Friday, August 24, 2007

Life under Taliban rule

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting website has an article examining life in Musa Qala in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan (next door to Kandahar where Canadian Forces operate). The area has been under Taliban rule since at least February, when a truce with British forces broke down. (Reports indicate that British and Afghan troops have left it alone during this time.) Excerpts:

The Taleban swept in and established their own regime, complete with district governor, police chief and Sharia courts. But according to residents, they have learned a bit about winning hearts and minds since the fall of their government in Kabul. "If people want to watch television in their homes or listen to music, they can do as they wish. We won’t say anything to them," said a Taleban commander...

"No one tells people what to do," said one local resident, who did not want to be named. "They can shave their beard or let it grow. And no one bothers you if you are cultivating poppy..."

But it would be a mistake to assume that the Taleban have gone all soft, say residents."The Taleban are not forcing people, the way they did before," said Sher Mohammad, 20, a resident of Musa Qala.

"But still, people are changing themselves, they are going back to the way they were during the first Taleban regime. For example, instead of playing music in the shops they now play Taleban songs. Women still go out, but not too much." ...

The Taleban have allowed some privately-run schools to open. In Musa Qala, as in much of the rest of Helmand, most schools have been closed due to security concerns. Many schools have been burned, and teachers and schoolchildren have been killed. The mayhem is most often attributed to the Taleban, although they have denied the charges.

"The Taleban have encouraged us to send our children to school," said Zia ul-Haq, a resident of Musa Qala’s bazaar district. "We are very happy now, because literacy is light and without it a person is blind."At present, however, most girls are still denied an education. While the Taleban do not publicly oppose girls going to school, they will not allow co-education. Until the situation improves and separate new schools are built, girls will most likely stay at home.
(See full report here.)

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