Children of Taliban

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I have been meaning to watch “Children of Taliban” for quite some time but just haven’t had the time to do so until now. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has done a brilliant job with this documentary and I’m truly impressed with her courage & confidence.

“As her country slips further into political instability, becoming perhaps the most volatile nation in the world, FRONTLINE/World correspondent Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy takes a dangerous journey along Pakistan’s fault lines, investigating the rising popularity of an insurgent new branch of the Taliban among members of the country’s next generation.” – Frontline

You must take out a few minutes and watch this documentary (translation is included) –

http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/pakistan802/video/video_index.html

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18 comments

  1. I took this picture of the little boy when I was in Chitral a few months ago. I still don’t know how to copywrite the picture so please avoid stealing it and using it elsewhere. Thanks!

    1. WOW!!! This is an amazing picture.Kudos to the talented photographer.Btw, you have a great blog.Keep up the good work.

  2. If you can’t click on the link in the post – then click http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/pakistan802/video/video_index.html as it’s not letting me paste the entire thing on the post for some reason.

  3. hello!!
    who’s heard about the taliban in swat agreeing to ‘love marriages’? okay, story is that the taliban have claimed teenage swati girls are calling them or having their parents call them to arrange rishtas with the taliban (supposedly 300 matches have been made so far). more like they’re forcing themselves on a bunch of little girls
    I’m very frustrated. as are all of you. Osman and Omar Bhais – they are 80 km away from your city… what is the report from back home?

  4. Sim, do you have the news source about this forced love marriage fiasco thats been going on?

  5. Gibran Saif · · Reply

    This picture captures a lot of emotion. You must post more pictures on chasing thoughts.

  6. A reply to the current debate on the dismemberment of Pakistan.. slightly reassuring….

    http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=76501368339&h=xlxEG&u=bL75r

  7. Samara · · Reply

    Noone’s watching because they’re all too horrified and afraid to see reality …and to do anything about it. Its pathetic and not at all human to let this happen because of fear and confusion.
    No one in the West is really speaking up yet…and the free muslims around the world, what will they do when it comes to a neighborhood near them or spills across their border like wildfire?
    Too little, too late, by that time.

  8. Margot · · Reply

    Such a moving documentary made by a gifted and truly courageous reporter I saw it a few weeks ago on British television. Can anyone explain why Pakistan has give over the valley of Swat to the Taliban? It is one of the most beautiful places on earth; a jewel on the map of Pakistan. Why would Pakistan want to make it an almost no go area, a place of oppression and backwardness? It is certainly perplexing to me, do they think that the Taliban will stay quiet and be happy just terrorising the locals. If so they are in for a big surprise, as can be seen already with the attacks on the cricketers.
    And yes I agree with you Samara all the Muslims in world who enjoy the freedom to live their lives within the relatively liberal confines of mainstream Islam (parents educating their daughters and women respected as human beings and not the chattels of men) should be taking a long cool look at where staying on the fence and not condemning these fanatics gets you.

  9. Marco · · Reply

    One can’t decide if these Taliban are religious extremists or only using their own version of religion as only a mean to control and indoctrinate the poor and uneducated so they can rise above tribal power and indulge in the opium trade earnings. Clearly the Taliban as shown in this documentary are illuminated and brainwashed but one must question the counterproductive policies used by the Pakistan and US/NATO armies (mostly resulting in widespread corruption)that seem to help the Taliban recruit and find shelter.

