Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Kandahar

“On the TV screen, two naked young women writhe together to the sounds of Hotel California as the occasional crackle of gunfire punctuates the Afghan night.” (more)

You better believe it, we are talking about the Taliban heartland of Kandahar.

Sarah Chayes can be vindicated for attaching the importance that she does in her book The Punishment to Virtue to Kandahar as the gateway of all things to Afghanistan, it’s virtual capital, Afghanistan’s New York to its Washington, D.C. of Kabul. Ahmad Shah Abdali was enthroned there, the British made their way into Afghanistan through its gates, the Taliban emerged and took root there, and Afghanistan’s first democratically-elected president is a Kandahari. And now, well, now Kandahar is the hub of pornography, alcohol, and assorted illegal drugs, both for domestic consumption as well as a transit route for Iran.

I have to admit that all this strikes me as a little odd. How can the same place that spawned the Taliban -reactionary, fundamentalist zealots bent on banning music and regulating morality- also be the bustling ground of all things vile and hedonistic a mere five years after their fall from power? Something just does not add up.

But then again, should we be really surprised? Two years ago Salman Rushdie famously claimed in his essay The East is Blue that internet pornography usage was disproportionately high in some of the most repressive Muslim countries, because while “while pornography exists everywhere… when it comes into societies in which it’s difficult for young men and women to get together and do what young men and women often like doing, it satisfies a more general need…” and “While doing so, it sometimes becomes a kind of standard-bearer for freedom, even civilisation…”

On a related note, Kandahar is also dubbed “The Gay Capital of South Asia,” and enjoys the flamboyant reputation of the most homoerotic city in Afghanistan (although most homosexual behavior in Kandahar would qualify for pederasty than homosexuality.) (Read Kandahar Comes Out of Closet and The Kandahar Frolic)

With all this goings on, some have taken to suggesting that the infamous PVPV department should be brought back in. As the experience with the Taliban has revealed, repression will not only not work, but is often counterproductive. As Chayes’s book title suggests, a PVPV would most likely result in Promotion of Vice and the Punishment of Virtue.

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One Response to Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Kandahar

  1. hatif says:

    dear hamisha,
    in the heart of your insights here stands a great smart question: how can this be? I hope you deliberate more on it. what I wrote about suicide bombers was intended ,in a subtle way though, to make people get involved in a discussion informed by sex factor. What i got in response was a usual deviation to “who do you think you are” nonsense afghani dialogue. i will come back to the question any way…
    I learn a lot from you nowadays.(not that i was not learning before).

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