Recently, the Taliban reported of executions, stoning, and other violent criminal actions to the media under the guise of implementing Sharia laws. This has caused widespread reactions from human rights organizations, prompting the United Nations to ask the group to reduce such actions. The potential for harsh sentences such as stoning, limb amputation, and execution was a concern prior to the Taliban’s takeover, and it has now been realized as the group has taken control of the government and can implement these policies.
Why do the Taliban do these, despite being aware of the sensitivity of the issue and the global public opinion? The Taliban’s goal is to implement Sharia law and bring security, in order to demonstrate the validity of their ideology and their commitment to it. This action is also an indirect message to the international community, implying that they are too devoted to their religious beliefs to back down unless the U.S. and Europe provide more money and greater privileges.
This is not the full picture, however, and it has multiple facets. On the one hand, the competition between ISIS and the Taliban over violence in the name of religion is a source of internal legitimacy among the followers of these two groups, and conceding in this regard would lead to the legitimacy of the other party. The Taliban are attempting to send a message to ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups that they have not conceded in this regard and will not. This is an attempt to gain legitimacy within the organization, particularly in light of the fact that this group’s extensive connections with regional and global intelligence organizations and receiving large sums of money through cooperation with them have raised serious doubts among its fighters. Rival groups of the Taliban believe that this group, despite its ostensibly radical religious stances, is actually serving the intelligence agencies of countries, which is advancing their agenda in a proxy form in exchange for money. With these executions, the Taliban are attempting to clear themselves in the eyes of other extremists.
The other side of this issue is creating an atmosphere of fear and panic in Afghanistan. The Taliban, as demonstrated by their first rule, believe that the more violence they use, the more stable their rule will be and the less likely people will be to protest or oppose them. Executions and violence in the name of enforcing Sharia law are part of this strategy to instill fear and panic among citizens and cultivate a more timid spirit. This policy of instilling cowardice is a tactic employed by authoritarian regimes to ensure the stability of their rule.
Taking into account the other side, the puzzle is solved: the rise in violence in the name of Sharia enforcement lowers the bar of expectations, and if the political climate becomes more favorable tomorrow, either from the international community or from other political groups, they will have to keep their demands of this group to a minimum and be satisfied with educating girls and reducing harsh punishments, so that the main demands that would free the country from the grip of a militant group remain unspoken.