We are all trying to understand why Robert Baleswent on a rampage in a little village in Kandahar, butin the middle of this media frenzy, there was something that was easily overlooked: the Taliban’s reaction to the news. They vowed revenge for what they called an “inhumane attack” in their country.
Isn’t it hypocritical that the Taliban use “inhumane” to refer to somebody else but their own people? Sure, what US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales did was inhumane beyond any doubt. But the Taliban cannot be the ones to call this act inhumane. They can only use that word to refer to their own members and their own acts.
An Islamic extremist group, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 under a rigid interpretation of the Islamic law. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, this law allowed for the public execution of criminals and made it illegal for women to be provided education. They had to wear head-to-toe veils. The men whose beards were too short were jailed. Television was banned. The Middle Age was coexisting with the 21st century.
In an online chat with CNN readers just three weeks before 9/11, Saira Shah, a British journalist of Afghan descent, speaks about her Beneath the Veil documentary, which shows how women are treated under Taliban rule. One of the stories she tells is about an incident involving the mother of three girls who was shot when the Taliban tried to occupy her house.
Stories of women who were raped and obliged to marry the rapist or being mutilated for whatever reasons have emerged ever since, painting a grim reality of what it meant to be an Afghani, especially an Afghani woman under Taliban rule.
In her chat with CNN readers, Shah was complaining that the international community was not paying any attention to Afghanistan and the dire humanitarian issues in the country. Three weeks later, the situation would change dramatically. 9/11 would put Afghanistan in the center of the world’s attention for at least a decade to come.
Of course bringing war to a country that has seen decades of it was not the kind of attention Saira Shah was hoping to get from the international community. But at least the Taliban were ousted and women could hope again for education and the right to have a job.
So how can the Taliban believe they can use “inhumane” to refer to somebody else but themselves? How can people who torture and kill their people for ridiculous reasons believe that it is OK if they do it, but it is inhumane if a foreigner does it? And how can the media quote the Taliban as referring to Bales’ acts as inhumane without noticing the hypocrisy in that?
While the peace talks with the Taliban are essential for giving any hope of stability to Afghanistan, this does not mean that their acts have been forgotten and that they can now say “inhumane” without being ridiculed for it.