Taliban beat people who mark Persian new year
March 21, 1999 , KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Taliban soldiers whipped
several residents of the capital with steel wires Sunday after they defied
a ban on new year's celebrations, witnesses said.
The centuries-old festival, based on the Persian calendar, marks the
end of winter.
It is widely celebrated in neighboring Iran and until last year was
marked also in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban religious army which
controls most of the country banned the festival, saying it violates the
tenets of Islam.
The festival traditionally involves visiting family, decorating homes
with lights and paying respects to deceased relatives at graveyards throughout
Taliban soldiers beat several people, including women, with steel wires
because they were offering prayers at graveyards in keeping with new year's
celebrations, witnesses said.
Earlier the Taliban asked Shiite clerics to explain to their followers
that new year's celebrations were against Islam. Many people nonetheless
defied the ban.
The Taliban, who largely belong to the Sunni sect of Islam and are mostly
ethnic Pashtuns, like most Afghans, rule 90 percent of Afghanistan.
They espouse a harsh version of Islam that bars women from work and
education, forces men to wear beards and outlaws all light entertainment,
The Taliban are fighting the northern-based opposition alliance, which
comprises mainly of ethnic and religious minorities in a bid to control
the rest of the country.