  10. Margot · · Reply

    That is an interesting point Marco re the wish to rise above the Tribal power to gain power re the drugs trade. I would say it is probably a combination of both; Zealots and opportunists. Regarding US/NATO regional policy, I don’t think they have much to do with the spread of the Taliban, before 9/11 the Taliban ran an entire country (Afghanistan) not just a small region within a country.
    I would say the US/NATO policy re the Taliban has diminished their power and standing in real terms if not in mythic. Before 9/11 the world was quite content to leave to the Taliban to run Afghanistan how they sought fit. This is seen as a problem for some, arguing the US armed the Afghans to fight the Russians and then just left them to it. A perverse argument; the Americans helped a Muslim country expel their Communist enemy and then left the people of that country to run the country as they choose, yet now some people say they should have stayed and done this or that to help Afghanistan to avoid the Taliban taking power. But if they had done that they would have been accused of behaving in an interfering and imperialistic fashion. Damned if they do and Damned if they don’t!
    Certainly one of the biggest problems for the region is the endemic corruption but this has been an accepted part of political life for many years; long, long before the US/NATO turned their gaze upon the region. However Pakistan’s neighbour India shared many of the same problems but has managed to rise above their difficulties and emerge as an economic power house. Again I will say the only way to solve these problems is to look within and stop pointing towards others to blame. No doubt there will be somebody who will relate the tragic tale in this documentary as all the fault of Israel!

  11. Lubna · · Reply

    Fascinating insight into the Taliban, and into the cycle of violence vis-a-vis US bombings of the villages which the Taliban use as recruitment opportunities to strenghthen their base…
    Many thanks for bringing this to our attention Omar.

  12. Thank you Omar for bringing to us this superb documentary.
    Sometimes, I wonder if it wouldn’t be a better thing to leave these people to their fate, but the testimonies of the innocent children make me react.

  13. Marco · · Reply

    Margot, as the documentary points out corruption on this scale is mainly new to Afghanistan and a direct result of the occupation and aid money being poured in the pockets of only a few chosen ones but mostly failing at improving the average life of Afghans. It is counterproductive in the fight against the Talibans whose major recruiting asset is anticorruption. The Taliban seem to grow back as naturally as bad weed everywhere the military moves out. It is a lost war if corruption inciting policies are not changed. The population must be able to associate direct help with Govt. for them to join the fight against the Taliban fundamentalists.

  14. Margot · · Reply

    Marco, agreed re the corruption in the current administration, the situation as stands is appalling and has been mishandled. Giving millions to random warlords to switch sides, ignoring the plight of farmers who are literally starving, and forced to grow poppy seeds for the drug trade in order to survive are all part of the mess. Instead of destroying these crops the US/NATO should have brought the crops from the farmers and then destroyed them, thus circumventing the Taliban from being their sole provider of income.
    There have been many strange and stupid mistakes in the handling of this situation. But you have to remember it was the heinous behaviour of the Northern Alliance which encouraged the people to welcome the Taliban in Kabul giving them the mandate for power. This is when they became stronger and embedded. People then said it was the corruption, cruelty and rapes committed by the NA that spawned the Taliban.
    The killing of Ahmed Shah Massood back in 2001 (killed by Afghans, not Americans for those who may be not aware of this man) was also a harsh blow to the possibility of getting a strong charismatic leader for Afghanistan, would he have made a difference? Who know, I think he might of even though he was NA. Someone is desperately needed now to come forward from within the ranks of the Afghan strong men to take on Hamid Karzai in a democratic election and rid the country of this weak, corrupt, ineffectual man.
    Lubna I did indeed watch the whole video, did you? Is all you got from that film is the account of one young boy saying he would join the Taliban because of the US bombs, what did you think of the Testimony of his friend? And the words spoken by the teacher at the Madras; ‘…we have plenty of sacrificial lambs…’ such a mindset is at the core of this madness, this is what must be defeated. That can only happen with strong vocal condemnation from with the Muslim Diaspora around the world, but as usual the silence is deafening. General Musharraf allowed these people to flourish in the tribal borderlands; he played a double game which Pakistan is now paying for. It is a complex and tragic story and believe me US/NATO actions which has resulted in improvement of the lives of many Afghans (particularly the women)are just one part of it.

