Well, that depends on what you mean by ‘freedom fighter:
If ‘freedom fighter’ means ‘fighter FOR freedoms’ or ‘fighter OF freedoms’…
If the ‘freedom fighter’ is fighting so that everyone may exercise their unalienable rights equally, or fighting so that a select/elite group would be free to do impose their views on the everyone else…
You ‘get the picture’!
As for the Taliban: in which sense are they ‘freedom fighters’?
They forbid freedom of religion.
They kill women for the crime of holding a job – or even leaving the house without male supervision.
Sounds to me like the Taliban are ‘fighters OF freedoms’!
Yet, for some reasons which are not quite clear – perhaps mis-applied attempt at objectivity, perhaps an expression of guild and self-loathing for having been born into one of the best, ‘safest’ human societies ever – keep suggesting that the Taliban are, in some sense, ‘freedom fighters’.
These people claim that just because the Taliban fight in a ‘different way’ than we would expect ‘proper armies’ to fight does not mean that they ought not be regarded on equal footing with our soldiers….
Aside from the offensiveness of this statement which reduces our soldiers to the level of terrorists and murderous thugs, there is an objective way to demonstrate that the ‘difference in fighting style’ is not just some ‘cultural thing’…. Because it is not!
This type of fighting – using small units which are indistinguishable from the population, then ‘malting into the crowd’ – has occurred in the past in just about every human society, in every continent, in every culture.
This is the easiest method of using the civilian population as ‘human shields’, because the other side (whether army – during war, or police forces if there is no war officialy declared) cannot defend itself without harming its own civilians into peril. That is why this type or ‘fighting’ is universally reviled and opposed.
We don’t have to look further back than WWII: consider the differences between the ‘partisans’ who fought against the Nazi’s in the different parts of the occupied lands. In most Slavic countries, the partisans may have been secretly supplied by the civilian population, but they did not live among them. To ‘join the partisans’, one had to leave the village and find the caves or temporary camps they set up in forests, away from populated areas.
Of course, they had spies and allies among the civilians, but the ‘active soldiers’ typically avoided the civilian areas so as not to endanger innocent people when the Nazis would come hunting them. This was a conscious decision they made – at least, so I have been told by several veterans who were indeed partisans in WWII in ‘the East’.
It was a little different in France. Yes, the French Resistance units were also supposed to stay away from the towns and villages. But, the French resistance fighters were much more ready to hide among the civilians than the Eastern partisans. This is why, I was told, partisans object to the term ‘partisan’ being extended to the French Resistance fighters…..
By hiding among the civilians to the degree they did, the French Resistance fighters were ‘not worthy’ of the term ‘partisan’. So I have been told – by those who lived it and were very passionate on this subject.
This bitterness towards those who would fight in this reckless manner, who place their own safety above the safety of the civilians by using them as human shields (whether it was focused on the French Resistance or not) was quite palpable following WWII. That is quite clear from reading the Geneva Convention!
In order to prevent, or, at least, minimize, this form of warfare, the drafters of the Geneva Convention included very real measures.
It is precisely to ‘discourage’ this ‘Taliban-style’ form of warfare that was the goal of the Geneva Convention!
They specifically protect people who are not taking part in the hostilities (civilians, health workers and aid workers) and those who are no longer participating in the hostilities, such as wounded, sick and shipwrecked soldiers and prisoners of war.
To this end, if an active fighter is found to be hiding among the civilians (even his/her own family), under the original terms of the Geneva Conventions, such a person was specifically excluded from any protections under the convention!
In other words, the drafters of the Geneva Convention thought this behaviour to be such a high crime against humanity that they specifically excluded those who practice Taliban-style warfare from any and all protection! In no uncertain terms, their message was that for people like that, no punishment is strong enough, no treatment is harsh enough.
Since then, there have been amendments to the Geneva Convention that extend humane treatment to everyone – makes good sense, too – including all prisoners and detainees (even the Taliban-type fighters).
Just keep in mind: there is a provision in the Geneva Convention that permits any member of a legitimate military, in uniform or wearing appropriate identification as such, who identifies an active combatant hiding among the civilian population to decide whether to detain the combatant – or whether to summarily execute him/her! Right there, right then – the legitimate soldier has the right to execute a combatant hiding among the civilians.
Quite a power to give even the lowest-ranking soldier!
But, in the eyes of the people who wrote the Geneva Convention, it is just and proper: not just as a punishment for this vile crime, but also as a deterrent.
After all – the aim of the convention clearly states that the prime purpose of it is to protect the civilians first. And, it considers those who use civilians as human shields and endanger them by hiding among them to be the vilest, most despicable criminals who ought to be summarily executed.
Still think the Taliban can be labeled as ‘freedom fighters’?