"Talibanned": From kite-running to breakdancing – not again!
During their 1996-2001 rule, the Taliban outlawed dozens of activities in Afghanistan. Now, with the insurgents once more making huge territorial gains across the country following the U.S. and NATO withdrawal, people are very fearful of what may come next. By Jay Deshmukh
The musician: Japani player Sayed Mohammad still remembers the evening two decades ago when the Taliban broke into a house where he and his friends were playing music and singing songs. "I was young, so I was beaten less than my friends. Still I was unable to stand for three days." When the insurgents were ousted, Mohammad celebrated by attending a concert. "When the music played, I felt a tremor passing through my body out of sheer joy," he said. "If the Taliban cut off our fingers we will still play"
The makeup artist: in a small shop in the Afghan capital Kabul, beautician Farida transforms a shy young Afghan woman into a radiant bride-to-be. Oversized false eyelashes are delicately glued on, followed by the application of a rich carmine-red lipstick. Next comes eyeshadow, before beige and ochre blush is delicately brushed on
Despite its bustling popularity, Farida's beauty parlour is one of hundreds across the country that face an uncertain future. The Taliban severely restricted the movement and activities of women and girls during their rule, and banned beauty parlours from operating in public. "If they come back, we'll never have the freedom we have now," said 27-year-old Farida, who asked not to be further identified. "They don't want women working"
Farida's shop is busiest on Thursday and Friday – the weekend in Afghanistan, when hundreds gather for huge wedding ceremonies. Out of the sight of men, the women come to be pampered for a few hours. Beauty comes at a price, however. At Farida's salon, one of Kabul's most popular, a full treatment package can cost up to $300. "I think the Taliban will force us to leave when they come," Farida said, adding she would love to move to Canada, given the chance
The kite-maker: in a bustling Kabul market shop, surrounded by hundreds of colourful kites of all sizes, Zelgai says he is determined not to give up the business his family has run for generations – and he has flown close to the wind before. The Taliban outlawed kite flying on the grounds it distracted young men from praying and other religious activities, but Zelgai and his family kept operating. "Of course, we did it in secret," says the 59-year-old
His colourful store has hundreds of fragile ready-made kites for sale, and he also takes orders for elaborate custom designs. Business has soared in the years since the Taliban were ousted. "This is freedom... we are able to showcase and sell our kites openly without any fear," Zelgai said. Today, when the wind is right, thousands of kites can be seen fluttering in Afghanistan's clear blue skies. "People would suffer if it were banned. Thousands of families survive on this"
The breakdancer: the day 18 year-old Manizha Talash took up breakdancing she knew she would become a target for the Taliban. Talash is the only female member of a group of mostly Hazara boys who practice breakdancing in Kabul – usually in secret. "If the Taliban have not changed and they lock women at homes and trample their rights, then life would be meaningless for me and for millions of other women of Afghanistan," said Talash. "I have fear in my heart, but I won't give up"
The shisha smokers: Mohammad Saleem and his friends gather every evening to smoke shisha, an ancient pastime enjoying something of a renaissance across the world. "Smoking shisha is very normal at the moment in Afghanistan," said Saleem, puffing the vapours of fruit-flavoured tobacco from a bubbling hookah. But the Taliban say it is an intoxicant – something prohibited by the Koran. "If the Taliban come back with their old ideas then they will stop us"
The barber: while men in rural areas tend to stick to Islamic styles – a shaved top lip, a beard longer than a man's fist – city slickers are a parade of the latest fashion. Ghaderi and his customers fear their individualism will end if the Taliban return. "We are afraid that if the Taliban enter the city and the bazaar, they might be the same as they were 20 years ago," he said. "Again women will be in burka and young men would not be free to do what they want," added a customer