The Taliban or Taleban is a Sunni Muslim movement dominated by people with Pashtun ethnic identity which controlled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. Although the displacement of the group from government in 2001 greatly destabilized the organization, it still has active members, including people from other parts of the world who traveled to Afghanistan to support its work. During the Taliban's years of control over Afghanistan, most governments around the world did not recognize it as a legitimate government, due to concerns about human rights violations.
The name comes from Arabic word talib, which means “student.” The organization was founded by Mullah Mohammed Omar, an extremely enigmatic individual who went into hiding in 2001 after the organization's fall from power. Members of the Taliban were originally religious students who developed a very conservative interpretation of Islam and the Sharia, or Islamic law. During Afghanistan's long and bitter civil war, members of the group began a slow rise to power, and ultimately took control of most of Afghanistan, promising to put a stop to infighting between various bands of mujahideen, or groups of soldiers led by warlords, to make the country a safer place.
Initially, the Taliban's rise to power was actually greeted with excitement by many Afghans. The group asserted that it would restore Muslim values to Afghanistan, garnering support from many Muslim nations, and it pledged to put a stop to violence. However, the regime quickly turned sour. The movement's extremely conservative interpretation of Muslim traditions and values came to be a major stumbling block for many people in the country.
Under the Taliban, women's rights were severely restricted, and “modesty police” enforced strict rules about what women could wear, study, and do. Men were expected to grow traditional beards, and cultural expression in Afghanistan became virtually nonexistent. Afghans were not allowed to play music, fly kites, clap at sports events, or to engage in a variety of other activities which are permitted in other Muslim nations. Unemployment skyrocketed under the Taliban, adding greatly to social unrest.
In addition to being extremely conservative, the Taliban also attracted global ire by supporting terrorism, either directly through training camps, or indirectly through financial assistance. The group also contributed to the expansion of Afghanistan's opium market, exporting this agricultural product by the ton. Under the depressed economy, some Afghans turned to opium to make a living, leading Afghanistan's opium exports to account for around 75% of the global supply by the 2000s.
In 2001, the Taliban's control over Afghanistan came to an end with an invasion led by American troops. Although the organization was quickly routed, troops remained in Afghanistan to deal with insurgents and the low-level civil war which erupted after the government fell. These troops also sought out members of the Taliban to bring them to justice for human rights violations and alleged war crimes.