In the languages spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Taliban (also Taleban) means those who study the book (the Qur'an). Sometimes it is translated "God's Students". It is derived from the Arabic word for seeker or student, talib. The word is almost exclusively used to refer to a fundamentalist Islamist movement which ruled the southern, mainly Pashtun, region of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. The Taliban fell after the United States and Great Britain, with support from a large coalition of other governments, attacked Afghanistan with the stated intention of removing them from power.
The Taliban started as a religious reform movement in response to the chaos of the Mujahedeen rule after the overthrow of the Soviet occupation forces in 1989. The movement was founded in Kandahar in 1994 by young, educated fundamentalist Muslim scholars.
They decried the inability of the Mujahedeen leaders to keep open fighting and disorder from ruling the day, and received broad support from the people of Afghanistan who were tired of the ongoing wars and unrest. Most Taliban are members of the Pashtun ethnic group of southern Afghanistan, the largest ethnic group.
After a civil war and with considerable support by the Pakistani intelligence agency I.S.I., the Taliban established a government in 1996 which at its height was recognised by Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and controlled all of Afghanistan apart from small regions in the northeast. The Taliban started out with much popular support, and they were responsible for dismantling the Mujahedeen warlord network across the unstable country.
Once in power, the Taliban instituted a particularly harsh and oppressive form of Islamic law, leading to loud complaints from the international community and human rights watch organizations. While the Taliban may have led a reform of government, the replacement government had no governmental experience, and most appointed local leaders had little education according to Western standards and many were barely literate.
On the other hand, the Clinton administration of the United States was criticized for overlooking the the human rights abuses by the Taliban because they were more willing to cooperate in talks, and take action against drugs, than previous Afghan regimes. This accusation was made in particular by Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California, who said in 1999: "I believe the administration has maintained this covert goal and kept Congress in the dark about its policy of supporting the Taliban, the most anti-Western, anti-female, anti-human rights regime in the world. It doesn't take a genius to understand that this policy would outrage the American people, especially America's women." These charges were denied by the administration.
The Taliban are believed to be close associates of Al-Qaeda. The US and Great Britain, along with a broad coalition of other world governments, initiated military action against Afghanistan with the stated intent of removing the Taliban from power because of the Taliban's refusal to hand over Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden and in retaliation for the Taliban's aid to him.
On 22 September 2001, the United Arab Emirates and later Saudi Arabia withdrew their recognition of the Taliban as the legal government of Afghanistan. Observers agree that they wished to distance themselves from the Taliban, but they differ over whether this was a purely principled action or due to pressure from the United States and its allies.
See also Government of Afghanistan.
Things that are said to have been banned in parts of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime:
- reading books (other than the Koran, presumably) [source: Robert Young Pelton]
- paper bags
- canaries and other singing birds (decadent)
- cinema, television and VCR (decadent, graven image, promotes non-muslim ideas) news.bbc.co.uk
- internet (though users can log into uncensored ISP's in Pakistan) newsbytes.com
- music (except islamic religious music) newsbytes.com borndigital.com borndigital.com news.bbc.co.uk
- promotion of non-muslim ideas
- bicycles (?freedom of movement?)
- women without complete body coverings newsbytes.com phrusa.org borndigital.com
- women working outside the home (except in health care when kept separate from male workers and patients) time.com news.bbc.co.uk phrusa.org
- women going on picnics or to tourist resorts
- kite-flying (wastes time better spent studying Quran)
- converting people from Islam (death penalty for Afgan convert, expulsion for foreign national)
- growing opium poppies. This prohibition has been rewarded by a $43 million increase in drought help by the US in May 2001 
Practices Reported in Afghanistan:
- amputating prisoners' body parts news.bbc.co.uk; see Sharia for this practice in other countries
- public executions news.bbc.co.uk; see Sharia for this practice in other countries
- recently destroying ancient Buddhist statues
- use of torture to obtain confession; no provision for legal counsel if arrested
- In a move reminiscent of the requirement that Jews wear the Yellow Star of David in Nazi Germany, on May 22, 2001, the Taliban issued an order that Hindus and other non-Muslims must wear a yellow identity symbol U.S. House resolution of condemnation. This policy was quickly dropped in June of the same year, after pressure from Pakistan, although Hindus were still required to carry a special identification card.
- men are beaten or jailed for having beards of insufficient length phrusa.org
- women are not permitted to wear white socks or shoes, nor to wear shoes that make noise when walking phrusa.org
- women suffer physical punishment if showing face in public phrusa.org
- houses with women present must have windows painted over phrusa.org
- women health care is restricted; women cannot seek medical attention without a male escort news.bbc.co.uk phrusa.org
- formal schooling for women much reduced. Some girls are still being educated in home schools, especially in the north and east. Education in general is very poor, with little formal schooling available for boys as well.borndigital.comBBC on bans on girls school early in regime time.comclosing of girls home schools in 1998Unicef figures for some home schools for girls in 1999
- women are beaten for going outside without a male relative newsbytes.com phrusa.org
See also: Taliban treatment of women