The Book


The poetry of the Taliban, long overlooked by analysts as mere propaganda, is a prominent part of how they present themselves to Afghans and to the wider world. Published on the Taliban website during the last decade, with a few older specimens of Afghan poetry dating from the 1980s and ‘90s, this collection of over 200 poems from uncensored voices within the Taliban draws upon Afghan legend and recent history as much as upon a long tradition of Persian, Urdu and Pashto verse.

The contrast between the severity of their professed ideology and the license of the Taliban’s aesthetic sensibilities – in which unrequited love, bloody vengeance and the thrill of battle, religion and nationalism, even a desire for non-violence, are expressed through images of wine, powerful women, song, legend and pastoral beauty – provide a fascinating insight into the minds and hearts of these deeply emotional people.

Their verse is fervent, and very modern in its criticism of human rights abuses by all parties to the war in Afghanistan; whether in describing an air strike on a wedding party or lamenting, “We did all of this to ourselves,” it is concerned not with politics, but with identity, and a full, textured, deeply conflicted humanity.

It is such impassioned descriptions – sorrowfully defeated, triumphant and enraged, bitterly powerless or bitingly satirical – and not the austere arguments of myriad analysts, that will finally come to define the war and endure as a record of the conflict.