CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: The Taliban Watched Their Every Move, but Chess-Loving Afghans Survived to Play Again

By Cockburn, Patrick | The Independent (London, England), February 2, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: The Taliban Watched Their Every Move, but Chess-Loving Afghans Survived to Play Again


Cockburn, Patrick, The Independent (London, England)


WHEN THE Taliban caught Haji Shirullah, a Kabul businessman, playing chess in his office with his brother they burnt the chessboard and the pieces. "They put us in jail for two days," he recalled with a rueful smile. "The Taliban believed chess was a form of gambling and distracted people from saying their prayers."

Mr Shirullah, a middle-aged man in a white skull cap, was waiting impatiently to start playing in the first chess tournament held in Kabul since the Taliban captured the city in 1996. Some 138 players had turned up - far more than expected - so some were using the floor because there were not enough tables and chairs.

For five years, Afghanistan has been the only place in the world where playing chess, always popular in the country, has been illegal. Chess players, fearful of denunciation, had to meet in secret.

Dr Qadratullah Andar, 26, became Afghan chess champion when he was a medical student just a month before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

He said: "At first we tried to play secretly, but my friends were arrested by the Maroof [the much feared religious police]. Some of them were well-known doctors who were arrested when playing in a hospital, so I thought it better not to play at all."

Chess playing, unlike kite flying, another Taliban bete noire, seems well adapted to secrecy so it is surprising that the authorities were so successful at detecting it and punishing players. One reason is that Afghans, such as Mr Shirullah and his brother, used to play chess in their offices. Dr Andar said: "The religious police had nothing else to do but pursue people like us."

Some chess players, suddenly forced to behave like drinkers in the United States during Prohibition, took stringent precautions.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: The Taliban Watched Their Every Move, but Chess-Loving Afghans Survived to Play Again
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?