Nawroz Under the Taliban Rule

By: Sayed Mahmood Hamrazm

The Taliban are strongly opposed to the celebration of Nawroz, yet people still travel to commemorate the return of nature in the spring. As Nawroz is no longer an official holiday and has been removed from the calendar, government workers must be prepared to go to work on the first day of the new year. Imams of mosques in towns, villages, religious institutions, and schools who are ideologically linked to the Taliban oppose the Nawroz festival and forbid it, threatening to punish those who celebrate it and accusing them of blasphemy and atheism.

During a conversation with HashteSubh, Mukhtar, a resident of Kunduz province, remarked that this year‘s Nawroz celebrations are particularly subdued due to the ongoing dire circumstances of Afghans. He further noted that people no longer celebrate Nawroz with the same enthusiasm as before, as the Taliban have forbidden it.Despite the instability and security risks, people used to enthusiastically celebrate Nowruz in the past with dancing, plays, music, and instruments for large parties, cooking local food, the Buzkashi competition, and so on. I hope that they will be able to celebrate the upcoming year with joy,” Mukhtar said.

According to Ali, a resident of Takhar, the celebration of Nawroz has changed drastically and people are no longer as enthusiastic about it. Ali attributed this to the Taliban‘s wrong perception of the holiday, as well as the majority‘s fear of their extreme attacks, poverty, and unemployment. Ali further stated that the celebration of Nowruz boosts the economy, making the first day of the year joyful, stimulating economic growth, and encouraging people to return to work and other businesses after the cold and lengthy winter. He also noted that the Taliban‘s control over picnic sites has decreased the local population of these lands and caused several vendors, farmers, and merchants to become bankrupt.

Ali remarked that this spring was incredibly desolate, as there was no singing, no hymns, and no musical instruments. Those living under Taliban rule and in extreme poverty had become exhausted. Many had given up hope of having a long life and a prosperous future. There was no sound of music or footsteps. People were not content; they were despondent and felt as if they were living in a ghost town. Celebrating Nowruz without music, dancing, or happiness was akin to attending a funeral and praying in profound sorrow.

Amina, a resident of Balkh province, stated that Afghanistan has become a prison for women. She was a student at Balkh University, but is now prohibited from attending classes. She further asserted that the Taliban have completely eradicated women‘s freedoms and rights.

She stated that Nawroz offered women in traditional, patriarchal societies a great chance to observe the new year, feel liberated and tranquil, and briefly forget their anguish and suffering. She added that Nowruz was a time to commemorate the success of labor and the struggles of working women who were responsible for raising their families. It was significant to the social and economic welfare of Afghanistan, but now that women have been excluded from all aspects of life, they are, in her view, living wretched lives as slaves under the Taliban‘s rule.

On the night of Nawroz, Amina would usually welcome her family and friends from Kabul and other provinces, but this year she is alone and unable to do so. Despite the threats and poverty, people have still kept the Nawroz tradition alive in their homes during feasts. Men and women visit the plains and the slopes of the mountains separately to admire the tulips and share stories of their financial struggles, destitution, and uncertain futures. This often leads to tears as they think of their children‘s education and the uncertain future.

The Taliban‘s opposition to Nawroz, prohibition of the day, and restrictions on Nawroz celebration have caused irreparable damage to this ancient and venerable culture, which had been passed down from ancestors on both a cultural and economic level.

The Taliban frequently assault the culture and traditions of Afghans by imposing restrictions on them, harshly punishing those who oppose their beliefs, and forcing their more stringent views on the entire population.

Despite the difficulties faced in Afghanistan, Nawroz holds a special place and purpose for Afghans and their neighboring countries, and is celebrated widely and lavishly throughout much of the world. Afghans also celebrate the Solar New Year and demonstrate their uniqueness by spreading the Nawroz culture to other countries.

Experts claim that the Taliban will not be able to prevent the destruction of the traditional Nawroz culture. They asserted that despite economic difficulties and political changes, people will not abandon their ancient cultures, including Nawroz, which serves as a symbol of their identity and culture. Afghanistan‘s history shows that Nawroz has been respected and preserved throughout the years, even when the country was in extreme poverty and lacked financial resources. Therefore, people will continue to preserve it in the future years despite the Taliban‘s rule in Afghanistan.