Taliban Poetry Is Not Very Beautiful

In today's world tour of state media: The violent poetry of the Taliban is compiled in a book, Vietnam cracks down on "anti-state propaganda" and Iran follows suit. We begin in Afghanistan. 

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In today's world tour of state media: The violent poetry of the Taliban is compiled in a book, Vietnam cracks down on "anti-state propaganda" and Iran follows suit. We begin in Afghanistan.

The Satanic Verses 

The Taliban has a lousy human rights record, but what about its artistic record? We know they're not afraid of autotune. But what about poetry? Turns out, Taliban poems are a lot like what you'd expect: Very violent. Today, Washington Post blogger Al Kamen spotlights a book called Poetry of the Taliban that's getting rave reviews by scholars. "The book ... recently published by Columbia University Press, purports to show another side to the picture of the famed bearded beheaders." Here's a quick sample:

“Strike the enemies of our village with stones!”

“Youths! Be alert! they are spying on our village.

Depart for Jihad; this is a legal obligation.

Kill the traitors of the village in the mountains.

The army of the crazed crusaders will withdraw.”

Apparently it sounds more poetic in the original Pashtun. Still it's supposed to be a must-read for all the Taliban experts in your life. “Anyone claiming to be an Afghan expert should read this book before giving their next opinion,” says novelist Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, on the book's jacker. See more book excerpts here.

Blogger Imbroglio

AFP reports today that a court in southern Vietnam has jailed three bloggers for "anti-state propaganda," under Article 88 of the criminal code, which is a vaguely-defined law for punishing dissidents. Interestingly, one of the bloggers has a connection to President Barack Obama. ZDNet's Ellyne Phneah has the details:

The charges are related to political articles posted by the bloggers on banned Vietnamese Web site, the "Free Journalists Club", as well as postings on their own blogs, denouncing corruption, injustice and criticizing Hanoi's foreign policy. Vietnam bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run.

The court's president Nguyen Phi Long told AFP their crimes had been "especially serious with clear intentions against the state", and that they had to be "seriously punished".

"They abused the popularity of the Internet to post articles which undermined and blackened [Vietnam's] leaders, criticising the [Communist] party [and] destroying people's trust in the state," court president Nguyen said.

Back in May, Obama mentioned the plight of one of the bloggers, saying "We must not forget [journalists] like blogger Dieu Cay, whose 2008 arrest coincided with a mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam." It's not clear if the U.S. is taking this issue on directly now, but reports indiciate that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are fighting on their behalf.

Propaganda Bust

Here's one way to rein in a wayward former leader: Put his daughter in jail. That's what happened to former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose daughter was arrested yesterday to serve a six-month sentence on charges of "propaganda against the regime," Bloomberg reports.  The National's Michael Theodoulou has more details:

Faezeh Hashemi, a 49-year-old Islamic feminist, was arrested late on Saturday to serve a six-month sentence passed in January, Iranian media reported.

She is understood to be in Tehran's Evin prison where her father, a pillar of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and protégé of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, was once jailed by the US-backed Shah.

Mr. Rafsanjani, a 78-year-old cleric, is a wily political survivor and pragmatic centrist who favours detente with the West.

Apparently, Rafsanjani's major fall from grace occurred after he expressed support for opposition protesters who rallied against Ahmadinejad as a part of the Green movement in 2009. His daughter is a women's rights advocate in a country where that can be controversial.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.