A book of poetry — by the Taliban?
Taliban fighters in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, earlier this year.
May 18th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

A book of poetry — by the Taliban?

And you didn’t think there was a soft side to the Taliban.

A controversial new book has hit shelves in Great Britain that contains poetry written by members of the group or authors who seem quite romantically devoted to it. It's titled, appropriately enough, "Poetry of the Taliban."

The spot on my heart makes a candle like the sun
To watch the earth and skies with.

That’s just a taste of the verse two Western researchers stumbled on while perusing the Taliban’s web site. Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, who have been living in Afghanistan for years, found the trove while they were working on a project called Afghanwire, an online resource they created to help foreigners understand what everyday Afghans were doing.

They noticed that new poems kept popping up on the Taliban’s site and kept clicking to find poems dating to the 1990s. They asked around to see if anyone was bothering to translate them to English.

No one was, so their translator went to work.

“The poems seemed part of our understanding of who the Taliban were. They meshed with what we’ve seen living in Kandahar – that it wasn’t enough to believe that the Taliban are fighting simply out of religious fervor,” Kuehn said. “There was a lot more to these guys.”

Beyond fighting, the poets penned odes to love, and to Afghanistan. They wrote about corruption in government and about NGOs that are failing to really help Afghans. They ruminated on money, loss of life, being a refugee and beauty.

There was a sun escorting your beauty
There was a moon with you and a great army of stars.
The ignorance of the dark turned to light when you came;
The army accompanying you dug into the chest of darkness.

Several of the poems sound like lines that Sacha Baron Cohen might say in his new movie “The Dictator.”

Your love aside, what else is there?
It is like approaching the desert.
Like the dust on your footsteps.
Look! The crazy one lay down.

Other poems are a little more direct:

I will murder all the enemies of your religion and prosperity,
I will gradually make you the holy necklace of Asia.

Response among Afghans to the book has been split, the researchers said.

“A lot of people thought it was strange that it was a couple foreigners working on a book about poetry by talibs [the Arabic word for students of Islam],” Strick van Linschoten said. “The feedback in intellectual circles in Kabul is [some think] that it’s great that we’re showing the international community another side to the Taliban.” Others in Kabul, they say, disagree with the book's publication.

Meanwhile, outside of Afghanistan, there has been other criticism of the researchers for publishing the words of the Taliban and giving a platform for the Islamist militant group.

Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, calls the poetry propaganda, reports The Guardian:

"What we need to remember is that these are fascist, murdering thugs who suppress women and kill people without mercy if they do not agree with them, and of course are killing our soldiers," Kemp said. "It doesn't do anything but give the oxygen of publicity to an extremist group which is the enemy of this country."

The book's editors say the poetry provides insights into the group.

“They’ve said, ‘How can you publish the poems of people who have created problems for me and my ethnic group?’” Kuehn said. “One of my favorite questions is, ‘How can you humanize the Taliban?’ I always say, ‘They are human, right?’"

The researchers said they were able to meet at least one poet in real life – a university student.

“They are not demons from an outside world,” Kuehn continued. “Right or wrong. Agree or disagree with them. Hate them if you want, but they are still human.”

What do you think? Share your comments below

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Topics: Afghanistan • Odd

soundoff (192 Responses)
  1. Middlefinger

    yeah right!!!!This one wanna make me throw up...people,google Bachi Bazi so that you will know how this animals prey on little kids.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:55 am | Reply
  2. jim

    Almost as good as Eddie Murphy on SNL.

    "Kill my landlord,
    Kill my landlord,
    C-I-L-L my land lord!

    May 21, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
  3. 11:11

    There once was a towel head from Kabul
    who didn't like girls, what a fool
    He lusted for boys and bomb making toys
    even though he knew it not cool.

    With frustrated tension
    he strapped on a bomb
    knowing he would not live
    to receive payment or pension

    He strolled towards the infidel
    with stark determination
    and took a 7,62 round
    before reaching his destination

    No one mourned his passing.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
    • Gary

      very very nice hoo rah

      May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  4. EatYouAlive

    They can recite poetry as they throw acid in the face of school children. How... human...

    May 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  5. Jay

    I guess "Cooking With the Taliban" is next.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  6. Jason Kendle

    Poetry is not feminine, it is art, whether you like it or not!

    To prove that point I wrote a poem just for the Taliban, they can put it in their book.

    Oh bearded terrorist who lives in a cave, how many years since a bath and a shave?
    The Desert is hot, it's where you'll be shot, and we will all dance on your grave...

    May 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  7. Gary

    So let me get this correct. This is a terrorist poetry book and for the low price of 9.99 i can BUY IT FROM THEM AND SUPPORT FUNDING THEIR KILLINGS AND RELIGIOUS AFFLICTIONS???
    We are seriously missing the point.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  8. 0hmama

    the killing of millions to create this country is the biggest act of terrorism ever. same goes for the bobo bibi nation of terror ,Israel

    May 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  9. dajowi

    A person who is an adherent to the teachings of islam is a muslim. Any muslim who plays the race card is an idiot since muslim isn't a race. muslims commit mass murder. muslims kill other muslims without conscious. muslims hate anyone of any other reliigon. The so called moderate muslims don't speak out against such violence because they're afraid of said violence upon themselves. muslims aren't a race, they're a murderous horde who practice the world's most dangerous religion.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  10. CW

    Get back to me when these enlightened 7th century people treat women and gays with respect. It is absolutely disgusting that this author would feign over the Taliban.

    May 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Reply
  11. DanW

    The girl was pretty as a rose
    Til I hacked off her ears and nose.
    I did it in the name of Allah,
    But I'm just a nasty godless fella,
    Staying on top through terror and fear.
    If the people ever gain freedom, oh dear!

    May 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  12. 0hmama

    dont ask dont tell . Nation protected by abunch of faaaaags

    May 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  13. 0hmama

    once u stop killing hundreds of thousands of ur own unborn babies then u can talk about my Taliban. good job murderous nation under three gods

    May 21, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  14. fj

    You are a rainbow
    Landing in the Kashgar range
    Beyond the Herat forests
    More beautiful than God's sunset
    I will follow you for eternity
    And you will be mine
    But if not I will throw acid in your face and cut off your nose

    May 21, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  15. NE

    Infidel blood's red
    burqas are blue
    there's a bomb in my shorts
    especially for you.....

    May 22, 2012 at 2:42 am | Reply
    • CT#


      May 22, 2012 at 3:32 am | Reply
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