Text and photos by Jan Goodwin
As Sohaila, completely covered in the shroud-like burqa veil, was forced to kneel and then flogged, Taliban “cheerleaders” had the stadium ringing with the chants of onlookers. Among those present there were just three women: the young Afghan, and two female relatives who had accompanied her. The crowd fell silent only when the luckless thieves were driven into the arena and pushed to the ground. Physicians using surgical scalpels promptly carried out the amputations. Holding the severed hands aloft by the index fingers, a grinning Taliban fighter warned the huge crowd, “These are the chopped-off hands of thieves, the punishment for any of you caught stealing.” Then, to restore the party atmosphere, the thieves were driven in a jeep once around the stadium, a flourish that brought the crowd to their feet, as was intended.