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The Azadi Briefing: The Taliban's War On Books

According to Afghan booksellers and publishers, the Taliban has banned the sale and publication of more than 100 books. (file photo)
According to Afghan booksellers and publishers, the Taliban has banned the sale and publication of more than 100 books. (file photo)

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban confiscated at least 50,000 books from publishing houses and bookshops in the Afghan capital this week.

Publishers and bookstore owners said the extremist group has also banned the sale and publication of more than 100 books. Many of the books were written or translated by Afghan authors in Dari and Pashto and focus specifically on the Taliban.

Atiqullah Azizi, a Taliban official, said the books were banned because they violated “national and Islamic values” or promoted disunity among Afghans.

The move has been criticized by authors and publishers, who said they will incur significant financial losses.

"With such restrictions, the Taliban want to impose their views on people," Mujib Rahimi, an author and former government spokesman whose three books have been banned, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

Afghan writer, Nazir Ahmad Shahar, said his book, Waziristan: The Last Refuge, which is about the history of the mountainous region in northwestern Pakistan, was also banned.

“The Taliban censors didn’t even read the books and banned them just by looking at the titles,” Shahar told Radio Azadi.

Why It's Important: The Taliban’s ban on and confiscation of books suggests the extremist group is intensifying its censorship drive in Afghanistan.

Since seizing power, the Taliban has imposed severe restrictions on the media and access to information, and increased detentions of reporters, activists, and other critics as part of its brutal crackdown on dissent.

The hard-line Islamists have also overhauled the secular curriculum of elementary schools and built hundreds of madrasahs, or Islamic seminaries, across the country in the past two years.

What's Next: The Taliban is likely to widen its book seizures to other parts of Afghanistan and expand its list of banned books.

The groups appears intent on severely limiting Afghans’ access to alternative forms of information and entrenching its extremist ideology in the country.

What To Keep An Eye On

A Taliban official has announced that the first road linking Afghanistan to neighboring China will be inaugurated soon.

Mohammad Ayub Khalid, the Taliban governor for the northeastern Badakhshan Province, said the 50-kilometer-long road via the Wakhan Corridor will connect his country to China’s western Xinjiang region.

Khalid said the road, which for now is a dirt track, will be “asphalted in the spring,” in comments to the pro-Taliban Hurriyat Radio on January 18.

Khalid did not say if Beijing is helping to fund the project, which was first conceived by the ousted Western-backed Afghan government.

The aim of the initiative is to turn the isolated and strategically located Wakhan Corridor into a transport belt by linking China to Afghanistan and Tajikistan to Pakistan.

Why It's Important: Since its return to power, the Taliban has been keen to attract investments from China.

But the Taliban, which remains unrecognized and sanctioned by the international community, has secured only limited investments from Beijing.

The militants appear to be hoping to convince China that Afghanistan can be a valuable land link to Iran, which has attracted substantial Chinese investments.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

To subscribe, click here.