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Barbers suffer under Taliban rule as Afghans flee fashion

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Herat (Afghanistan) (AFP)

Quiffs, mohawks and crew cuts were hairstyles Nader Shah used to style for image-conscious young men in Afghanistan’s third largest city, Herat.

But since the Taliban came to power in mid-August, Afghans have little money to spare and fear punishment for wearing short or fashionable haircuts.

“People used to come and ask for different hairstyles, but it’s just not like that anymore,” Shah, 24, said in his barbershop, with mirrors covering every wall. “Now they are heartbroken. “

When the Taliban first came to power from 1996 to 2001, hardliners banned flamboyant hairstyles and insisted that men grow beards.

After their ouster, being clean shaven was often seen as a sign of modernity, including in the relatively cosmopolitan western city of Herat.

After the end of the Taliban's first term in power, being clean shaven was often seen as a sign of modernity
After the end of the Taliban’s first term in power, being clean shaven was often seen as a sign of modernity Hoshang Hashimi AFP

“Now people come here and ask for simple cuts,” Shah said. “They don’t shave their beards either, so that’s a problem now.”

The barber, who has been in the business for 15 years after starting as a young apprentice, said the downturn had dropped his daily earnings from $ 15 to between $ 5 and $ 7.

In the nearby neighborhood, Mohammad Yousefi, 32, said he had to drop prices drastically – from $ 6 off to just $ 1 – for his store to function.

During the Taliban's rule from 1996 to 2001, hardliners banned flamboyant hairstyles and insisted that men grow beards.
During the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, hardliners banned flamboyant hairstyles and insisted that men grow beards. Hoshang Hashimi AFP

“Due to the Taliban situation, customers have less income and pay us less,” he said.

Yousefi said that after Islamist extremists took control of the country, “suddenly people like to pretend to be the Taliban.”

“It’s not like the Taliban are all the rage, but people don’t shave their beards because the Taliban will stop and ask them about it,” he said. “They say it’s not in Sharia law and men should have beards and long hair.”

– Fleeing customers –

In Ali Reza, 36’s hair salon, pink spotlights lit customers and shelves were filled with spray cans, gels, mousses, cologne and masks.

The barber deftly cut his scissors off a client’s beard as the waiting clients discussed Afghan politics.

Since Taliban takeover, Afghans say job opportunities have dried up
Since Taliban takeover, Afghans say job opportunities have dried up Hoshang Hashimi AFP

His two apprentices – Reza’s nephew, 11, Sobhan and Mohsan, 14 – watched his every move, putting away brushes, combs and electric clippers, and helping to unpack the razor blades.

Reza finished the experiment with a bang, drumming his fingers on the client’s head, massaging his temples and eyebrows, before crinkling the unsuspecting client’s ears for several seconds.

“In the past, young people would come every one or two weeks to cut their hair or beards, and they were happy,” Reza told AFP, adding that many of his clients had fled.

“These young people who are still here are no longer interested in cutting their hair or beards because the economy is really poor,” he said.

Since the Taliban took control, Afghans say job opportunities have dried up.

“Before, my income was great, and now it’s not,” he said.

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