  15. Anonymous · · Reply

    @Margot:
    Before I address your questions, I would like to say that as an Afghan Pashtun I feel most of your statements are apologist in nature (however so good intentioned) and of one who does not have a full understanding on what is going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan, what the Taliban are, how they got there, what they are up too, or why it seems that Pakistan isn’t doing enough about them.
    1. Can anyone explain why Pakistan has given over the valley of Swat to the Taliban?
    A: Pakistan have not given it over – it has always belonged to the Pashtuns (aka ethnic Afghans)…whether they were radicalized (Taliban) or not.
    The Swat Valley, and the Suliman mountain range, has been for over 5 centuries the domain of the Pashtuns. The word Taliban has sadly become a politically correct word for Pashtuns in the media……..and Islamabad is more than happy with that as they can attempt to use it to QUASH Pashtun nationalism (usually of the secular kind promoted by Mahmud Achickzai & Asfandyar Wali) that may sprout up just as they have been doing since 1947.
    It would be much better if everyone (especially the Western media) started being honest and correctly identify the Taliban for what they are: VERY Islamically radicalized Pashtuns who while certainly not the best thing for their own people, receive tactical support from their people given that everything else they wanted (secular nationhood free of Islamabad) always got the no no from the U.S. for the past 50 years – that coupled with the Pashtuns entire history with the West which is mostly full of oppression, oppression and more oppression.
    2. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth; a jewel on the map of Pakistan. Why would Pakistan want to make it an almost no go area, a place of oppression and backwardness?
    A: It’s not about what Pakistan wants. The last thing Islamabad wants is to push the entire Pashtun people over the edge…cuz that edge is the existence of Pakistan itself.
    If your not Pashtun and that includes Pakistanis who are not Pashtun…..u don’t go there…the majority of the populace in those regions want it that way. Whether you agree with this or not, as I do not given the very negative implications of such self-inflicted isolation, that is what the people allow/are ok with – they would rather live under the Pashtun Taliban then under Islamabad any day. It would be great if the U.S. and Islamabad backed progressives within the Pashtun world but we seem to have an uncanny knack for only backing the most bizarre violent fringes of Pashtun society….thus it is very fitting our baby (the Taliban) is leading what equates to an underground freedom movement however so defined.
    3. It is certainly perplexing to me, do they think that the Taliban will stay quiet and be happy just terrorizing the locals?
    A: No they won’t stay quiet sadly, but the U.S. specifically has refused to do the one thing that the entire Pashtun nation (radical, moderate or atheist) has ever wanted from the U.S….(this includes for the Baloch too). Thus the Pashtuns see no sincere will at all from the US or Islamabad and will do what they have done for most of their history to get to where they are going. Personally, I doubt the Taliban will push far past Pashtun borders as it would antagonize other ethnic groups for which they have no writ.
    For months a certain Pashtun’s words keep ringing in my ears, it is Peshawar 2002 and a Pashtun from the highest educational background, talking Cambridge and Oxford speaking Queen’s English and fluent Latin….. “Robert we have struggled for so long for secularism here, decade after decade the US refuses to stop backing Islamabad against us – we will bring about our democracy, our nation, but we will do it under Islam – for better or worse as I know you wish it was otherwise. [I wish it was under modern Pashtunwali with acknowledgement of all our heritages including Islam.] The West has shown it knows nothing of freedom when it comes to the people of Pakistan – only false words, fancy slogans and arms.”
    These man’s words are exactly what is happening today – if the U.S. wanted secular democracy in the region like in India it could have had it a long long LONG time ago….and with the support of the people – that being the greatest tragedy of all for U.S. foreign policy in the region – for the U.S. is making enmity of a people it could have as its friends. For the Pashtun intelligentsia they would have much rather seen a nation brought up under the auspices of an indigenously inspired tolerant movement (Google Abdul Ghaffar Khan & Pashtunwali) than a fundamentalist Islamic one which was not indigenously inspired by the Pashtuns themselves.
