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How Bodies Hang: The Taliban Reinstates Public Executions

The Taliban have re-introduced public executions, and now, they want you to film it.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ISAF Public Affairs

DISCLAIMER: Images might be triggering or upsetting for sensitive viewers. Proceed at your own discretion. 

In Afghanistan, the Taliban that have taken control of the state since August 15 of this year, have now reinstated public executions to deter new would-be offenders and provocateurs. 

Recently, in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, four bodies hung in the breeze from cranes overlooking the third-largest city, Herat. The bodies belonged to accused kidnappers, and their figures hit the online spotlights. Each body had a warning taped onto them by way of pen and paper. The writing on these was simple, and its message was clear: if you have committed the same crime, then the same fate will follow you. Their blood hit the concrete on the sidewalks of the busy junction, emphasizing the weight of every single letter of that warning. The police nearby posited a truck to broadcast the same message out loud for further viewers to comprehend, like a mantra it played over and over and over.

These public executions to punish wrong-doers are set to become more common from now on. The Taliban’s head of religious police deems it “necessary for security”.  It seems a natural evolution from their previous modes of punishment when they last held power over the state in the 90’s. At that time, executions of convicted murderers were not public executions. Instead, they were usually single shots to the head, forcefully administered by the victim’s family. Thieves had their hands amputated. 

Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, who was one of the chief enforcers of the Taliban’s interpretation of the Islamic Law in the 90’s, had said that such public executions would not be necessary this time round. He boasted about the success rate of such previous punishments to AP News saying, “We had complete safety in every part of the country…Cutting off hands is very necessary for security.” 

However, many Afghans left in the country are stuck between the Taliban’s claims of a rising pacifism and moderation that they seek to showcase to the world and this surreal example of brutality, currently hanging from cranes. 

He adds, 

Everyone criticised us for the public punishments… but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments… No one will tell us what our laws should be.

Turabi, AP News

However, such methods of dealing with criminality have been globally condemned. Turabi is currently on the UN sanctions list for his past. 

Reflecting where we are now, plenty of reports of brutality and infringements on human rights have come out of Afghanistan since August 15, 2021. Amnesty International has reported that there have been nine ethnic massacres of Hazara men after the Taliban seized control of the Ghazni province in July. The Secretary General of Amnesty International claims it was “cold-blooded brutality”. The murders smelt of the same horrid past the Taliban has become famous for in the 90’s, and can only leave to the morbid imagination what a new Taliban leadership may look like. 

With the backdrop of these four swinging bodies over Herat’s  busy junction, the Taliban Commander Ziaullhaq Jalali told journalist Charlie Faulk, “We are taking a hard line approach against kidnappers in Herat and will continue to implement a strict stance against them in the future.” 

However, the differences between the Taliban’s rule in the past and their current future prospects reside mainly in Turabi’s claim that they are now allowing public photography and film to be taken of their state. An online video posted by Amaj News figures a single body hanging limply from a crane as cars honk from below, trying to move the crowds of gazing spectators.  

“We are changed from the past.” Turabi says. 

The reason for allowing television, mobile phones, photos and videos now is to ensure that these public punishments would be seen by a greater audience still. Instead of reaching just a few hundred citizens, they can reach millions – if not more. 

The manner the Taliban has embraced social media as a further politically aggressive tool to their advantage is a strong-point they are proud to fervently use to expand their political, social, and militaristic agenda. 

Now it becomes clear what main difference is at the core of the previous Taliban, and the colloquially called Taliban 2.0. They have evolved from being a previously technophobic and reclusive group (based on Islam’s contrariness to electronic products), to engaging and expanding the potentials of social media and technology.  They have mastered the contemporary PR machine, using the greatest platform ever – the Internet – to broadcast and showcase their political ideologies. 

Read here about Afghan migrants attempting to flee are stuck in vile conditions between Poland and Belarussia’s borders. 

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