Arifa Ahmadi * begins his first day under the full control of the Taliban by burning his jeans and any other clothing that extremists may disapprove of, as the nation awakens to a new era after the last American troops left the country overnight to the morning.
The United States completes its exit from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation
Ahmadi is part of the generation that has grown up over the past 20 years and has enjoyed freedom, education and employment under a Western-backed government, but lost his job after the Taliban took control of the country.
“I tried very hard to get a job in a customs office in Farah and I got it. I celebrated with my friends. I invited them to my house. We were very happy,” says Ahmadi. “But I lost it after just three weeks. The Taliban asked a lot of women to leave the office. Seeing the situation, I didn’t even try to go back.”
“A man with a long beard is now sitting in my chair,” he adds.
So far, the Taliban have struggled to show a more conciliatory face, disregarding the harsh public punishments and bans on shows that characterized their previous stint in power before 2001.
But Ahmadi left Farah after the Taliban invaded the city and has lived in Kabul ever since, hoping to leave the country through a foreign company.
“I have been crying since this morning. My brother has gone out to buy me a burqa and I have burned my jeans. I have cried while I burned them: I have burned my hopes with them. Nothing will make me happy anymore. I only hope my death, I no longer want this life, “says Ahmadi.
“Since the Taliban took Farah, I have felt myself falling. Today I felt myself hit the ground and die. Now I feel nothing, I am dead. This morning everything is over for me, and also for all the people of the city. You will not see anyone laughing. An absolute feeling of depression runs throughout the city. ”
Kabul, city without life
The Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, declared this Monday that, with the end of the NATO military operation, “a new chapter has begun” for Afghanistan, but in the streets of Kabul, many people were desperate and did queue at banks to withdraw money.
The Taliban have ordered banks to reopen this Saturday, with a withdrawal limit of $ 200 for one week.
“I started my first day under Taliban rule at the entrance to a bank in the Shahr-e-Naw area of Kabul. I went there around 6 in the morning, before the bank opened, but there were already a lot of people queuing, “says Nesar Karimi, an engineer from Kabul.
“I have been there until 12, but they have closed the ATM, they said they had run out of money and I came home empty-handed. There were hundreds of people. The Taliban beat people with pipes, I wanted to stay but That was a mess and I have returned home. It is the second day that I try to get some money, but I have not been able to “.
“I have lived here in Kabul most of my life, but I have never seen the city like this,” he adds. “In the streets there is an absence of feelings. People have lost all their senses. Now they don’t care anymore, I don’t care anymore; my generation has lost everything in a matter of hours. People are devastated.”
The capital had been the most liberal city in the country under the previous government – home to everything from bodybuilding and energy drinks to quirky sculpted hairstyles, party pop songs and Turkish soap operas – but many of its inhabitants are now trying to change. quickly your lifestyle.
Even before the last American flight left Kabul, much of the life, glitter and noise of Kabul was already fading as those left behind tried to fit in with the strict tone of their new rulers.
Wear a beard or not, a matter of life and death
“I decided to grow a beard and wear traditional Afghan clothing as a first precaution against their threat,” says Jabar Rahmani, a resident of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“No one should have someone tell them what clothes or what fashion to wear, but here I have to do it to stay alive. The distance between life and death is very narrow under the control of these people. Wearing a beard or dressing in a certain way can be something very banal for people in other parts of the world, but here it is a matter of life and death, “he says.
“I had studied all my life to do something for this land, but these people have buried my hopes. Not only the Taliban, the international community is also responsible for what has happened to the dreams of a generation. Why did they come, if they wanted to leave us like this? ”
Rahmani is an atheist, a very small community in Afghanistan that also lived in hiding and fear, even under the Western-backed government.
“I don’t believe in any god and there are a lot of people like me in Mazar and Kabul. And a lot of people already know that and they can sell us to the Taliban. If they don’t, I will have to go pray five times a day.”
Although senior Taliban officials have repeatedly said that their forces must treat the population with respect and not apply arbitrary punishments, many distrust them or do not believe they can control their foot soldiers.
Herat resident Reshad Sharifi says that Taliban fighters prohibited him from wearing a T-shirt and shorts when he wanted to do his daily sport.
“I have a habit of getting up early in the morning to go to a nearby mountain in Herat. I took a break for a few days and today was my first day of sport under the Taliban government. I always wear shorts and T-shirts. This morning I did the same, but they arrested me with a gun pointed at me, “says Reshad. “I have been told: ‘come back, dress like a Muslim and come back.’ I have been living in Herat since they took power, but they had not done me so much harm.
* The names of the testimonials have been changed
Translated by Emili Serra.