Although religion is their claim, it is clear that culture validates blood, and vengeance, an act that is forbidden in Islam, is an attractive factor to feuding tribes who join the Taliban.
In 2007, Jere Van Dyk, an American journalist working for CBS News, had planned a trip to Afghanistan in hopes of crossing secretly into Pakistan for research on his book about borderlands and the northwest Pakistani tribes, which meant he would be going where many western journalists failed to enter due to its ongoing border conflict and dangerous inhabitants, the Taliban.
In 1980, Jere had lived amongst the Mujahideen, an Afghani rebel group fighting the Soviet Union and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan during the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1979–1989). As a journalist who brought their story to America in a book tilted In Afghanistan: An American Odyssey, he had planned to do the same with the Taliban in 2007, but a major turn of events was to unfold.
As he landed in Afghanistan and drove down the streets looking out the window watching children beg, where schoolgirls once wore miniskirts with long socks to school in the 70s, Jere thought to himself: “Afghanistan lost its soul, at least the one that I know”. He later meets up with a translator and a guide, who promises to lead him to his destination, but things do not go as planned and Jere is captured by a prideful Pashtun Taliban affiliate for forty-five days up in the mountains of Pakistan in a dark mud baked house with his team of three and a suspected conspiracy. Although he is a prisoner, his capturer had promised to protect him under Pashtun Law, as it falls under their culture and religion.
During Jere’s captivity, he learned about the depth in which animosity, culture, and blood are deeply ingrained in these lawless lands from his interactions with his imprisoner and long conversations with his fellow prisoners. Although religion is their claim, it is clear that culture validates blood, and vengeance, an act that is forbidden in Islam but is an attractive factor to feuding tribes who join the Taliban.
Jere was labeled the Golden Goose as his imprisoners had hoped to gain millions in ransom from the American government, which reflected on the simplicity of their mindset and their ignorance as the government does not negotiate with terrorist nor is it possible to transfer huge amounts of money without arising suspicion.
Throughout the book, the author shows much love he has for a land he once knew and his immense knowledge of the conflict between religion and culture, and the clashes between Pakistan and Afghanistan to great detail.
He wasn’t tortured as many would assume, but only to those who don’t take mental torture into account. I don’t by any means believe this was due to cultural values rather desperation and greed as the Taliban do not have a steady flow of income and live poorly.
In the end, Jere shows conflict himself, aside from his reflections on God during his captivity. When released, he feared the sun, and when he reached safety in the American military base he reluctantly removed the tribal outfit he had worn to fit in and sadly shaved his hair and beard. Even in his New York apartment, his lingering fear was nothing but posttraumatic stress, a result of the constant manipulation and threats he had received during captivity and promised after release if he were to speak negatively of them, they told him: “We will be watching you.”
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