Herat Fire Outbreak and its Hidden Dimensions: Devastation for Shopkeepers

A massive fire has ravaged the Qasr-e Herat market in Herat province, resulting in the destruction of approximately 300 shops and 300 stalls. The fire, which started on Friday night, blazed for about 12 hours. The Taliban has confirmed that 300 shops in this three-story market were burnt down. Shopkeepers have reported the complete loss of their belongings. However, sources within Herat province find this fire suspicious. They point out that the market is owned by a religious scholar who was previously supportive of the Taliban. According to these sources, tensions escalated between the market owner and the Herat Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of some shopkeepers. In a gathering attended by Mullah Abdul Ghani’s brother, the son of the religious scholar vehemently criticized the actions of this authority. It is worth mentioning that some members of the Taliban and their associates have attributed this incident to moral corruption within the market.

A destructive fire has resulted in extensive financial losses at a commercial center in Herat province. This 12-hour-long fire reduced all the merchandise in the market to ashes before finally being extinguished. Hasht-e Subh Daily reports that the market, consisting of 300 shops and approximately 300 stalls, has been completely razed. The Taliban have confirmed the severe devastation caused by the fire, attributing it to short circuits and loose wiring. The incident occurred on Saturday, June 17.

Despite the presence of firefighting teams at the scene until around 1:00 p.m., the fire outbreak persisted. Nisar Ahmad Elias, the Taliban spokesperson for Herat province, attributes the cause of the fire outbreak to a short circuit. He claims that they were not informed about the incident. Consequently, firefighting forces from Al-Farooq Military Garrison, the Security Commander of the province, the Airfield, the Herat Zone Hospital, and the Taliban’s Municipality in Herat arrived at the scene one hour later and initiated fire suppression efforts. Later, Naemullah Haqqani, the Taliban’s head of information and culture in Herat province, tweeted: “Regrettably, a fire outbreak, triggered by a short circuit, occurred in Qasr-e Herat Market. Over 100 firefighters from the industrial town and auxiliary forces from Kabul tirelessly worked from 3 a.m. until the fire was brought under control. Sadly, 10 firefighters were affected by smoke inhalation, and more than 300 shops across three floors of the market were reduced to ashes.”

Ahmad Fahim (pseudonym), a resident of Herat province residing near Qasr-e Herat Market, informed the Hasht-e Subh Daily that the entire market was engulfed in flames, with only two or three shops near the entrance gate, where the firefighting teams arrived, being spared from the blaze. He emphasized that the fire outbreak resulted in significant damage. Ahmad Fahim stated, “Around 300 shops and nearly 300 stalls inside the market were completely razed to the ground. It inflicted substantial losses upon the vendors. Everything they had within the market was reduced to ashes. If we consider these 300 shops, even if a few had capital below $10,000, the majority of shopkeepers had invested between $20,000 and $40,000. Each of the burnt stalls held a capital of no less than 100,000 to 300,000 Afghanis, all of which vanished and turned to ashes.”

Meanwhile, shopkeepers in Qasr-e Herat Market lament the complete loss of their belongings, which have turned to ashes. They reveal that in the days preceding the holiday, they had stocked their shops with a significant amount of merchandise using their own capital or borrowed funds, all of which has been completely consumed by the fire outbreak.

Iraj, a shop owner in Qasr-e Herat Market, shares the devastating loss he has suffered due to the fire outbreak. He reveals that his entire capital, along with his shop, has been reduced to ashes. In an interview with the Hasht-e Subh Daily, he expresses, “Every bit of my capital is gone. There’s nothing left of this shop. I had some remaining items from before, and I had brought in new merchandise for the Eid celebration. Everything is completely destroyed. This shop was not only my source of livelihood but also the foundation of my capital. I had borrowed money from friends to stock up for the festive season. Approximately $20,000 to $25,000 of my capital was invested in this shop, supporting my family. Now, everything has turned to ashes.”

Farshid, another affected individual by the fire outbreak, shares the loss he has experienced. He reveals that the merchandise in his shop, along with a sum of cash, has been consumed by the fire. He explains, “I had dedicated everything to this shop. All my capital was invested here. It was the eve of Eid, and I had brought a substantial amount of merchandise to sell, but it all perished in the flames. I also had cash stored in the shop, totaling 300,000 to 400,000 Afghanis, and it too turned to ashes.”

The recent fire outbreak in Herat province is believed to have hidden dimensions, raising suspicions among local sources. According to these sources, around 12:30 a.m. on Friday night, the electricity supply was interrupted in various parts of the city, including the Lelami Road area and Qasr-e Herat Market, for approximately two hours. The power was restored at 2:09 a.m., and it was during this reconnection that the fire outbreak occurred in Qasr-e Herat Market. The fire persisted until after lunchtime, reducing all the items in the market to ashes.

Mawlawi Jalilullah, a religious scholar in Herat province and a prominent Taliban supporter, owns Qasr-e Herat Market. Sources indicate that tensions arose between him and the Herat Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice following the arrest and imprisonment of shopkeepers in the market. The situation escalated to the point where Sebghatullah Mawlawizada, Mawlawi Jalilullah’s eldest son, openly criticized the Authority’s actions in Herat province in the presence of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Deputy Economic Minister of the Taliban. Mawlawizada expressed discontent with the Authority’s behavior, citing it as one of the reasons educated individuals choose to leave the country. He specifically mentioned the Authority’s practice of detaining shopkeepers and confining them in containers for displaying mannequins.

Meanwhile, some individuals and Taliban affiliates have expressed suspicions regarding the recent fire outbreak. They associate the incident with moral corruption and criticize the sale of specific women’s clothing by men, considering it contrary to the principles of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. It is important to note that a comprehensive assessment of the financial losses resulting from the fire outbreak has not yet been provided.