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Taleban point of view
Why we destroy statues? - ii

Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi, the roving Ambassador of Afghanistan, gave a talk at the University of Southern California on 10 March which was reproduced in the previous issue. A session of questions and answers followed the talk. Following are excerpts:

Q. Does it mean the statues of Hindus and Sikhs will also be destroyed? Since the destruction of the statues was done in retaliation, was it really saving the children?
A.: We are not against Buddhists. Absolutely wrong. We are not against any religion. There are Hindus living in Afghanistan; there are different religions. There is one man who is a Jew living in Afghanistan. So we are not against any religion. And there is no Buddhist in Afghanistan, this I can say. In our religion, if anything, you can leave anything until it is not harmful to you. These Buddhas were not harmful to us so far. But now when the money is going to Buddhasí reconstruction, and the children are dying next door, we think it is harmful now. Not we think, this is what the people think. And I told you that this decision is taken by the council of scholars and the council of people and has been approved by the Supreme Court. Yet the media is saying everywhere that it is an edict by our leadership. Have you ever seen our leadership on TV? Have you ever seen or heard him [Mullah Umar] on international radio? He has never been on radio.

Q.: There is infighting between Mujahideen now. In the past we knew that there was one common enemy [the Russians] and it was easy to support the Mujahideen but now its the groups of Mujahideen fighting one another. How do you explain this?
A.: They [Mujahideen groups] killed so many people, and there were so many problems. Thatís why we started our movement. They didnít fight for Shari'ah, they didnít fight for Afghanistan, they only fought for their future posts in power. So we finished that. And now, we have only one opposition headed by Ahmed Shah Masood. And we donít have much problems with him. We had talks with his representative in Ashkabad in Ramadan this year, and I was there. We asked him, despite that he controls nothing, except five percent in the mountains, and we have said we are still open-minded. We agree that he should have a post, because he has fought the Russians. And in 1998, we agreed on a joint government. I was also there, so we agreed on giving them three ministries and accepting their judicial system merging with ours, and giving them three or four district or province governorships or something like that. And they agreed on that. On our part, we asked them to give us their weapons, because the problem in Afghanistan is not political differences. The problem in Afghanistan is the weapons. Everybody has weapons, and now if they are fighting us, it is not because of our ideological differences; its because of weapons. There were a lot of weapons before, and you know, the Afghans know that so many times they tried to have one government and then after a week or so, they fought, because all of them got different weapons and they would fight. So now we have said that the problem in Afghanistan is not the political problem; it is the arms which exist. We will accept them to be in our government if he accepts to give up his arms to the Ministry of Defense.

Q.: Why it took you so long to destroy these statues?
A.: We donít have any Buddhists as I told you. We have to look at the problems of the Muslim minorities in some countries. So we do not want to create problems for them. Thatís why we are still waiting, and we hope that we will resolve this problem.

Q.: What is your opinion about killing the Iranian officers in Herat in 1998?
A.: There is this story about seven or nine Iranians, one of them was a journalist, and the rest of them were called diplomats. It happened in 1998 when we were capturing a city in the north of Afghanistan called Mazar-e-Shareef. We announced before our campaign to liberate that city that all diplomats of organizations, including the UN, the diplomatic missions, and NGOs should evacuate because of the possible fighting that may occur in the city. So, all of them evacuated, the United Nations, the NGOs, and even those people who actually bombed them, they also evacuated. So the only people who remained there were some seven, or eight, Iranians, who were actually not diplomats. They were actually military advisors to their puppets in Afghanistan. We didnít kill them in the diplomatic mission; they were killed on their way to Bamiyan. Bamiyan is another city in central Afghanistan, and we didnít want to kill them; they just died because of the shelling that happened. And we declared that we were sorry for what happened. And now the Iranian government has also sent their mission. They reopened their consulate and I think they have re-thought their policies now and maybe they will have a new chapter of friendship with us.

Q.: Will one be under physical threat if he were to shave his beard and walk into Afghanistan, or if a sister would be under a physical threat if she were to wear Hijab according to the Islamic standards, not Burqa?
A.: As I told you, we have other priorities. Our priority is to save the children. Our priority is to de-mine our country. Our priority is to reunify our country. Our priority is to stop the foreign interference. Our priority is to fight [the enemy] which is already operating in our country. What would you do if you were in this situation?

And it is not easy to do public relations. You have to spend a lot of money. I will tell you a story of CNN. CNN was in Afghanistan interviewing Bin Laden, in 1998. You have to be careful in listening to this. I was there, and they asked Bin Laden as to what was his thinking about the killing of civilians in Iraq. It was part of three hours of formal conversation, and the camera was rolling. He said that if all American citizens and if all British citizens are willing, or supporting, to kill all Iraqi civilians, then all American citizens and all British citizens deserve the same thing or to be killed. CNN cut everything. Three-hours conversation was not there. The only thing they put, and it was not complete, the only clause that they said was that all American and British citizens must be killed. This is what came out on the air. But he didnít mean this. And I know that all Americans do not support the killing [of] civilians there. Not even a quarter of that. That was impossible. But now what they taught their people was that Bin Laden is saying that all American civilians must be killed. That is the story of media, and the media here is very irresponsible. They are commercialized, and they do anything for selling advertisements.

