anecdote, history, Mullah Omar, Paul Watson, post-Soviet, Taliban
“Talib” means student.
I’ve gone to the trouble to look this up, so I’m going to share it with you:
“After U.S.-backed mujahideen forced Soviet troops to end their almost decade-long occupation in 1989, Washington turned its back on Afghanistan as it collapsed into a ferocious civil war. Five years later, as local legend has it, members of a warlord’s militia kidnapped and gang-raped two teenaged girls at a checkpoint in his home village of Singesar, in the dust-blown badlands an hour’s drive from the southern city of Kandahar. It was a common crime, one that normally would have faded into the brutal monotony of violence that was strangling Afghanistan in 1994. but this time the atrocity changed the destiny not only of a country, but the world.
Mullah Mohammed Omar, an obscure country cleric and mujahideen veteran who lost an eye to shrapnel during the war against the Soviets, decided he had had enough. He mustered a small group of fighters, attacked the checkpoint, and then hanged the militia commander from a tank barrel. He then fled across the Pakistan border to the province of Baluchistan, where with the help of military intelligence, he recruited fighters fired up for a new jihad by the puritanical Wahabi theology exported from Saudi Arabia and taught in hundreds of Pakistan’s madrassas, or Koranic schools.”
_Watson, Paul. _Where War Lives_. 167-168. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2007
Does that legend not fit with the assortment of bits and pieces everyone here knows?
While it would seem perfectly rational of me to have become computer literate — I was probably the last graduate student to run an 80-column card set through the Univac at the University of Maryland — to keep up with computers, to acquire broadband, to leave the virtual shore by exploring foreign news on English-language web sites (first stop: Somalia; second: Pakistan), to become involved with blogging (first), and to open a Facebook account (second), there is nothing rational about my sharing the curiosity of 2007 and a book purchased then with virtual friends on a growing forum in Islamabad.
Watson, Paul. _Where War Lives_. 167-168. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2007.
For years I have remembered the story but not whether it was written by Paul Watson, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning photojournalist, or Dexter Filkins, who most certainly ranks among the best war journalists ever.
What I wonder about today is not what motivated Mullah Omar, of course, of what the movement has led to in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the world itself, but rather what possessed the warlord and his crowd to rape two village girls: from whence came that evil?
The “heavy half” of readers seem most often to want to get their eyes on the latest first edition, but I cannot too highly recommend revisiting Paul Watson’s 2007 reflection and remembrance of the wars he had covered to that time — and God has blessed him: he is still out in the field.
# # #