    4. Regarding US/NATO regional policy, I don’t think they have much to do with the spread of the Taliban, before 9/11 the Taliban ran an entire country (Afghanistan) not just a small region within a country.
    A: THE US HAS HAD EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE CREATION OF THE TALIBAN AND ITS GROWTH UP TO TODAY. These people did not just appear over night out of Pashtun society and U.S. blunders only increase their appeal among the downtrodden. It is only since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan have we (the U.S.) been working against them (the Taliban) and in the process bolstered them because of our own fear in upsetting Islamabad and appearing like truly unilateral imperialists.
    The tragedy here, besides the cultural genocide of the Pashtuns which has been masked in the Cold War and the War against Terror and Taliban, is that the US refuses to lead by upright values and ethics but instead believes it should lead by destruction hoping to get the ends it seeks – which who knows…they may get and I hope so but doubt. Everything now happening in Pakistan was predicted by many in Washington, London and elsewhere months into our invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S. has to decide…on which side of history does it wish to be….the Taliban can’t be stopped within Pashtun areas because it would mean the eventual end of Pakistan – Islamabad knows this – and the U.S. doesn’t yet have the resolve to support a true freedom movement that would lead to the dissolution of Pakistan – thus they may go down in history as the wicked Satan the Taliban claim them to be.
    Margot as to your “damned if they do damned if they dont” theory regarding the U.S. abandonment of Afghanistan after we used it as a trash can with the USSR it is so frivolous in truth that it can only be used as an argument for the callous and those who do not wish to acknowledge the mess we have had a very direct and leading hand in creating – I realize that is not you so.
    As for Israel …the Jewish people are one of the few people I know of who have consistently shown a sincere concern about the Pashtuns fate – granted the Pashtuns also go by the “Bani Israel” – go figure.
    @Marco
    If they (Islamabad/NATO/US) wanted to do something productive it would be to help in all jest the secular ethnic nationalists inside Pakistan (Afghan Pashtun, Sindhi and Baluch) who wish their people to be free of both the Taliban and the military power that continues to seek to strangle the future and peaceful aspiration of the people of the region we presently know as Pakistan.
    @Juan Carlos:
    Juan, in many ways I agree wholeheartedly with you …that the region would be much better off if we just picked up and left…..though that would allow Pakistan to re-back the Taliban to take over Afghanistan and would quash the dreams of secular nationalists in the entire region for another decade or more. I would much rather see the US do the right thing (speaking morals here) and openly support the secular ethnic nationalists who want to peacefully pull Pakistan apart before it gets worse. Another option: do not support the nationalists but isolate Pakistan not feeding its military which is beyond reform, thus giving the tactical OK to the people that their day of true self-determination and freedom is in their own hands…..basically telling them….go and get it on your own so we can all get on with it – we won’t help you do it but we certainly won’t stop you – patience pays and costs less.
    ———
    Final note:
    There is no question that the Taliban is a tragedy of the highest order both for the Pashtun people and for the outside powers that have been involved with it. It is absolutely impossible to understand what the Taliban is without having a strong understanding of the history of the Pashtuns, Pashtunwali and their communal aspirations – Taliban or other.
    You may enjoy reading about some of the indigenous secular leaders of the region here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmood_Khan_Achakzai, here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asfandyar_Wali_Khan and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakistan_Oppressed….
    ———
    Pa Makha De Kha (Pashto: may your journey be safe and happy

