Afghan Taliban Says Non-Muslims Must Wear Badge
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Afghanistan
Taliban rulers Tuesday ordered the country's non-Muslim minorities to wear a distinctive badge on their clothes when they go out of doors. The Taliban-controlled Voice of Shariat radio, monitored in Islamabad, quoted religious police chief Maulawi Abdul Wali as saying the order had been issued in the light of a fatwa, or religious decree, given by Islamic scholars.
`The ulema (scholars) issued a fatwa that the non-Muslim population of the country should have a distinctive mark such as a piece of cloth attached to their pockets so they should be differentiated from others,'' it quoted Wali as saying in an interview with the official Bakhtar news agency.
`This decision is in accordance with the Sharia (Islamic law),'' said Wali, who heads the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, in effect a religious police directly under the orders of Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The dress code was the latest sign of the Taliban's determination to impose its extreme interpretation of Islamic law on all those living in the 90 percent of Afghanistan it controls, including foreign aid workers and non-Muslims.
In the West, the order that minorities should wear a distinctive badge evokes memories of the Nazis' treatment of Jews, who were forced to wear a yellow star on their clothes.
The United States immediately condemned the order, saying it was ``the latest in a long list of outrageous repressions.'' ``...forcing social groups to wear distinctive clothing or identifying marks stigmatizes and isolates those groups and can never, never be justified,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a news conference.
The broadcast quoted Wali as saying the directive had been issued after non-Muslims had complained that they had faced problems during operations of his ministry's groups trying to enforce Islamic laws. Taliban actions this month have given no indication of a willingness to satisfy the two main goals of the United Nations: negotiating an end to the devastating civil war and ending support for foreign militants such as Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden.
Last week the United Nations complained that Taliban authorities had been abusing the aid workers who provide most of the social services in the shattered country.
HOSPITAL CLOSES AFTER RAID
A day earlier a new 120-bed hospital in the capital Kabul, built to treat victims of two decades of war, was closed when armed members of the religious police forced their way in, beat staff and took away three local employees.
The powerful Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said the Italian-funded hospital had allowed men and women to eat in the same room. Wali's ministry answers directly to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who earlier this year outraged much of the world by ordering the destruction of all Afghanistan's historic statues -- mainly Buddhist works of the pre-Islamic period.
Long-running Taliban objections to women working at bakeries funded by the U.N. World Food Program boiled up again last week, forcing the temporary closure of some of the outlets that provide subsidized bread for much of the capital's population.
Hopes of an end to the war between the Taliban and their last opponents, already extremely slim, were dealt another blow with the closure this week of all but one Taliban-area office of the U.N. representative in charge of starting peace talks, Francesc Vendrell.
The Taliban, angry at the U.N. Security Council for imposing fresh sanctions against it in January, rejects any U.N. role in making peace. Japan, which has offered to host peace talks, was told the Taliban would not accept even a U.N. observer.
TALIBAN'S DEEPENING ISOLATION
The movement's deepening isolation has appeared to touch even Pakistan's military rulers, who have consistently backed the Taliban but have failed to persuade it to adopt policies that would make it more acceptable to the world. `The Afghans are nowhere near as pliant as they expected,'' said a senior Western diplomat.
The Italian ambassador to Pakistan, Angelo Gabriele de Ceglie, was in Kabul Tuesday with a team of hospital managers and told reporters there that he had sought security guarantees from the Taliban for reopening the closed hospital.
The tougher Taliban stance was not unexpected at a time when it is starting its annual summer campaign against the opposition Northern Alliance.
Earlier this month the Taliban rejected a U.N. call for a cease-fire to get humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of Afghans displaced by fighting and the worst drought in three decades.
News from inside the opaque Taliban leadership is sparse, but there has been talk of problems. Contrary to expectations, no new deputy to Omar has been named to replace Mohammad Rabbani, who died in April.
`There is a lot of uprising talk around, more than in the past two or three years,'' said a western diplomat. ``There is a perception that the Taliban are off-balance, that there is a structural problem...''
The Taliban are also believed to be short of money -- vital even in the relatively crude warfare of Afghanistan, where commanders and their followers are often paid to change sides.
The drug trade has been hit by the Taliban's own ban on opium poppy cultivation. Merchandise trade has been hit by Pakistan's efforts to slow rampant smuggling. Both activities previously produced useful tax revenue.
But none of the diplomats and aid workers dealing with Afghanistan expects Taliban weakness to translate into military defeat. The prediction is just for more fighting. (source: Reuters)