The Taliban hang the bodies of four alleged criminals in squares in Herat

The macabre spectacle went on for hours and attracted many onlookers

4 min
One of the bodies hanging from a crane in a square in the city of Herat on Saturday

Special envoy to Herat, AfghanistanThe macabre spectacle went on for hours and took place in different parts of the city, so it was hard to miss even if you didn't want to. The Taliban have shown this Saturday in the city of Herat, in the northwest of Afghanistan, that they are still as beastly as ever: they have hung the lifeless bodies of four men on cranes and have kept them exposed for hours in different public squares. Their aim is the same as it was twenty years ago: to teach the whole world a lesson. The executed men were supposed to be kidnappers who had abducted a money changer and his son. Hundreds of men gathered at the places where the bodies were displayed, and most shockingly, most of them were pleased that the alleged criminals had been executed in a city where kidnapping of businessmen and robberies were the order of the day.

The executions, however, have taken everyone by surprise. Especially because Herat is a city where you hardly see Taliban on the streets and, if they do walk around, they do so discreetly. Nothing like Kabul, where the radicals' flag flies everywhere and every now and then you come across a van full of armed bearded men. But that the Taliban are here in Herat was amply demonstrated this Saturday.

Punishing the kidnappers

At around two o'clock in the afternoon, news began to spread on social media that four men had been publicly hanged in the city. And, naturally, a lot of onlookers gathered around immediately. In Mustufiat Square, which is a kind of roundabout with a fountain and a monument in the middle, a crane was parked with one of the bodies hanging from it. It was completely bloodied, and a big sign hung on its chest saying: "All kidnappers will be punished in this way".

Some of the onlookers who have gone to see the hanging body of one of the alleged criminals

"We carried out an operation at ten o'clock in the morning and killed one kidnapper and captured the other three", explained a group of Taliban who were at the foot of the crane watching the sinister spectacle, to justify the fact that the body was in such a pitiful condition. That is to say, they have implied that the executed was already dead when he was hanged. They also claimed that a Taliban had been wounded in the operation and that the executed had kidnapped a money changer and his son the day before. In other words, that they had it coming to them and that all they had done was simply to comply with Islamic law.

A law that, according to the comments of the people who gathered at the place where the body was found, has been very well received. Herat is the only city in Afghanistan, next to Kabul, that has a particularly active industrial zone, where dozens of companies are concentrated. But running a business in the city had become a headache in recent years. Robberies and express kidnappings of businessmen were common, and the kidnappers always demanded astronomical amounts of money for ransom.

The Taliban have used cranes to hang the bodies

"I think what the Taliban have done is very good and they should do it more often. You will see how this will change things", predicted Abdul Tawa, a 34-year-old construction businessman who, like so many others, came to see the body of the executed man. In fact, there were so many onlookers that monumental traffic jams formed in each of the squares where an executed man was hanging. Many filmed it with their cell phones as if it were a simple attraction and not the body of a human being. Also, street vendors selling bottles of water have appeared on the scene, because the scene could be very macabre, but no occasion should be wasted to do business.

"I heard about it through Facebook and came here because I wanted to see with my own eyes what the Taliban do with criminals", justified Ahmad Ahmadi, a 27-year-old shopkeeper who was also in full agreement with this kind of extreme measures. "If the previous government had done the same, we wouldn't have so many problems now", noted another onlooker, Qabir Ahmad, a 57-year-old retired military officer. And even a 23-year-old computer science student, Abdul Ahad, also defended this kind of public display: "It's a lesson for everyone". He made it clear, however, that he was passing by out of chance - he had not gone there on purpose.

The bodies have been hanging for hours in the sun. At one point one of the cranes drove through the city with one of them, while behind it followed dozens of men on motorcycles trying to film the scene. Because they were all men, there was not a single woman in the places where the bodies were exposed. Still, it was hard to miss them. "Oh, don't tell me about it. I've seen it from afar and my body's all twisted up", commented Setara, a doctor who also happened to be passing by the area.

But even before this macabre public display, Heratis agreed that security in the city has improved dramatically since the arrival of the Taliban. "I used to close my shop at five in the afternoon, and now I have no problem keeping it open until the evening", commented Ali Ahmad, who runs a printing shop on Ghudom Street, where a lot of stationery shops are concentrated, on Saturday morning. Like him, other shopkeepers say the same thing. And after what happened on Saturday, security could be even better.