Taliban Harass Youth in Herat on Nawroz Celebrations

Afghans have a long history of celebrating Nawroz, a holiday predominantly found in Afghanistan and perceived differently across its provinces. It is especially celebrated in the country‘s central, northern, and western provinces, with those of greater financial means travelling to nearby provinces such as Balkh, Bamiyan, Kunduz, and other major tourist sites. Those of lesser means celebrated by going to amusement parks near their homes. During the former republic regime, it was unusual to find someone not looking forward to the arrival of spring. The Taliban‘s restrictions on people, with threats of punishment for those who celebrate Nawroz, are an attempt to prohibit the holiday forever in Afghanistan. The celebration of Nawroz is part of the rich historical and cultural heritage of Herat, one of the largest cities in Afghanistan, where people usually welcome and celebrate it each year. However, Herat seemed to have lost the spirit to celebrate Nawroz this year.

Faisal, a shopkeeper in the ChawkeGulha area of Herat province, stated that he had ceased celebrating Nawroz in order to avoid potential conflict with the Taliban. He reported that youths in Herat had chosen to pursue business opportunities rather than celebrate Nawroz. He went on to say that he and his friends had agreed to forgo celebrating Nawroz and instead start a business.We do not wish to provoke the Taliban, which is why we have stopped going to restaurants and cafes to celebrate Nawroz. The Taliban have frequently questioned us when my friends and I have been having parties. They have asked us if we were using ashes or something similar. Therefore, we are attempting to avoid putting ourselves in danger with them,” Faisal added.

Due to the Taliban‘s restrictions and prohibitions, there were few young people in attendance at Nawroz celebration parties in Herat province.

Sadeed, a young man from Herat province, informed HashteSubh that he and fifteen of his friends had gone to the Karukh district of the province two days prior to Nawroz, but were denied entry by the Taliban. He further stated that they had gone to a restaurant to attend a party, but the Taliban interrupted and insulted them. Sadeed said,We had made a plan for the weekend, so we went to the restaurant, where the Taliban later came and forced us to leave. We had been there many times before to converse and exchange ideas.”

Despite the fact that hookah smoking has been a popular pastime among Herat‘s youth, who enjoy it in restaurants and cafés, it has been reported that the Taliban harass those who go out to have fun with their families or fianes. As a result of the Taliban‘s restrictions, the majority of families in Herat‘s remote districts are afraid to go out and have fun with their friends and families during Nawroz, believing it to be against Islamic laws. They view Nawroz as an ordinary day when government employees are expected to work rather than celebrate with their families.