Khaled Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner, follows the life of a young boy living in Afghanistan; a very different Afghanistan than the one we know today. Through his eyes we see the country he loves, his home, torn apart by a war with the Soviet Union, then a civil war, before finally being taken over by an extremely strict religious group called the Taliban. This series of horrible events destroys everything he loved about Afghanistan; it claims the lives of friends and family, and even threatens his own future. Of course, The Kite Runner is a novel; at least some of the story is fictionalized. How much of these terrible things actually take place in real life? The Taliban have defiantly had a powerful effect on Afghanistan, its citizens, and on the rest of the world. What exactly have they done that to so drastically change the dynamic of the country and the lives of its citizens? The Taliban have been around for a long time, (playing a quiet, background role in Afghanistan), but it wasn’t until the mid ‘90s that they really began to gain followers and power. Afghanistan’s bitter civil war shattered the country and weakened the control of the government, dividing the country and forcing its citizens to live in chaos.
People desperately needed protection, leadership, and guidance, to put an end to the lawless free-for-all the country had become during the Mujahideen era (Kakar 1). This is where the Taliban stepped in. They were a young group of freedom fighters, few in numbers, who believed in the teachings of Islam above all else. They had no experience with political power, little military experience, and lacked proper educations, but their devotion to saving the country from the madness it was trapped in was enough to get the masses to follow them. In the three years that followed emergence, their numbers went from less than a hundred, to thousands. By 1996 they had the manpower to take over Kabul, from there spreading out to collect provinces of Afghanistan that had slipped through the fingers of the real government. (The Taliban’s War Against Women).The Taliban grew quickly, gathering the support of the people and many, many new recruits. They were able to do this because their goals appealed to the battered country; they seemed like solid first steps to begin rebuilding on.
The Taliban claimed their primary goals were to “disarm the country, end lawlessness and enforce the Islamic law, or the Sharia, on a united Afghanistan” (Kakar 2). Their plans gave the people hope, and that was something they had needed for a long time. They were successful in accomplishing these goals and gaining control of roughly 90% of the country before their priorities shifted and things started to go downhill. The Taliban have very structured ideas of how people should behave, what is moral or immoral, and what people’s duties are to their country. Under Taliban leadership women lost all rights to education and employment. They were forbidden to leave their homes without male guardians, and had to follow a strict dress code that kept them completely covered at all times. Supposedly this harsh treatment of women was to protect their honor and dignity, but only succeeded in making them powerless and fearful. (The Taliban’s War Against Women) Women weren’t the only ones to suffer, though. Men also had new rules to follow that they didn’t always agree with.
They were required to grow full length beards, pray five times a day, and be drafted for war whenever the Taliban needed the extra help. In addition to these rules, many daily activated like kite flying, gambling, listening to music, watching television or using the internet have been outlawed on the assumption that they will lead to “moral corruption” (Who Are The Taliban? Afghanistan Under The Taliban). Hosseini’s presentation of these changes in The Kite Runner is actually pretty accurate, as are his graphic depictions of the punishments people endured when the Taliban found them to be in violation of one or more of their rules. Brutal public executions, like the soccer field scene from The Kite Runner, became common displays of the Taliban’s power. They also took to the streets in trucks, searching for anyone who might be disobeying the law. When they were found, Taliban officials would would be beat or maim for their crimes, leaving a lasting image of their dominance in the minds of anyone watching.
They claim all of their newly created laws are direct interpretations of Sharia, the religious law, but these ideas are steadily alienating Afghanistan from the rest of the modern world, who don’t support or understand their unfair and harmful practices. Many countries want nothing to do with the Taliban leadership; fearing involvement will lead to being the target of terrorist attacks. Not everyone is afraid to speak up, though. Iran, India, China, Russia, and the United States have publically expressed their dislike of the Taliban rule and have all worked, at various times in its history, to end it and rebuild Afghanistan under their real government or a new one (The Taliban: Opposing Viewpoints). The Taliban officially ruled in Afghanistan for five years, from 1996 to 2001.
During their time in power they managed to do a few things that benefitted the country, such as reuniting the provinces after the civil war and ending the lawless chaos the previous government had created. However, many of their other actions lead to the deterioration of the quality of live of their people and further distanced them from rebuilding the ruined country. It has now been over a decade since the Taliban government was overthrown, and while many countries have expressed a desire to help rebuild Afghanistan, it will take years and billions of dollars to repair the damage the country has accumulated in its years under the Taliban’s control.
Hays, Laura, Beth Rowen, and Borgna Brunner. “Who Are the Taliban? Their History and Their Resurgence.” Infoplease. Infoplease, 2007. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://www.infoplease.com/spot/taliban.html>. Kakar, Kawun. “An Introduction of the Taliban.” Institute for Afghan Studies. Institute for Afghan Studies, 2000. Web. <http://www.institute-for-afghan-studies.org/AFGHAN%20CONFLICT/TALIBAN/intro_kakar.htm>. “The Taliban’s War Against Women.” U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 17 Nov. 2001. Web. May 2012. <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/6185.htm>. Berlatsky, Noah. The Taliban. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2011. Print. Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003. Print.