Mullah Omar

Two weeks ago, I was in the Middle East as the Nation of Yemen slowly devolved itself into Afghanistan 2.0. I learnt a funny fact that the Iman Yahia, the King of North Yemen (who ruled from 1918-1948) is the only head of a member state of the United Nations who has never been photographed. He did forbade taking of his picture under pain of drastic punishment.

The above is the picture of the Taliban leader Mohammed Omar (middle, standing), from a video shot by a BBC crew in Afghanistan in 1996. It is totally-unrelated to Iman Yahia’s story except in that the picture was the only known photograph of the Taliban leader (although this in fact too was disputed). The Taliban, like Iman Yahia before them, held ultraorthodox views of Islam, and outlawed photographs of people, saying making any image of a human being was forbidden by the Koran. Omar, self-styled, was ousted by US for sheltering Osama bin-Laden and al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks, and is currently believed to be in Pakistan, directing the insurgency movement against US troops.

Very little is known about Omar. The picture below, used by many media, has since been established to be another Taliban official. Aside from the fact that he is missing one eye, accounts of his physical appearance are contradictory: some said he was a tall man, while others describe him as small and frail. Omar was so reclusive that he rarely left his house in Kandahar and only once visited the Afghan capital Kabul during his six-year reign as the Commander of the Faithful of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Most Afghans do not have a clue what he looks like. The State Department has two ‘pictures’ of Omar on their Wanted lists, but both were not Omar’s.

In the above picture, Omar wore the sacred cloak of the Prophet Mohammad, which he retrieved from a Kandahar shrine where it had lain in darkness for 60 years.

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