A dystopian gaze: Taliban hangs a dead body as a lesson

People look up at a dead body hung by the Taliban from a crane in the main square of Herat in western Afghanistan on Saturday. AP / AP

No, it’s not a rocket taking off, or a crashing plane. Blinded by the sun, Afghan people still want to have a gander at a dead body hung by the Taliban from a crane in the heart of Herat, in western Afghanistan.

A “lesson for kidnappers”, that is what the Taliban called the outrageous and heinous scene of a dead corpse who belonged to an alleged kidnapper swaying in broad daylight last Saturday.

You may view this image as an ordinary one, yet it is boldly poignant since it portrays the current rigid society that Afghan people must cope with now that the Taliban returned. Seeing this bitter photograph, we might wonder what is going on inside of Afghan’s minds. Is it a moment of realization? Are they fearful for their lives? Do they feel finally protected?

This image does not only captures what happened Saturday, but it goes beyond to render the general atmosphere that hovers over Afghan society. What is even blindsiding is that among despair, angst and chaos, there is also some sense of content and delight. The smile of that old man is as jaw-dropping as the surroundings. Could this “theatrical scene” possibly be a source of gratification, worth a round of applause? Some people’s reflex is to pick up their cell phones and take a selfie with a swinging dead body, perhaps as a trophy for their collection. There is no denying that some public gazes seem concerned for their lives as they probably wondering when their turn will come. The shoot still leaves us wondering if there is still any gleam of humanity in these times that can easily be described as a dystopia.

At any rate, Afghan society now seems fragmented between satisfaction and dismay, as people face the harsh reality of what it is really to be governed by the Taliban.

Celia Hocine

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