Afghans Urge International Community Not to Categorize Taliban
By: Amin Kawa
During their initial rule, the Taliban allowed Al-Qaeda extremists to operate in Afghanistan. However, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States and NATO overthrew the Taliban’s rule and the United Nations Security Council recognized them as a terrorist group in a resolution passed in 2003. Subsequently, the Taliban promised to take on groups that the U.S. labels as terrorist, in accordance with the agreement drafted by the U.S. and the Taliban. Since the Taliban signed the Doha Agreements with the United States, the distinction between “moderate” and “extreme” Taliban has been a topic of much discussion in the media and amongst political activists. Consequently, when the Taliban came to power, some political circles questioned how the Taliban would accept women’s rights, human rights, and all the progress made in the past 20 years of democracy in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the Taliban have demonstrated their opposition to all that has been said over the last 18 months, by targeting human rights, women’s rights, and their presence in society.
Recent developments have demonstrated a worsening of the conflict between the Taliban group. The Ministers of Defense and Interior, as well as the Political Deputy for the group’s Foreign Ministry, have all made statements in the media that indicate a division among the Taliban’s leadership. Nevertheless, the Taliban’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, has denied any internal disagreement and has urged all senior members of the group to obey Hibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taliban.
At a news conference coinciding with the UN General Assembly on Thursday, February 23, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, stated that it is possible to increase pressure on the Taliban due to their internal divisions. Borrell noted that the Taliban’s top leaders do not believe that girls should be allowed to live and receive an education like other women around the world, and that some other Taliban leaders disagree with Mullah Hibatullah’s stance.
A large number of Afghans have reacted strongly to the statements of the European Union representative in charge of foreign affairs and others who have divided the Taliban into “moderate” and “extreme” categories, asserting that there is no such distinction between them. It has been deemed a grave mistake and an insult to the “collective consciousness” of the Afghans to use the word “bad” to describe the majority of people who have been denied their fundamental rights and freedoms under the Taliban’s rule for the past 18 months. According to Hasht-e-Subh’s conversations with some Afghans and lawmakers, this usage is seen as “sensitive, heartbreaking, and disturbing.” Some citizens argue that the Taliban’s stance on women’s and human rights is similar, but they disagree on some political issues. These Afghans believe that these disputes do not justify the classification of “moderate” or “extreme.”
National Resistance Front and Politicians’ Perspectives on Classifying the Taliban
Politicians have argued that it is not accurate to classify the Taliban as either “moderate” or “extreme,” emphasizing that, despite some minor distinctions, each Taliban member holds the same views on the major issues facing the nation and its government. Sibghatullah Ahmadi, the spokesperson for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, stated in an interview with Hasht-e-Subh that “there are no moderate Taliban among the influential factions of the Taliban, and the general opinion of the influential branches of this group is not much different in terms of governing and controlling society.” No major Taliban faction endorses elections, and the Taliban’s stance on women’s rights and human rights is radical, tribal, and un-Islamic.
The National Reconciliation Forum’s spokesperson asserted that the Taliban have a lack of unity due to their varying connections to countries and intelligence agencies, individual and collective objectives, disparate preferences, and the oppressive rule of Mullah Hibatullah, the leader of the Taliban. This has caused the organization to fragment into multiple factions, with clear distinctions between them.
The former director of national security, Rahmatullah Nabil, recently referred to the distinction between “moderate” and “extreme” Taliban factions as “an illusion of the Doha Agreement” in a tweet. Mr. Nabil shared with Hasht-e-Subh, emphasizing that any attempt to categorize the Taliban into “extremists and moderates” or to modify their thinking is a futile effort and is reminiscent of the illusion created when the Doha deal was signed.
In addition, in an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, several anonymous politicians and political figures stated that they did not view the Taliban as either one of the two categories mentioned, and that to do so is an act of self-deception that perpetuates the Taliban’s totalitarian control.
Detained Girls on Taliban Categorization
Tamana Pariani, who endured a month-long stay in a Taliban prison and has harrowing recollections of the experience, told Hasht-e-Subh: “There is no such thing as a moderate or extremist Taliban. They are all solely focused on gaining power over others and continuing their extortion activities. Having spent more than a month in their prison, I am aware of their true nature and can confidently state that the Taliban terrorist group does not consider moderation.”
According to Ms. Pariani, the division of the Taliban into two groups will provide a basis for their ongoing efforts to gain authority and legitimacy. Pariani states that “these divisions indicate a desire for legitimacy and an attempt to deceive the world, and in this way they want to demonstrate that not everyone is the same and that whatever happens, it is not the fault of everyone but of a few. In contrast, all terrorists and members of extremist religious groups act in accordance with the same ideology. “The only way they differ is in their methods of operation. “She further states: “The leader of the Taliban has spent millions of dollars and is not willing to give it up easily. Afghanistan has been given to them, and they use these issues to legitimize their rule.”
