Taliban’s Animosity with Farsi: Fueling the Fire of Afghanistan’s Enemies

By: Yousofi

As the Taliban’s rule enters its second year, more of their thoughts and ideology are being revealed. Recently, the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education issued an official letter instructing all university professors and faculty members to be proficient in both Pashto and Dari, and to be able to write and teach in these languages. Furthermore, the letter requested that all professors and academic staff of the country’s universities refrain from using certain terms and instead use the established national terms.

At a prior official meeting of the Taliban administration, one of the higher education officials warned of the danger of foreign languages infiltrating the country’s higher education, which had also caused controversy in the parliament of the previous government. Since the Taliban’s return, all official signs that had the Persian term for university written on them have been replaced with Pashtu terms. The presence of the Farsi in Taliban circles and media has decreased, and Taliban officials usually speak Pashto in public events. Administrative communication is usually conducted in Pashto.

When discussing the Taliban, the most prominent aspects that come to mind are their regressive and misogynistic views, as well as their unwavering hostility to modernity. Criticisms of the Taliban have largely focused on their religious and intellectual aspects, while their ethnic and tribal animosity has been given less attention. The Taliban are widely known for their religious extremist slogans and programs, and they strive to be seen as religious, supporting Sharia as one of their distinguishing features. However, the full reality is not what the liberal media portrays or what the Taliban attempts to portray.

Tribal biases have become ingrained in the Taliban’s operations. Many of their leaders and soldiers have come from the most remote and traditional areas of southern Afghanistan, and only speak Pashto, viewing other languages as hostile. The Taliban have consistently stressed that Farsi is a foreign language, and that the language spoken by some Afghans is Dari, which is not related to Farsi. They and their sympathizers seek to create a divide between Farsi speakers in Afghanistan and their neighbors.

No matter what our native language is – Dari-Farsi, Pashto, Balochi, or any other – the hostility towards the Dari-Persian language in Afghanistan is just as damaging to the Pashto language, and it encourages our enemies while causing internal tensions and preventing us from progressing. The least that animosity towards the shared languages and cultures of Afghanistan can do is create mistrust, suspicion, and distance between the various ethnic groups living in the country. Afghanistan is a nation with a diverse ethnic, linguistic, and cultural makeup.

The wise rulers should understand that by emulating other nations and acknowledging the diversity within their own country, they will not only be unharmed, but will demonstrate the power, strength, and beauty of their land.

If we judge without prejudice and bias, the Persian language is one of our invaluable cultural and spiritual assets, which should not be discarded lightly. This language, which has a rich and precious history, is the common language of various ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Various ethnicities in this cultural hub have composed poetry and conversed in this language, which has contributed to the formation of civilizations. The Persian language is the connecting point of different lineages and ethnicities, and it reflects many cultural similarities and historical connections. Neglecting such a great asset, which undoubtedly enhances Afghanistan’s soft power, is the most ill-advised decision made by anti-cultural rulers.

In the past, Farsi was the most widely spoken language in this region, leading some Farsi speakers to feel superior to others. However, due to political and colonial factors, its usage has gradually weakened and declined. In the Indian subcontinent, British colonialism replaced Farsi with Urdu. In Central Asia, the Soviets weakened it by inventing a different script, effectively isolating Central Asian Farsi speakers from other Farsi speakers. In Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban has caused the Farsi language to be increasingly under pressure, resulting in an unfavorable situation.

The Taliban are an identity-seeking and xenophobic group, for whom identity categories are more important than differences and diversities. The Pashto language is one of the elements that can help the Taliban to distinguish themselves from others in this region of the world. With this explanation, the Taliban’s animosity with Farsi not surprising and can be interpreted and justified.

Despite the goodwill of some Taliban leaders towards the group and the country, it cannot be denied that Dari-Farsi is the mother tongue of millions of Afghan citizens, rather than the language of Iranians. These citizens have no choice in the language they are born speaking.

The Taliban frequently reiterate their opposition to ethnic and linguistic prejudice in their propaganda. On occasion, they direct their appointed mullahs in mosques across Afghanistan to recite verses and narrations in Friday sermons that condemn ethnic and tribal prejudices. They suggest that, due to their adherence to religious values and Islamic principles, they do not prioritize ethnicity and tribe and do not act on the basis of ethnic motives. However, their actions have undermined the impact of their propaganda, leaving no room for debate and making the truth evident.

Any researcher wishing to present a comprehensive and thorough study of the Taliban group must give due consideration to the ethnic aspects of this group; otherwise, their research will be a confirmation of the Taliban’s false propaganda, which claims that ethnic and linguistic issues are not included in the “Islamic Emirate” dictionary. In my opinion, comparing the Taliban to the “Khawarij”, who engaged in bloody conflicts with other Muslims in the early days of Islam, does not help to understand the situation and is misleading. The religious dimension of the “Khawarij” is prominent and significant, while the ethnic and intellectual aspects of the Taliban are eye-catching.