An old white Toyota Corolla wagon has been excavated in southern Afghanistan as the Taliban searches for new ways to demonstrate their hold on power in the country.
Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founding leader of the militant group, used the car to flee US forces after their 2001 invasion.
She was buried in an unknown location before, but was discovered on Tuesday after the tomb of Omar was identified in Zabul, a province in the south of the country.
The Taliban said Omar fled in a Toyota from Kandahar to Zabul at the start of the US-led invasion. He continued to live hidden in a tiny mud house until his death in 2013, but with the group ruling Afghanistan once again after the US withdrew, his Toyota may soon be on public display.
Anas Haqqani, one of the Taliban leaders, urged on Twitter to put the car in the Afghan National Museum in Kabul.
Photos of the excavations showed the car covered in plastic sheets and dirt. Cleaning and maintenance work for the vehicle was in progress.
Omar was famous for one eye, he lost his right eye after being injured by shrapnel fighting the Soviet forces that occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Experts say the move to excavate his car is an attempt by the hardline Islamist movement to consolidate its power over the country, which is facing an economic crisis and starvation after foreign powers cut off humanitarian aid over its restrictions on women’s rights and other freedoms.
“The Taliban are trying to consolidate their power by reviving the symbols of their history,” Shuja Nawaz, a political analyst at the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, DC-based think tank, said Wednesday.
“They do not respect the history and culture of other sects of Islam or other religions.”
He added that the devastation caused by the earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people in late June also exposed the Taliban’s misrule in the country.
Other experts pointed to the irony of the Taliban’s efforts to memorialize the vehicle when they destroyed much of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.
The planned recall and tribute to the car comes after years of systematic destruction of ancient cultural sites and monuments in Afghanistan, a continuation of the extremist ideology that the group imposed in the country during its rule from 1996 to 2001, and since its return to power in the past. August.
Months before losing control of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban shocked the world when they destroyed giant 6th-century Buddha statues carved into cliff faces in the Bamiyan Valley. The group has since attempted to revive the site as a tourist attraction, encouraging the public to visit the alcoves where the statues once stood.
“There is a bittersweet irony in the Taliban’s revelation of Mullah Omar’s Toyota … given their disrespect for much of Afghanistan’s history and culture,” said Emily Winterbotham, director of the Terrorism and Conflict Research Group at RUSI, a British security think tank.
“Memorialization of past conflicts in Afghanistan has focused too much on glorifying leaders, while ignoring the experiences of victims,” she added. “The display of the car in the country’s national museum shows that little has changed.”