[About the beard and the veil], first of all, this rule does not apply to all non-Afghans. There are many non-Afghans who are working there; there are actually Americans who are working there in the UN, there are many people from different parts of the world. And they do whatever they want, they donít care. And we donít have a law for them. But Afghanistan is a country that has gone through 23 years of war, and there is still war. Then you must have some sort of strict law, in order to ensure security and peace in Afghanistan. So, maybe it is ridiculous for you that we ask people to grow beards, but this is in Afghanistan, and the Afghans do grow beards, whether you tell them or not. And it s something natural.

And regarding the veil, or the Burqas, or the Islamic dress code, that is something that exists in Afghanistan for centuries. It does exist in Iran, it does exist in Saudi Arabia as it exists in many Islamic countries. It has nothing to do only with Afghanistan. And it does exist even here. So you canít force people not to wear burqas, and we do have that constitution that at this time, women should cover up. For us our priority is that they should be safe.

I myself, Iím 24, and serving my country. I could play football now, and I could even play here, and I could stay in the United States, but I donít do any of these things; I serve my country. So I agree that whatever, all those things that exist in Afghanistan, maybe there are many things that we donít want, but they do exist. So we are not sponsors for that. They did exist for two decades.

The best thing I would say is to educate people. Instead of criticism, they can come there! and open a school. They can open a school for girls, for boys. Unfortunately some of our Afghans are sitting in their air-conditioned rooms here, play their TVs, and when they have nothing to do, they criticize us because we canít make Europe for them. They have to come and help us, in all the sectors. We do need all the Afghans from here. If they really criticize our policies, they should come there and criticize our policies, not from here. So the best thing for you people is to raise funds. Do not give it to us, one of you should come there, help the people.

Q.: Do you respect our right to tell you that if you didnít believe in PR, you wouldnít be here right now. Iíd like to ask you, does your version of Islam preach hate?
A.: I donít know what to say but you only expressed your emotions. Islam means peace. You have to understand that a peaceful religion will never preach hate. And we do not preach hate. And you said that if we didnít believe in public relations, I wouldnít be here. Its my first time here, and Iíve waited for an American visa for a long time, and Iím not used to doing these things. I brought a letter from my leadership that I explained before that I will be submitting to the leader of the administration here, and hoping that they will re-think their policies. So I do believe that we must believe in public relations because they are very important. What I am saying is that PR needs a lot of resources, and that at this time we have resources for the plight of our people.

Q.: Is it true that women are required to have a male escort whenever they go out. If I were to go to Afghanistan wearing what I am now [a jilbab and hijab] would I be under any physical threat?
A.:You say whether a woman is allowed to go without a male escort? Iím here, and my wife is shopping in Kandahar now. So they donít have to be escorted, this is absolutely wrong. Yes, they were, in those cities that we captured first, because that was for their safety. Now, they donít have to. And I donít have any problem with whatever you wear, and women do wear the same thing that you do wear, and they donít have any problems. And I say that those cities, which are close to the frontline and there are military operations going on in the vicinity, there are thousands of military soldiers of ours, we do ask women to avoid the social areas. Now you do not understand what I mean, but some of our friends here do understand. In a country that is in a war, the military is mixed with the people, and there are certain limitations. So I canít go beyond that, and I say that women do not have to be escorted. Iím here now and my wife may be shopping in Kandahar.

Q.: What is Afghanistanís priority in regards to establishing an Islamic state for all Muslims, not just for Afghans?
A.: We have our first headache in Afghanistan, and thatís a big headache. We have a full-time job there. If we worked 24 hours a day, we will hardly ever be able to re-construct an Islamic system in our own country. And we have no intention of going beyond our borders, and neither we can. So, all these people who exist in other countries, or their policies, they have nothing to do with us. We are only concerned about Afghanistan.
And please do not try to make assumptions. Ask me questions. I was in Bay Area yesterday, a journalist asked me: why do you hate women? And I asked him: why do you beat your wife? And he replied: I donít beat my wife. I said: I donít hate women.

Q.: My country (Iran) is suffering from drug-trafficking from Afghanistan.
A.: I said Afghanistan produced 75% of all worldís opium. And we eradicated it last year. I do not say that we eradicated it five years ago. This year, the United Nations Drug Control Program, announced that there was 0% opium cultivation; Iran, too, admitted that. So if you donít know, thatís your problem. New York Times announced this. So if you donít know this, then itís your problem.

Q.: You need technocrats..
A.: You can go there, if women can go there. What is the problem? But if you ask us to give you the government, then thatís difficult. I agree with you that we need technocrats, but we donít need politicians. (Concluded)


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