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Under the Taliban, Afghans talk about price hikes, uneventful marriages, Bollywood ban

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Losing his temper as he languished for the good old days, Shahidulah Zadran, 33, one of the natives of Khost province in the eastern part of Afghanistan captured by the Taliban, visited on the evening of August 30, an internet café in the Hammam Market district to download some recently released Bollywood and Hollywood films and songs to your mobile phone. He had finally given in to repeated requests from his wife and children who have spent most of their time locked in their homes since the takeover of the armed militias.

That day, less than half an hour after Zadran arrived in the bustling market that reflected a notable absence of female customers, a group of armed talibés led by their commander stormed the cybercafé he was supposed to visit. Undisputed, as the men floundered through the local gathering, the other visitors silently gave in. The Talibs focused on the coffee operator and captured him. They took away his computer and other equipment and took them away in their van.

When they left, they closed the cafe. Onlookers, locals and passers-by have been warned not to dare to watch a Bollywood or Hollywood movie or play music aloud.

As the savagery unfolded, Zadran stood there as a witness. Speaking to CNN-News18, he said he was told they had taken the cafe operator and his computer to the police headquarters building which is now under the control of the Islamist force. “No one knows what happened to him. I had been there to download Akshay Kumar’s latest movie, Bell Bottom to my phone. Like any other family here, mine also loves watching Bollywood actors. My children love Akshay Kumar among other Indian actors such as Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan. They dance to the tunes of Hindi songs, ”Zadran said.

According to locals, Bollywood songs are highly regarded, especially during wedding ceremonies. As in any Indian city, in Afghanistan too, people love to dance to the tunes of Hindi chartbusters. Over the past month, however, since things got out of whack under the militia rule, playing aloud and cheering to the beat of Hindi songs has become a thing of the past.

“Last week there was a wedding ceremony in my village. Unlike earlier, it was packed before sunset. No music, no dancing, no feast. People are really scared. The way we enjoy our life has changed. We no longer feel like we are in our own country, ”Zadran said.

Zadran lives in Khost, about 250 kilometers from Kabul, with his parents, wife, brother and two children. He describes the incidents he has recently witnessed as petrifying but not uncommon.

“Everyone else we talk to has similar encounters to tell. Such atrocities have become routine. The talibés often loot the houses in our village. They are especially on the lookout for those who previously served in the Afghan army or in the police. They grab their weapons and assault them in front of their families, warning them not to dare to rise up against their command, ”he told CNN-News18.

But social and personal life is not all that has changed. At a time when not all men go to work out of fear, limiting family income, the prices of everyday products have increased dramatically.

“Oil, milk and rice are the three commodities that have seen their prices rise. Previously, if oil was available for 1,500 Afghani (local currency), the price has now dropped from 2,200 to 2,500 Afghani. The same goes for rice and milk. The prices have almost doubled. It is distressing because these are essential items. We all have children who need milk and adequate food, ”said Rahmat Shah, a resident of Karte Naw district in Kabul.

The 25-year-old engineer, who lives with his father, brother and sister-in-law, says inflation is mainly due to a shortage of goods in local markets. “What we have learned is that imports are affected, impacting local supplies. Many people also accumulated rations and other foods because they feared that the markets would not open for long. Everyone is afraid. There is so much uncertainty that we don’t know what will happen to us the next day, ”he told CNN-News18.

Shah said banks have also not opened since the Taliban dethroned the Afghan government, resulting in families’ lack of savings. “For those who do not have enough savings, we wonder how difficult survival would be,” he said.

The worst thing, residents say, is that medical stores are also reporting shortages. Zadran, from Khost, added that when he fell ill about two weeks ago, he realized that pharmacies too were charging more than the maximum retail price because certain drugs were not sufficiently available.

But apart from these hardships, the people of Afghanistan, whether it is the capital Kabul or the province of Khost, or the inhabitants of the city of Ahmad Shah Baba 13 kilometers from the capital, say that the Taliban’s elaborate restrictive decree is what pushed them into a dark age, leaving them in limbo.

A resident of Ahmad Shah Baba town said the farmaan (decree) issued by the Taliban took them years back. It’s not just about shaving, wearing modern clothes, and listening to forbidden music. The list includes that women will always wear a burqa and men will wear a pheron, no pigeon breeding, compulsory prayer in mosques whenever requested, no drug use, no women’s clothing and no jeans, he said. , asking not to be named.

“Women were told not to visit the city markets without being accompanied by their men. They were told not to engage in work or higher education. For the first few days, the Talibs roamed the roads just in front of our house, armed with machine guns and other weapons. They shouted, fired in the air, to terrorize the inhabitants. Even today, they often enter houses and beat the inhabitants. For at least the first 15 days, my five daughters, three sons, my wife and I lived in strict confinement, fearing these armed assassins, ”he told CNN-News18.

The man, who works for USAID, said he too planned to flee his country during the initial unrest following the capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban, but says he did not been able to obtain visas.

“The day I visited the visa office, several groups of armed men broke in and closed it. They took us all out of the building with the staff and closed the office. Fortunately, they did not shoot or kill anyone, ”he said.

However, despite these hardships, restrictions, terror, uncertainty and threat, not all Afghans want to leave their country.

Hafiz, 25, from Kabul, who refused to reveal his last name to keep his identity hidden, said he felt shot and betrayed by other countries.

“There are such powerful nations that are capable enough to oust the Taliban from power. But none has come forward. Although they knew everything, they left us all to our fate. So many people have died and many more will fall. I am afraid for my family and my loved ones. I lost my mother a few years ago, “he said.” This country is my mother and no matter what, even as we are heading into the darkest time of our lives, I don’t will never leave my homeland. “

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