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Afghanistan

Why the Taliban is letting 'adulterers' go free

The Taliban in Afghanistan have published a short video showing five people they had arrested for allegedly being adulterers.
The Taliban in Afghanistan have published a short video showing five people they had arrested for allegedly being adulterers.
Text by: Alijani Ershad
4 min

The Taliban in Afghanistan have published a short video showing five people they had arrested for allegedly being adulterers. Since the Taliban consider adultery a crime, and have frequently punished alleged adulterers by killing them, the ending of the video comes as a surprise: they let their captives go free. Our Observers in Afghanistan say that through this show of leniency, the Taliban are trying to win the hearts of Afghans.

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The Taliban in Afghanistan have published a short video showing five people they had arrested for allegedly being adulterers. Since the Taliban consider adultery a crime, and have frequently punished alleged adulterers by killing them, the ending of the video comes as a surprise: they let their captives go free. Our Observers in Afghanistan say that through this show of leniency, the Taliban are trying to win the hearts of Afghans.

On June 2, the Taliban published a video that they indicated was filmed two days earlier in Quarabagh, 44 kilometres north of Kabul and just 54 kilometres south of Bagram, the biggest US military base in Afghanistan.

In the video, four men and one women, all handcuffed, pass in front of the camera and answer the same set of questions. They give nearly identical answers. After asking their names and where they are from, the off-camera voice asks the following questions:

Off-camera: “Why did the mujahideen arrest you?”

Captives: “Because of adultery.”

Off-camera: “Do you honestly regret your sin?”

Captives: “Yes.”

Off-camera: “Are you happy with the punishment you have received from the mujahideen?”

Captives: “Yes, thank you; I will not repeat what I have done.”

Off-camera: “And if you repeat it and we arrest you?”

Captives: “You will have every right to kill me.”

Two Taliban captives. Screen grab of video published by the Taliban; faces blured by FRANCE 24.

When it comes to the woman, the voice of the accuser changes; his tone gets more aggressive, but the content of his questions remains the same.

There is no explanation of what the “punishment” he refers to is, but the captives appear to have been beaten.

Throughout their history, the Taliban have frequently punished adulterers with death sentences. In the 1990s, they transformed Kabul stadium into an execution site, where they killed many men and women for different reasons, including for adultery. And in the decades since, they have continued to kill people for many so-called crimes.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS: The place in Afghanistan where it’s “easy to kill women”

“The Taliban are trying to change people’s opinion of them”

Mokhtar Wafayi lives in Kabul. An expert on the Taliban, he is the editor-in-chief for the news site Howayda.org.

 

The first thing this video shows us is the lack of security in Afghanistan: the security forces are unable to secure an area that’s just a few dozen kilometres from the capital. The Taliban are gaining more power, and getting closer to Kabul. They now control more than half of the country.

The Taliban usually hang, shoot or even stone people accused of adultery. But not in this case.

Looking at this video, we need to keep in mind that the Taliban, today, is no longer a well-organised, hierarchical group: they have local leaders in each region, and behave differently in different regions. I have no doubt that if this had happened in a province like Helmand or Jowzjan, where the Taliban have the upper hand and behave more violently, the captives would have been killed.

To me, this is an example of a strategy that the Taliban have recently deployed. They are trying to play nicer in order to change Afghan people’s opinion of them, and become a real alternative to the government in the population’s eyes. They have notably changed their behaviour toward arrested Afghan army soldiers: they use to execute them without hesitation, but about a month ago, the Taliban announced that if army soldiers promise to give up working for the military and pledges not to fight the Taliban, they would be released.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Did 77 members of the Afghan security forces really join the Taliban?

 

Over the past decade, the Taliban learned the lesson that people can get fed up with violence and start fighting back. Yes, this strategy of “playing nice” may appear to contradict their bombings and suicide attacks, but they claim that they always try to avoid killing civilians and target military or government targets. Obviously, they can’t win over all Afghans – but they can try.”

Article by Ershad Alijani (@ErshadAlijani)

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