A Thousand Splendid Suns Book Project
The Taliban, a Muslim extremist organization, took control of Afghanistan in 1996 and ruled until 2001, when the U.S. invasion drove them from power. Despite its upheaval, small groups of the Taliban have maintained a political influence in rural regions south and east of Kabul. The group is known for having provided safety to other extremists such as Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as well as for its stiff interpretation of Islamic law, under which it publicly executed criminals and outlawed the education of women, which is not a part of normal Islamic culture.
The Taliban was initially a mixture of mujahideen who fought against the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, and a group of Pashtun (low class) tribesmen who spent time in Pakistani religious schools, or madrassas, in which they were educated in Islamic ways, but distorted them to an extreme degree. The group's leaders practiced Wahhabism, an orthodox form of Sunni Islam similar to that practiced in Saudi Arabia. With the help of inside government sources, the Taliban emerged as a force in Afghan politics in 1994 in the midst of a civil war between forces in northern and southern Afghanistan. They gained an initial territorial traction in the southern city of Kandahar, and over the next two years expanded their influence of territory through a mixture of violence, negotiation, and bribes. By the late 1980’s and early 1990’s they were a dominant force in Afghani politics and culture.
Taliban rule was characterized by a strict form of Islamic law, requiring women to wear head-to-toe veils, banning television, and jailing men whose beards were deemed too short, which was not presented physically in the Koran, but rather interpreted by these extremists. One act in particular, the destruction of the giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan, seemed to symbolize the intolerance of the government. Before its expulsion by U.S.-led forces in 2001, the Taliban controlled an estimated 90...