Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, lacks modern urban infrastructure compared to most of the world’s capitals. Streets and alleys are built disorganized and non-standard and the city lacks a municipal sewerage system. Not everyone can access water for drinking, bathing, and doing laundry. Recreational parks are scarcely seen in Kabul. A portion of these parks, which was included in the municipal masterplan, has been seized by powerful and government-affiliated figures. In the final years of the republic regime, remarkable actions were taken in the field of park construction from the development budget, enabling the residents of the city to find a few spaces to take a fresh breath. Some parks were renovated and others were rebuilt and made available to the public.
One of these parks is situated in the third part of the Khairkhana neighborhood of Kabul, known as “Bibi Sara Park”. The designation of the park is due to its location in the vicinity of “Bibi Sara” school. This park, which cost a huge amount to build, was put into operation at the end of the republican regime. It was built in an area where its residents are deprived of recreational facilities, thus being welcomed by visitors, men, women, children, and teenagers soon after its inauguration and rapidly attracting a huge crowd. The residents of the area were happy to have a park that was built in a standard way and was properly taken care of. In the last years of the republic, the Khairkhana area of Kabul had acquired a somewhat more beautiful prospect.
With the arrival of the Taliban, the situation shifted rapidly. The Taliban agents, while carrying whips in hand, stormed to Bibi Sara recreational park, starting to interrogate the people and searching the beards and hair of the male visitors. They even punished people to ensure that there was no intimacy between men and women. Firstly, everyone could go to that park until the Taliban prohibited women from visiting it. Then they allowed men and women to attend again, but they divided the park into two parts for women and men. In the latest case, the employees of the Taliban Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (MPV) decided to completely close the park, which was built at a huge cost, prohibiting all from visiting it. This is a manifestation of Taliban governance. They assume that they can control people better by imposing cumbersome restrictions on people’s lives. The Taliban view the populus as their slaves treating them relentlessly while holding no responsibility for their own behavior. The Taliban agents for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice are seen everywhere, inspecting and evaluating people’s looks, clothes, and beards. Their presence is felt in the streets, government offices, parks, public transportation, markets, shops, and mosques. People are afraid of them seeking to evade them not to receive any harm.
MPV is a large ministry with thousands of employees. This ministry is tasked to monitor the morals of the society and to inform the people of the customs and culture of the Taliban. Since the officials of this ministry lack a broad vision and worldview and are deprived of religious knowledge or a correct and calculated world, their actions stand unparalleled in terms of strangeness. The religious perceptions of the employees of this ministry are extremely strange and disgusting. They even comment on people’s haircuts, and insult and humiliate those who do not have their hair cut in accordance with their will. This is because they think that everyone is obliged to do their hair in the same way that the Prophet of God used to do it. They even stop children on the streets warning them about the shape of their hair. Their basic perception is that it is necessary to follow everything that the Prophet of God has done. No one can hold the courage to ask them that if this is the case, then why they do not ride camels and horses instead of riding a Land Cruiser and Hilux like the Prophet of God.
The Taliban use all means to monitor the citizens of Kabul. The Taliban have proclaimed that they have installed more than 60,000 security cameras only in Kabul city, and they were forcefully financed by the people’s money. The Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence, Police, Ministry of Defense, and MPV have joined hands to monitor the movements of the citizens preventing the nation from violating the Taliban’s principles of behavior. Václav Havel, a Czech writer, said that sometimes a simple action under the rule of totalitarian rule also has a revolutionary meaning. Shaving a beard or wearing suits in the Taliban realm is also a revolutionary act, and anyone who does this is actually challenging the rule of the Taliban, even though they may expose themselves to harm.
Not long ago, a young man from Kabul, who is a private school twelfth grader lamented in an interview with the media that the Taliban allow themselves to interfere in the most private affairs of the citizens and it is almost as if they take the right to breathe from people. He further said that after finishing school, he would try to find a way to get out of the country and continue his studies in foreign countries. He believed that living under the Taliban rule for a long time might make him suffer from various mental illnesses. There are thousands and even hundreds of thousands of other young people like him who are looking for an opportunity to flee the country. Under the guise of implementing religious teachings and values, the Taliban creates terror and promotes despondency and depression among citizens. In the meantime, the obtained result is that the people hate the rulers more than before and their critical approach towards Islam, which the Taliban consider to be its representatives, increases.
The Taliban’s restrictions inflict suffering on all citizens, but women are more oppressed than other classes and endure double suffering. In these two years, the Taliban did not spare from imposing any type of restriction available on women. They closed schools, universities, and colleges to girls, blocked the bathrooms, closed hair salons, forbade women from going to recreational areas, and prohibited women from commuting in the city without a female companion. In short, they suspended life for women so that their medieval patriarchal values would be more stable and strengthened and, in their opinion, the values of Islam and Afghan traditions would not be damaged.
Iranian writer Gholam-Hossein Sa’edi, in a letter to one of his friends, wrote something that I think is the best description of the condition of the residents of the Taliban territory. He has written a part of the letter: “Everything is prohibited. Commuting is prohibited, visiting friends is prohibited, books are closed, laughter, real laughter is also prohibited, and crying is also prhobited. There is a digression, but life is closed.” When will we return to normal life?