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Summary Article: Taliban from Encyclopedia of Global Religions

The Taliban (Persian “Madrasa Students” or “Seekers of Knowledge”) is a fundamentalist Islamist movement that ruled Afghanistan from September 1996, when they captured Kabul, through 2001, when a U.S.-led coalition forcibly removed them from power. Though the Taliban governed all religious, political, economic, and social aspects of Afghan life, only three countries, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, recognized them as a legitimate autonomous political entity. Other nations refused to establish diplomatic relations with the Taliban after learning of their frequent institutionally sanctioned human rights abuses, particularly in reference to the harsh punishment of detractors, the execution of “criminals” without due process, the suspension of nearly all women's rights, and the suppression of nonreligious cultural activities (music, the arts, entertainment, etc.). Ultimately, their autocratic control over the thought, will, and spirit of their constituency, long seen as brutal and unacceptable by the international diplomatic community, along with the explicit endorsement of (and direct support of) the September 11 terrorist attacks led to their ouster. In the months following their removal from power, Mullah Mohammed Omar reorganized the Taliban as an underground guerilla militia intent on conducting a sustained insurrection against any non-Islamist Afghan ruling authority.

The Taliban was formed in 1994 when Omar banded together several small, heavily armed militias in the southern Kandahar Province with the intent to restore order and discipline via the implementation and strict enforcement of Shari'a law. At that time, after years of jihad—the Islamist resistance to the Soviet occupation (1978-1989) by the mujahideenand violence as the Najibullah government and remnants of the mujahideen fought for control in the ensuing political vacuum, their dedication to the establishment of a totalitarian Islamic order was inspired by a combination of rural Pashtun tribal norms and a desire to reestablish a medieval Islamic theocracy. Between 1994 and 1996, the Taliban gained control over the vast majority of Afghan territory through forming alliances with warlords, conducting localized military coups, and incorporating harsh intimidation tactics. With logistical and political support from Pakistan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was created after Kabul fell in September 1996.

Life under the 5-year Taliban regime was heavily restricted by institutional interpretation of the Shari'a law. Women were not allowed to work or attend school, strict dress codes came into effect, the display of any images of living things was banned, and ownership of any nonreligious media was prohibited. These policies, among many others, were regulated by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice (PVSV) and made compulsory by its “religious police.” Those deemed criminals by PVSV enforcers were subject to public beatings, amputations, and even execution in town centers and soccer stadiums. On the international relations front, the Taliban formed an alliance with Osama bin Laden (d. 2011) and al Qaeda in an effort to promote the “Talibanization” of Central Asia and beyond. Led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance of Tajik and other non-Pashtun tribal groups resisted Taliban rule in the remote northeastern corner of Afghanistan until he was assassinated, likely by al Qaeda operatives, shortly before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S. coalition military forces in October 2001, which led to the Taliban's fall from power. The movement survived, however, controlling large sections of Afghan territory, and was buttressed by a Pakistan Taliban of largely Pashtun ethnic forces that resisted U.S. military efforts to stabilize Afghan society and establish a sympathetic and democratic secular regime in Afghanistan.

See also

Afghanistan, al Qaeda, Islam, Islamism (Political Islam), Politics and Religion, September 11, 2001, War on Terrorism

Further Readings
  • Anderson, J. L. (2002). The lion's grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan. New York: Grove Press.
  • Crews, R. D., & Tarzi, A. (Eds.). (2008). The Taliban and the crisis of Afghanistan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Roberts, J. J. (2003). The origins of conflict in Afghanistan. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Anderson, Michael W.
    SAGE Publications, Inc.

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