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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 37.
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Chapter 37.
Madam SEPTEMBER 1996Iwo and a half years later, Mariam awoke on the morning ofSeptember 27 to the sounds of shouting andwhistling, firecrackers and music. She ran to the living room,found Laila already at the window, Aziza mounted on hershoulders. Laila turned and smiled.
"The Taliban are here," she said.
* * *Mariam had first heard of the Taliban two years before, inOctober 1994, when Rasheed had brought home news thatthey had overthrown the warlords in Kandahar and taken thecity. They were a guerrilla force, he said, made up of youngPashtun men whose families had fled to Pakistan during thewar against the Soviets. Most of them had been raised-someeven born-in refugee camps along the Pakistani border, and inPakistani madrasas, where they were schooled inShari'a bymullahs. Their leader was a mysterious, illiterate, one-eyedrecluse named Mullah Omar, who, Rasheed said with someamusement, called himselfAmeer-ul-Mumineeny Leader of theFaithful.
"It's true that these boys have norisha, no roots," Rasheedsaid, addressing neither Mariam nor Laila. Ever since the failedescape, two and a half years ago, Mariam knew that she andLaila had become one and the same being to him, equallywretched, equally deserving of his distrust, his disdain anddisregard. When he spoke, Mariam had the sense that he washaving a conversation with himself, or with some invisiblepresence in the room, who, unlike her and Laila, was worthyof his opinions.
"They may have no past," he said, smoking and looking up atthe ceiling. "They may know nothing of the world or thiscountry's history. Yes. And, compared to them, Mariam heremight as well be a university professor. Ha! Alltrue. But look around you. What do you see? Corrupt, greedyMujahideen commanders, armed to the teeth, rich off heroin,declaring jihad on one another and killing everyone inbetween-that's what. At least the Taliban are pure andincorruptible. At least they're decent Muslim boys.Wallah, whenthey come, they will clean up this place. They'll bring peaceand order. People won't get shot anymore going out for milk.
No more rockets! Think of it."For two years now, the Taliban had been making their waytoward Kabul, taking cities from the Mujahideen, endingfactional war wherever they'd settled. They had captured theHazara commander Abdul Ali Mazari and executed him. Formonths, they'd settled in the southern outskirts of Kabul, firingon the city, exchanging rockets with Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Earlier in that September of 1996, they had captured the citiesof Jalalabad and Sarobi.
The Taliban had one thing the Mujahideen did not, Rasheedsaid. They were united.
"Let them come," he said. "I, for one, will shower them withrose petals."* * *They "went our that day, the four of them, Rasheed leadingthem from one bus to the next, to greet their new world, theirnew leaders. In every battered neighborhood, Mariam foundpeople materializing from the rubble and moving into thestreets. She saw an old woman wasting handfuls of rice, tossingit at passersby, a drooping, toothless smile on her face. Twomen were hugging by the remains of a gutted building, in thesky above them the whistle, hiss, and pop of a few firecrackersset off by boys perched on rooftops. The national anthemplayed on cassette decks, competing with the honking of cars.
"Look, Mayam!" Aziza pointed to a group of boys runningdown Jadeh Maywand. They were pounding their fists into theair and dragging rusty cans tied to strings. They were yellingthat Massoud and Rabbani had withdrawn from Kabul.
Everywhere, there were shouts:Ailah-u-akbar!
Mariam saw a bedsheet hanging from a window on JadehMaywand. On it, someone had painted three words in big,black letters: zendabaad taliban! Long live the Taliban!
As they walked the streets, Mariam spotted more signs-paintedon windows, nailed to doors, billowing from car antennas-thatproclaimed the same.
* * *Mariam sawher first of the Taliban later that day, atPashtunistan Square, with Rasheed, Laila, and Aziza. A melee ofpeople had gathered there. Mariam saw people craning theirnecks, people crowded around the blue fountain in the centerof the square, people perched on its dry bed. They were tryingto get a view of the end of the square, near the old KhyberRestaurant.
Rasheed used his size to push and shove past the onlookers,and led them to where someone was speaking through aloudspeaker.
When Aziza saw, she let out a shriek and buried her face inMariam's burqa.
The loudspeaker voice belonged to a slender, bearded youngman who wore a black turban. He was standing on some sortof makeshift scaffolding. In his free hand, he held a rocketlauncher. Beside him, two bloodied men hung from ropes tiedto traffic-light posts. Their clothes had been shredded. Theirbloated faces had turned purple-blue.
"I know him," Mariam said, "the one on the left."A young woman in front of Mariam turned around and saidit was Najibullah. The other man was his brother. Mariamremembere............
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