Taliban fighters swap arms for books
AFGHANISTAN: Gul Agha Jalali used to spend his nights planting bombs – hoping to target an Afghan government soldier or, better still, a foreign serviceman.
These days, the 23-year-old Taliban member is studying English and has enrolled in a computer science course in the capital, Kabul.
“When our country was occupied by infidels, we needed bombs, mortars and guns,” says Mr Jalali, an employee at the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. Now there is a greater need for education, he said.
Since the Taliban swept back to power in August last year, hundreds of fighters have returned to school – either on their own or pushed by their commanders.
The word “Taliban” actually means “students” in Arabic, and the hardline Islamist movement’s name stems from the religious schools in southern Afghanistan it emerged from in the 1990s.
Most Taliban fighters were educated in these madrasahs, where studies are largely limited to the Koran and other Islamic themes.
Many conservative Afghan clerics – particularly among the Taliban – are sceptical of more modern education, apart from subjects than can be applied practically, such as engineering or medicine.
“The world is evolving, we need technology and development,” said Jalali, who planted bombs for five years but is now among a dozen Taliban studying computers at the Transport Ministry.
– THE STRAITS TIMES