The banning of birdsong

Before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 1996, I was a professor of engineering at Kabul University for 21 years. They effectively closed the university. Since half the students and 60 per cent of the staff were women, there was not much university left after women were forbidden to work and study. The Taliban prohibited television, cinema, theatre, music, dance, shaving, several sports, kite flying, singing, playing instruments and other aspects of our culture, such as celebrating New Year’s Day (Nowroze). Even the cheeping of birds was against their laws. They banned artwork or photography that showed the faces of living things.

Today, long after the Taliban were supposed to have gone, Afghanistan is moving back to that sort of government again. Nobody was punished for their crimes. Now, they are actively operating once again in the tribal areas of Pakistan – training and exporting terrorists. Yet Pakistan is receiving millions of pounds as an ally against terrorism. We expected that the Karzai government would bring peace, stability and reconstruction to Afghanistan, but instead it is drowning day by day in extensive corruption. Billions of pounds of aid were spent without transparency or accountability, and worse, without any tangible change

an article by Abdul Lalzad in the May-June 2006 edition of Catalyst magazine. Abdul Lalzad was a professor of engineering at Kabul University for 21 years, and now teaches at South Bank University, London.

Olivier Messiaen described birdsong as a refuge ... ‘in my darkest hours, when my uselessness is brutally revealed to me’.

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