Poetry of the Taliban: propaganda or welcome human insight?

by Toby Manhire / 06 September, 2012
An English-language collection of Taliban verse has sparked controversy.
To its critics, it is “self-satisfying propaganda”.

But to the editors of this new volume of poetry, it offers an uncensored opportunity to “appreciate those who comprise the Taliban as human beings (regardless of what actions they might have taken)”.

In a review of Poetry of the Taliban for the Pakistani paper Dawn, Razeshta Sethna writes:

Focused on the conflicts that have shaped Afghanistan for the past three decades, these poems would have been recited to motivate fighters ...  Political messages couched in repetitive verses urge Afghans to expel foreign occupiers in the religious and nationalistic poems mostly written after 2006. Others are love poems where the grieved poet talks of bombs, graves and revenge.

The volume is “full of admonitions, complaints against ‘infidels’, disgust at Afghans earning dollars”, says Sethna, but the values of the Taliban movement itself avoid any critique.

With one exception:

Poet Nasery laments that, ‘We did all of this to ourselves’. But his is a solitary line in a collection where those ‘Heroes of the Maiwand battles/Those strict Pashtuns’ are eulogised as fighters on a religious mission.

Here’s one poem from the collection, via the Huffington Post:

How many are the NGOs!

By Matiullah Sarachawal, December 23, 2007

Wasting time, they merely sit in their offices,

How many are the NGOs!

Their salaries, more than ministers',

How many are the NGOs!

Wasting time, respecting recommendations,

Those who have no recommendations are forgotten.

How many are the NGOs!

When you are interviewed, they ask for recommendations.

During interviews they make tension suddenly;

How many are the NGOs!

When there is a vacancy, boys are appointed;

They will not admit that they are over-aged,

How many are the NGOs!

If the applicants are girls, they will be admitted without interview;

Women in large numbers but men are few.

How many are the NGOs!

Most people who broke with the government move to NGOs;

The reason is, salaries are in dollars,

How many are the NGOs!

People come from here and there taking salaries in dollars;

They don't work in the government because they have their

hearts broken,

How many are the NGOs!

If someone gets to be head of an NGO, then he is rich,

So they enjoy a better living situation than Karzai.

How many are the NGOs!

Perform the tricks, spend large amounts;

It is not clear where these people come from;

How many are the NGOs!

A meddler strolls around with his bodyguards;

That Afghan doesn't think about the situation;

How many are the NGOs!

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