Rebels' 'student' image attacked

October 6, 1995

President Borhanoddin Rabbani of Afghanistan has rejected the image of the Taleban insurgents, currently occupying the south-west of the country, as students of the Islamic religion and accused them of closing the doors of education in the areas they control.

Those fighting Taleban, the president said, bear no relation to genuine Muslim seminarians. Addressing a special meeting of teachers and lecturers convened in the ministry of internal affairs, the president, himself a former university lecturer, called on them to "inculcate in the minds of the young generation the spirit of unity, national pride, independence, faith and commitment".

He pledged that the Taleban "interventionists" would soon be thrown out of the country, and that the educational and cultural centres which they had closed would be reopened.

According to their own media officials, the Taleban take their name from a meeting of some 65 scholars and students in Kandahar province last winter, during which they decided that the prevailing lawlessness in Afghanistan was due to the lack of an Islamic government. They then decided to intervene, and were, they claim, soon joined by large numbers of former soldiers, pilots and military experts who are said to have "witnessed the brutal situation, and joined the students after they recognised the students' good acts and understanding of the situation".

In reality, recruitment was far less spontaneous, and the Taleban fighters (who apparently included ex-Communists as well as ex-Mujahedin from the war against the Soviet Union) were suspiciously well-armed and trained.

They officially pursued a strict Muslim line: in the areas they occupied, women were forced to resume the veil, and secular education was halted. In pursuance of their scholarly image, however, they maintained that the rulers appointed to the provinces they control are all eminent Islamic scholars.

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