The Taliban, which considers itself the legitimate government of Afghanistan, released a statement on Wednesday urging Afghans to “recite effective prayers” against the Chinese coronavirus, calling it a “decree of Allah.”
The Taliban has also repeatedly lobbied the Afghan government to release its Taliban member inmates, citing the possibility that they are a high risk of contracting the virus in the closed quarters of a prison.
Voice of America, noting the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on ongoing negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. government, which mediates on behalf of Kabul, relayed part of a Taliban statement. The Taliban urged followers to pray for an end to the pandemic and lamented the virus as a “decree of Allah … because of the disobedience and sins of mankind or other reasons.”
Pakistan’s Daily Times translated a longer portion of the statement that showed the group appeared to posit the theory that the virus was a punishment as merely one potential explanation.
“Our Muslim nation must consider this disease a decree of Allah (SwT) and deal with it in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” the Daily Times translation read. “As per the directives of scholars – people should recite effective prayers and astaghfar (seeking forgiveness) frequently, increase the reading of the Holy Quran, give in alms and charity and turn to Allah (SwT) in repentance for their past sins.”
In attributing the disease to a supernatural cause, the Taliban appears to be dissenting from the theories posed by other jihadist groups, particularly the government of Iran and its allied Houthi movement in Yemen. The Shiite groups have accused enemy forces, typically the United States or “Zionists,” of creating the Chinese coronavirus in a laboratory, echoing false statements from the Chinese Communist Party.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that he would place the leadership of coronavirus response in the hands of the Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. He said, “this measure may also be regarded as a biological defense exercise and add to our national sovereignty and power given the evidence that suggests the likelihood of this being a ‘biological attack.'”
Iran’s PressTV propaganda outlet accused “Zionist elements” of having “developed a deadlier strain of the virus against Iran,” disregarding the fact that a significant outbreak was underway in both America and Israel, where Iran typically accuses the “Zionist elements of operating.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of the country, wrote an open letter to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus demanding the organization reveal “the lab that produced, and the elements that spread” the coronavirus “as well as other centers that supported the biologic [sic] war.”
In Yemen, where Iran’s Houthi proxy continues to be engaged in a civil war with the legitimate government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the head of the Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ali al-Houthi made a similar claim against the United States.
“Coronavirus is created by the U.S., and those killing the Yemeni nation with their weapons feel no compunction about killing Yemenis at a lower cost,” al-Houthi reportedly posted on social media.
The Houthis are a jihadist organization whose slogan is “God Is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, a Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.”
The Taliban has made clear that it fears for the health of its terrorists in the Afghan prison system; medical experts have encouraged world populations to attempt “social distancing” and avoided crowded areas to slow the spread of the virus. The terrorist organization issued a statement on Monday “expressing concerns regarding the lack of cleanliness and health facilities in prisons, warning that the spread of coronavirus spread in Afghan jails could result into a major humanitarian disaster,” according to Afghanistan’s Khaama Press.
“The statement further added that the Afghan government would be responsible in the event of disaster in Afghan jails,” Khaama noted. “This comes as Taliban group is awaiting the release of at least 5,000 prisoners from Afghan jails following the signing of a peace deal with the United States late last month.”
Kabul reportedly agreed to free the 5,000 prisoners in a deal reported in December, one that the Taliban initially denied had occurred at all. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani later confirmed that he had agreed to free the prisoners but in three separate groups beginning with a wave of 1,500 prisoners on March 14.
U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad appeared to pressure Kabul to go ahead with the prisoner release on Twitter Thursday, calling the situation in the country “a matter of life and death” in light of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, apparently in contrast to the other 17 years of war there.
“This crisis undermines security. Coronavirus poses a mortal threat and requires Afghans to put their country, and its people, first. It is a matter of life and death,” Khalilzad wrote. “Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides, the United States understands.”
Afghanistan borders China, where the virus originated in November 2019. It has currently confirmed 22 cases of Chinese coronavirus and no deaths. Doctors have declared one man, Wahid Ahmad, cured of the disease.
“Strong morale is the most important thing. All of us are Muslim and we believe in Allah, and that provides strength against the coronavirus,” Ahmad told Afghanistan’s Tolo News in an interview this week. “On the first day I was deeply afraid. After three days I realized that it was a beatable virus.”