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Chess May be Banned in Afghanistan

As Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, lives of many people will change dramatically, and that unfortunately includes those who play chess, because apparently the Taliban do not approve of chess.

One of several tunnel entrances in Afghanistan partially blocked by twisted metal supports. US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter visited the tunnels and a nearby Taliban stronghold May 14, 2013. Photo: Wikimedia

World Chess, the official FIDE gaming platform, has 64 subscribers from Afghanistan, and we reached out to some of them to find out how they are coping with the major changes taking place in their country. The answers were disheartening: “…the country is in a dire condition and we do not know if chess will be allowed under the new government. I heartily appreciate you reaching out.”

Those who love chess now have every reason to worry. According to the  2002 report from Counterpunch, the Taliban declared a war on the game:

“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.’

One Taliban list of prohibitions included pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.

Chess is not in the list of priorities in a country where many fear for their families safety (nor it should be), but chess is also a metaphor for basic freedoms, and it is clearly in jeopardy.

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 3905   2 mo   Afghanistan
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