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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 00:48 GMT
Expulsion reflects Taleban anger
Taleban guard
The Taleban stand guard at the ruins where the Buddha statues once stood
By Baqer Moin of the BBC Persian/Pashto Section.

The Taleban authorities in Afghanistan have asked the BBC correspondent in Kabul to leave.

The move is being seen as a reflection the Taleban's anger with the BBC for reporting growing international and internal criticism following the destruction of Buddha statues in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan.

The Taleban are shocked, isolated and angry.

Afghan women
Militants Muslims support restrictions on Afghan women

The condemnation for their destruction of the ancient Buddhist monuments had been almost universal.

Western accusations of cultural vandalism were only to be expected, but even the more militant Muslim scholars who supported their closure of girls' schools and their restrictions on Afghan women, have refused to support this latest action.

Powerful symbol

Leading Afghans who welcomed their emergence in 1996 in the hope of peace and stability have accused the Taleban of ignorance and lack of respect for Afghanistan's cultural heritage and identity.

The destruction of the Bamiyan statues is an extremely powerful symbol in the minds of ordinary Afghans.

Despite their poverty and the damage wrought by 20 years of civil war, they retain a fierce pride in Afghanistan's cultural heritage and the Bamiyan statues represent a distant period in which Afghanistan was the focus of a flourishing culture.

We do not know how the Taleban decided on the expulsion of the BBC Kabul correspondent, but one possible reason is that Kate Clark described the dismay felt by ordinary Afghans when they learnt what had been done in their name.

Part of daily life

In the absence of better alternative sources of information, the BBC itself has become a symbol.

It is a part of Afghan daily life and it is unusual to meet Afghans who are not regular listeners.

The BBC provides information through news programmes, it provides entertainment through its soap opera in Pashto and Persian, it provides music and poetry and appeals to women and children, not just to men.

In the minds of many Afghans, the expulsion of the BBC Kabul correspondent also has deeply symbolic overtones.

Isolated

The Taleban are isolated, they are under sanction, they are divided, and they are now unpopular.

The more thoughtful among them are aware of this and have tried to resist destructive and self-defeating moves.

If they fail, then the outside world will inevitably conclude that the Taleban are not fit to become the accepted and recognised rulers of the country whose culture they are destroying.

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See also:

14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Full text of Taleban statement
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
The Taleban and the BBC
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