Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Taleban Violations of Human Rights

Delivered in Plenary 14th June 2001

On Tuesday Mohamed Alawali was sentenced to life imprisonment in New York for the Nairobi U.S. Embassy bombing whilst his boss, Osama bin Laden, is given sanctuary by the Taliban as an Islamic hero of Afghanistan. This country is so extreme and medieval now that paper bags are banned in case they might contain pulped versions of the Koran and where women are veiled, segregated from men and unable to work. Even chess and the flying of kites have been banned as unIslamic, though there are many Islamic scholars who would contest such interpretations of the Koran. Indeed, the rules imposed by the Taleban, would appear to derive less from the Koran than from tribal customs dependant on a world view that sees women's value as essentially procreative and economic.

Until recently the focus has been on ensuring that Muslims behaved 'Islamically'. However in March, following a takeover of Taleban by a hardline faction, linked to the same Bin Laden, the extraordinarily beautiful fifth century Buddhist statues in Bamiyan were destroyed with dynamite. Now, echoes of Nazi Germany are heard as Hindus, of whom I represent many 10's of thousands as a community in London are required to visibly identify themselves in public.

I am not suggesting that direct intervention in a country which defied the Red Army is either appropriate or feasible. Moreover, intervention in the internal affairs of other states by outsiders can often exacerbate and prolong a conflict - something which I believe has happened in the Balkans - and it may be that we may simply have to wait for things to burn themselves out. Nor should it be forgotten that there is peace of a kind in most of Afghanistan. The Taleban should be left in no doubt, however, that should they want our help then they will have to listen to the widespread concerns of people around the world at the brutal and medieval character of their regime.