Residents Concerned About Taliban Gathering Data on Widows and Females in Households
The Taliban have recently started collecting data on people living in major cities in Afghanistan. Their local staff have been distributing forms to gather information about local citizens, which they have referred to as “local passports”. One of the questions on the forms asks about the number of widows and young girls in each home, which has caused alarm among the residents of Balkh province and led to questions about whether the information about female residents would help the Taliban’s security efforts. However, the Taliban have stated that their collection of information is solely for security purposes and not for any other reason.
In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Bibi Sabza, a 41-year-old resident of Mazar-e-Sharif province, said that the district attorney had been delivering a form to them three times a day for the past few months, and that they had finally filled it out and submitted it. She went on to explain that the form had asked for the number of family members, including boys, girls, and widows, as well as the name of the head of the family.
Atefa, a resident of Mazar-e-Sharif and mother of three young daughters and two adolescent sons, has been living with her sister since her husband died in a car accident five years ago. She has no male guardian, so her sister’s husband is their guardian. Atefa is concerned about giving the Taliban information about her daughters on a form given to them by the district attorney, which already contains information about her sister’s husband. She worries about what the Taliban will do with this information and why they are including girls and widows in the form, and why they are putting mental pressure on women and girls who are widows and have no male guardians.
The people of Balkh are concerned about the prohibition of renting homes to households without a male head. Anisgul (a pseudonym), who lives in Mazar-e-Sharif, experienced the tragic loss of her son two years ago. She currently resides in one of Mazar-e-Sharif’s 12 districts with her daughter, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren.
Anis Gul told Hasht-e-Subh that the district attorney had given them a form to fill out, and returned three days later asking about their male head. Gul went on to explain that since their male head had been killed by robbers, they were struggling to find someone to look after their house in order to satisfy the attorney.
Enayatullah, a district attorney in Mazar-e-Sharif, has acknowledged the citizens’ concerns, telling Hasht-e-Subh that they are obligated to follow the district commander’s orders. He added that if the job is delayed, they will be interrogated, and if it is not done, the commander of the Taliban will accuse them of conspiring with anti-Taliban groups.
Mohammad, a district attorney in Mazar-e-Sharif, has reported facing intimidation and threats from the district commanders of the Taliban. In an interview with the Hasht-e-Subh, he said that he and his colleagues are putting themselves at risk in order to avoid putting further pressure on the people, and they often ignore verbal instructions from the district commander given in meetings and come up with excuses to avoid burdening the community. He added that each new district commander of the Taliban has their own plans for district attorneys, and they pressure them to implement the district commander’s security plans.
The Taliban have confirmed that they are distributing various forms to residential homes, claiming that the purpose of this data collection is to maintain district security. Mohammad Asif Waziri, a spokesman for the Taliban security command in Balkh, stated that the forms are being distributed by the Taliban’s security personnel and that the job is intended to provide security and prevent crime, which has been successful to some degree.
Residents of Balkh are unwilling to withhold information from the security personnel run by the Taliban, despite their worries, out of fear that defying their orders could put them in danger. Professor Farooq, who works for a private university, has criticized the Taliban for its actions towards the civilians living in Mazar-e-Sharif, arguing that the Taliban commanders’ inexperience is to blame for their harsh treatment of their members and their use of oppressive laws against them. In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Farooq stated that “the district governors were all mullahs and amateurs who only knew how to kill and fight. Therefore, when the accused is brought before the court, they are beaten and tortured; however, the police’s preliminary arrest and questioning procedure is bound by special law.”
The Taliban have imposed stricter regulations on citizens, such as asking for the addresses of ex-military personnel, journalists, human rights and women’s rights activists, foreign nationals, and tenants. This has caused worry among the people of Mazar-e-Sharif.