Parwana Ebrahimkhel Nejarabi, another female protester who was detained in a Taliban prison, told Hasht-e-Subh that categorizing the Taliban as “moderate” and “extreme” is a “huge deception and mistake” for the history and people of Afghanistan, and that the international community is attempting to “restore the Taliban to their original, pre-2001, state of armed struggle” in order to make their “dark” face appear less intimidating to the public. Parwana continued, “I saw the Taliban’s brutality and tyranny while I was in their prison. Jailers came from all ethnic groups of the country. All the Taliban were extremists; they utilized cruelty and torture. They claimed to be just, but I did not see moderates among them, nor anyone who knew anything about humanity.”
Ms. Nejarabi went on to say: “I have seen the brutality and true nature of the Taliban. I would like to emphasize that although the Taliban at the negotiation table, those in the media, and those on the road may appear to be very different, they all come from the same group and are led by the same leader, Hibatullah.”
She addressed the divisions within the Taliban, noting that Abbas Stanikzai, the political deputy of the Taliban’s foreign ministry, had shouted harsh words about their leader before indirectly apologizing. This, she argued, demonstrated that the Taliban is a terrorist and extremist group with no moderates, and that modesty is a deception and a serious mistake that is not credible or deserving of trust. She concluded that those who hold this view are doing a great disservice to both the country’s political system and its history, and that the only difference between the Taliban today and the Taliban 20 years ago is that they are more technologically advanced and have more deceptive techniques.
Civil Activists and Women Protestors on Taliban Categorization
During a discussion with Hasht-e-Subh, women’s rights and civil rights activist Wida Saghari declared, “They concur on the fundamentals and the basics, yet in actuality, the radical seeker responds to a violation with bullets and imprisonment, while the moderate responds with whips and guidance.”
Ahmadullah Ahmadi (a pseudonym), a civil rights activist who has experienced the Taliban’s oppressive rule, has painful recollections of the Taliban’s numerous violations of human rights. He told Hasht-e-Subh: “The categorization of the Taliban into moderate and extremist groups is a ploy by intelligence agencies to exonerate the Taliban, who have been responsible for the deaths of countless citizens and suicide attacks over the past two decades.”
In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Gulchehra Yaftali, the leader of the Dutch-based Afghan Women’s Cooperation Association, categorized the Taliban into two groups. She stated that “although a branch of the Taliban that is committed to maintaining their rule and is loyal to the United States and the United Kingdom is considered to be moderate, the second group that is connected to Pakistan’s intelligence agency is considered to be radical.” She went on to say that Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s leader, is not well remembered by other Taliban small groups, and that the secret ties that some Taliban members maintain with Iran and Russia have caused concern for the United States and the United Kingdom. Yaftali also asserted that as long as the Taliban lack cognitive growth, every country will exploit them for their own political goals.
Wida Umari, one of the demonstrators, sent a video message to Hasht–e–Subh with the following statement: “The Taliban‘s rule prohibits civil and political activity, and they have issues with the other half of society, not just girls‘ education. The Taliban do not approve of the conduct or deeds of Afghan women.” Mahjubeh Habibi, another demonstrator, added: “The Taliban are a misogynistic group, which is a thought that is shared by everyone. We are asking the international community and all those who care about human rights to be aware that all Taliban members are terrorists, violent, and misogynistic.”
The Military on the Taliban’s Categorization
In an interview with Hasht–e–Subh, Abdul Nasir Ziyaie, a former military officer, expressed his belief that the Taliban will continue to exist as a project for as long as it is given a scenario by creative minds. He further claimed that the Taliban project has progressed as expected from the beginning. Additionally, he stated that there is no doubt that the people behind the scenes are attempting to create a new page to begin a new game under the banner of extreme and moderate divisions in order to heat up the game and continue working to accomplish strategic objectives.
According to former government policewoman Zala Zazai, the Taliban are an ideology in and of themselves, founded on lies. They have operated under the guise of Islam and have used this false foundation to gain power for themselves, their soldiers, and the country. As a result of their history of killing to gain power, many people mistakenly divide them into two groups. The same power they fought for years ago is what motivates them to maintain their power today, leading to distrust between their groups due to the severe divisions of power.
Afghan civilians are rejecting the Taliban‘s categorization as “moderate“ and “extreme“ or “good“ and “bad“ Taliban, as during their two–year rule, they have not demonstrated any regard for people‘s basic rights. Women and girls have been excluded from all aspects of social life by the Taliban, not being allowed to attend public places, work, travel without a Mahram, or attend middle and high schools, universities, or other private educational institutions. Additionally, there is no freedom of speech or access to free information in the country, and citizens are detained and tortured for engaging in political action or expressing their opinions.