  16. Anonymous · · Reply

    @Robert: Indeed a very well thought and written perspective.
    Being the often villified neighbour (not to dismiss the rhetoric employed by my own leaders), the educated class in India does not subscribe to what our political knuckleheads keep ranting about. Unfortunately, rhetoric is always aimed at those who are poor and are desperate to listen some meaning or looking for someone to blame. And we have lots of those numbering into millions. A boogieman of sorts! For Pakistan, India has been the boogieman and vice versa. This tap dance has been going on for 60 or so years. We thought that with the advent of a newer generation, we wont carry the sins of our fathers and decide to chart a new era of peace friendship and solidarity. I mean what’s wrong in imagining a prosperous nation with jobs, education, food, clothing, arts, culture and safety. But no! my leaders are old, senile, p**cks who have nothing better to do than to take responsibility for thier actions.
    But what is happening there is a little beyond then norm! Having a staring contest with Indian soldiers is one thing. Watching the Wagah border crossing, flag lowering and foot marching ceremony is another thing.
    But Letting radical Talib’s take over slowly is not exactly something one could digest easily. At the same time I see the cold brutal logic of walking away and let the whole place implode on their terms. I wont even pretend to imagine the loss of life because the mere thought will give me nightmares for a long time.
    Lets just pray and hope that somehow, somewhere and soon all this will be over (I am allowed to have wishful thinking else my meagre amount of optimism will fade away and I will fall into a well of despair).

  17. Margot · · Reply

    Robert, thank you so much for taking the time in answering my questions. I was genuinely perplexed regarding how this came about. I feel having read your post more informed however once again there seems to be an expectation on the U.S./West to solve the problems or meet the desires of groups which perhaps is beyond their capability.
    I am aware of the wish for the creation of a new state called; Pashtunistan (I may be mistaken in the exact name) which would effectively threaten not only the stability of Pakistan but its very existence as a functioning state. How can American or indeed Western foreign policy in general support such an aspiration, indeed there are many Pashtuns within Pakistan who would not support such dissolution of the country. And surely the desires, not to mention the safety, of the general population of Pakistan should to be taken into consideration. It would result in total carnage for millions of people.
    So you are telling me the Taliban are educating the young people to hate the West in order for the Pashtuns to gain independence from Afghanistan and Pakistan? Where is the correlation; surely it is the influence of Wahhabism, rather than Pashtun nationalism? Having read somewhat into the history of Afghan politics/Tribal disputes and the ebb and flow of the many power struggles going back centuries, I do feel the problems for the Pashtuns and others in Afghanistan relate to social/political structures. Imposing an extreme form of Islam will of course help to negate some of the chaotic nature of tribal politics, but at such a devastating cost.
    You also say that the Taliban did not appear overnight, saying;
    “These people did not just appear over night out of Pashtun society and U.S. blunders only increase their appeal among the downtrodden. It is only since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan have we (the U.S.) been working against them (the Taliban) and in the process bolstered them because of our own fear in upsetting Islamabad and appearing like truly unilateral imperialists”.
    I am not sure what you mean by this, it is only since 9/11 when America was attacked by Al Qaeda a group closely aliened, protected and supported by the Taliban that the US started to fight the Taliban. Did they (the Taliban)not then have control of 90% of Afghanistan and where they not effectively in control of and governing almost the entire country. Where are they now? I do not understand the logic of; they control a country, then the US/NATO takes them on, and now they control a region of Pakistan. And yet the US/NATO is responsible for their success. Or is the fact that they continue to fight considered success? Of course they did not appear out of Pashtun society over night, neither will they disappear overnight.
    Is it not the case that Pakistan and the Saudi government financed and supported the growth of Madrassas (numbering in the 1950’s in the low hundreds to an astonishing 100,000 plus today) in Pakistan which turned out Talib after Talib as cannon fodder for their leaders to use as they wish? The Saudis did so as a way of spreading Wahhibism and the Pakistanis as a way of controlling/destabilising Afghan politics. So many fingers in such a sticky pot and yet the US/West expected to resolve the problem to everyone’s very conflicting needs.
    You also say that the Pashtuns of the region would rather live under the Taliban than Islamabad, that is not what the reporter in this film found. Indeed if this was the case why do the Taliban have to rule the people with such an iron fist? You are right for anyone who does not come from the region and is not born into the traditions, politics and religion the chaotic nature of the situation is indeed hard to understand.

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