Three stories from Afghanistan, after the Taliban takeover
September 25: Zahra Nabi, 32, is struggling to record and report from a demonstration outside the Grand Abdur Rehman Mosque. The protestors are demanding that the international community resume humanitarian aid and the United States unfreeze Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves, worth $9.4 billion.
She is covering her last assignment as the Taliban regime has ordered a ban on the transmission of Bano TV. Most of her colleagues have already left Afghanistan; some have chosen to stay. “I have invested a decade into this profession. I cannot process the fact that my dream job is over. I am clueless about what to do from now on. I asked the Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, at a press conference about when they are going to announce a new set of rules for working women; he said, we’d have to wait for that,’” laments Zehra Nabi as she packs her NX camcorder into her bag and zips it up.
Cafeteria in Kabul is a rare place which still paints the picture of a pre-Taliban Kabul. As one enters the premises, one is greeted by the six feet tall, muscular and dapper general manager, Mohib, who loves to wear black from neck to toe. It takes only a few moments for a visitor to realise that Mohib must have tried his luck in showbiz. And that’s quite true. “I have done photo shoots, have also acted in videos for local songs,” Mohib says. “Suddenly when I was planning to venture into the film industry, the picture changed in Afghanistan.” He discloses that some Taliban fighters – who happen to be his customers – criticise him for wearing Western clothes and for his modern looks. Mohib says he did try to leave Afghanistan but ended up in the hands of human smugglers in Nowruz province near Iranian border. He also tried to leave Kabul by air but had to abort that attempt at the last moment.
Bagh-i-WEHSH, also known as the Kabul Zoo, has an entry ticket of 100 Afghani per person. However, the main gate opens up for double cabin vehicles, filled with Taliban fighters. Inside the Zoo, almost 80 percent of the visitors are Taliban fighters. Many of them are visiting for the first time although some of them had visited in their childhood. Every one is having a ‘good time’ here, their weapons hanging from their shoulders. “I came here in my childhood with my parents 13 years ago. I see that the number of cages has increased and there are new animals in these cages. We came here in a group and took a lot of ‘selfies’. This time we entered Kabul like conquerors without a bullet fired. This is our time,” says a Taliban fighter in his twenties with a rose on the muzzle of his assault rifle.
The writer is a Geo TV broadcast journalist.