An Eye for an Eye

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Afghanistan's Minister of Justice gives his first ever interview to a foreign journalist


Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, perhaps the most isolated government in the world, is routinely accused of repression at home and support for terrorism abroad. In a rare show of openness, two of the Taliban's leading figures agreed to meet with New Delhi bureau chief Michael Fathers. The result: a fresh insight into this little-understood regime. Here, Justice Minister Mullah Nooruddin Turabi defends Islamic principles and the Taliban's insistence on imposing its version of justice. Excerpts from the interview:

TIME: How do you respond to international concern that your implementation of orthodox Islamic law is unnecessarily severe and a breach of human rights?
Turabi: We are Muslims and we are required to follow the Holy Koran and implement the Islamic system of justice, known as Shariat. If we don't follow it we are committing a sin. You also have to look at those countries which are criticizing us. All of them have law and order problems. We constantly hear news of people in the United States and Russia being robbed and murdered. There is a lot of crime there. Our traders tell us that before the Taliban, they were never able to get by without their goods being stolen and their lorries stopped. What we have done is restored law and order. Before, there was complete chaos. Now everyone can travel freely, even at night, and nobody will stop them. In other countries, even those where there are lots of police, there is not this level of safety. It has come about in Afghanistan because we have implemented Islamic justice and Islamic punishment. Let me explain: In every organization there are rules and regulations which you must follow. In our faith there are specific punishments for specific crimes and we must follow them--a robber loses his hand, a highway robber loses his hand and a foot. Murder requires equal revenge. There is no other way for us but to enforce Islamic punishment because that is our belief. We are not bothered by the criticism of other countries. We are following the instructions of God. It is not me saying what should be done. We are told by God what to do.