should be something worth
exploring. You should want to trek its spectacular mountain passes,
sit beside its remote rivers and wander in its high pastures. You should
want to drink apple tea in an isolated village and perhaps haggle with
a local villager over the price of a carpet. You should want to walk
the streets of Kabul, listening to the wails of the muezzin from the
minarets of glistening mosques. You should
Forget it. You cant. Theres no point in dreaming about it.
Afghanistan should be somewhere you want to go, but it isnt and
wont be again for a very long time. Only the mountains remain.
Kabul is utterly ruined. The minarets have been blasted to rubble. The
villages are quiet because the villagers have starved to death. And
now, Afghanistans history is being obliterated by the latest regime
that has bludgeoned its way to power. That regime the Taliban
is one of the worlds most sadistic. It is hypocritical,
violent and immoral. It represses, tortures, and murders. It is a regime
based solely on hatred.
Travelling to Afghanistan, while not necessarily a one way trip, is
not to be undertaken lightly. Most countries discourage it; dire warnings
of terrorist threats to citizens, banditry is rifeand
unexploded landmines can be found in most governments
literature. Only one country (Chechnya) maintains diplomatic relationships.
The place is in utter chaos, with no recognisable form of government
or national authority. There is no infrastructure and no real way of
travelling around even remotely safely. There is little point in trying
to go, unless you are either a large importer of heroin, or a violent
misogynist looking for a spiritual home (the government will welcome
you with open arms, but make sure the beards fully grown before
you arrive.) There is also a question of morality. Any Western traveller
desperate or foolish enough to want to go should be strongly discouraged.
The thugs of the Taliban deserve not a penny of Western money.
The country is desperately impoverished, with the average weekly wage
being about $5. As usual, the ordinary people suffer when the maniacs
arrive: starvation is widespread throughout the country, while the Taliban
gets rich on the profits of drug trafficking (Afghanistan is one of
the largest producers of raw opium in the world.) The latest exploit
of this repulsive group is to rewrite history.
Most of that history is pretty grim. The Taliban is laying waste to
what was already a country in serious trouble. Afghanistan has, for
long periods, been in a state of turmoil. It was recognised as a sovereign
state by the US in 1934, after a turbulent period of assassinations,
wars and revolts. Initially the country seemed to be doing fairly well:
it seemed to have turned a corner. Womens rights had been established,
with women entering the workplace and government in 1959, and free elections
had taken place in 1965. Then, while the Prime Minister was on holiday
in Europe, a military coup put the Afghan Communist Party into power
in 1973. The next four Presidents (until 1979) were all assassinated
and the Soviets moved in: a ten year battle against them ensued. After
a brief glimmer of hope, with its victory against the USSR in 1989,
the trouble really started. The country turned against itself: the capital
Kabul was reduced almost to sand. Finally, the vultures moved in to
pick over the corpse. The Taliban movement, sweeping in from the East,
took power (such as it was) and has now begun to destroy the one thing
that might, one day, draw people from outside back to Afghanistan.
It is thought that Pakistan is the power behind the Taliban many
Afghans feel that Pakistan is trying to take control of Afghanistan
by putting in a puppet government. The authorities in Pakistan dispute
this, however, and a link has never completely been established. Ostensibly
religious fanatics, the Taliban is a mysterious organisation led by
one Mohammed Omar, who has never yet been interviewed. The Taliban believes
in the almost total suppression of women. Women are forbidden to speak
if outside the house, and have been stoned to death for showing so much
as an ankle. They are now prevented from working in any capacity (the
Taliban has chosen to ignore this particular line from the Koran: men
shall have a benefit from what they earn, and women shall have a benefit
from what they earn). There is no music in Afghanistan. Men do
not even have rights over their own bodies, being forced to grow beards.
And now, amid much international outcry, the Taliban have started to
destroy Afghanistans heritage, shelling Buddhist relics. This
is done predictably enough in the name of Islam. The Prophet
Mohammed must now presumably be spinning in his grave.
Is there any hope for Afghanistan? Not much. To turn the country around
would take billions of dollars, and while the Taliban remain in place
there is not a chance of this happening. They have wrecked the country,
are destroying its history, and are trying to crush its people. Yet
this is something even the Taliban have not been able to achieve. Perhaps
they are enjoying looting and destroying a once proud country: they
are certainly growing fat on the drug money. However, they should make
hay while the sun shines. The Koran promises the following in Surah
Al Buruuj, Verse 10: Lo! they who persecute believing men and
believing women and repent not, theirs verily will be the doom of hell,
and theirs the doom of burning. For the sake of Afghanistan, lets
hope theres an afterlife.
© Oliver Moor 2001