Thousands of Taliban youth from across the country, many of whom have never been to a major city before, were deployed to Kabul after the Afghan republic collapsed on August 15. When not on duty, they sightsee, picnic, and visit amusement parks, in a tangle of guns and turbans. Taliban fighters from elsewhere in Afghanistan have also come to admire Kabul on tourist trips.
The main urban attractions for the Taliban to relax are are Lake Qargha, with its swan-shaped pedal boats, the Kabul Zoo, and the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, where visitors stroll up a grassy hill overlooking the city.
“I used to infiltrate, gather intelligence or shoot people we were targeting,” Shafiullah Masood, a 24-year-old from Wardak province, told City Amusement Center. Park with a bunch of Taliban friends, waiting to take a pirate ship ride. “I am happy that people now have peaceful lives here. ”
The Taliban government’s defense minister, Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the one-eyed founder of the Islamist group, Mullah Omar, was not amused. In a recent speech, he lambasted fighters for sightseeing, hanging out in large groups, making aimless trips to markets and the airport in Kabul, or exploring government buildings.
“Stick to the tasks that have been assigned to you,” he said in an audio message released Thursday. “You are undermining our status, which was created with the blood of our martyrs.”
A key instruction was to stop taking so many selfies. Mawlawi Yaqoob was particularly upset that Taliban infantrymen pull out their phones to take photos with movement leaders whenever they meet them. While these photos end up on social media, they compromise security by revealing the locations and activities of senior Taliban operatives, he warned.
Mawlawi Yaqoob also ordered Taliban fighters to improve their attitude and appearance, bringing their beards, hair and clothing in line with Islamic rules. Taliban men sporting shoulder-length hair, smart clothes and mirrored sunglasses and wearing white Servis Cheetah high-top sneakers are common in Kabul.
Taliban fighters also drive too fast, complained Mawlawi Yaqoob, and do not obey traffic rules. The Taliban seized fleets of Ford Rangers and Toyota Land Cruisers from senior officials in the former Afghan republic and from the military, government departments and police.
“This is the behavior of the warlords and the puppet regime gangsters,” he said, referring to the US-backed government the Taliban toppled. “If we continue to do this, God forbid, we will lose our Islamic system.”
Since taking control of Kabul, the Taliban have carried out a series of assassinations of political enemies, including former members of the security services of the Republic of Afghanistan and people suspected of being close to the state Islamic.
In the Afghan city of Herat, in western Afghanistan, the Taliban on Saturday hanged four men from cranes positioned in four squares in the city they said were part of a gang of kidnappers, according to the owner. from one of the restaurants near the hangings site. These would be the first public executions since the Taliban took control last month.
Many in Kabul, a sophisticated city of six million people, deeply resent the Taliban for restricting social freedoms that had been taken for granted over the past two decades, such as women’s access to education or at work. The city’s lingua franca is Dari, an Afghan dialect of Persian, and many locals are unable to communicate at checkpoints with Taliban fighters who often speak only Pashto, the main language of the south and east. from Afghanistan.
“The country is finished. Everything is now in the hands of the mullahs, “said a marketing manager for a mobile phone company in Kabul.
Until now, Mawlawi Yaqoob’s remonstrances appeared to have had only a limited impact on the Taliban infantry, many of whom were still teenagers and dazzled by novelties such as office chairs on wheels. Their encounters with the modern world spawned a whole bunch of mocking memes that have proliferated on Instagram.
On Friday, Ehsanullah, a 23-year-old fighter from the southern province of Helmand, was on his third visit to Kabul City Park, which features a Ferris wheel, swings, a haunted house and a shooting range with guns at fire. He said he had never seen such rides before.
“At first I was afraid of these rides, but once I tried it is not a problem anymore,” he said.
Ehsnanullah and other Taliban fighters at the amusement park were ordered to return their American-made Kalashnikovs and M16 rifles to a special stand. There, a notice from the Taliban leadership urges them to do so, claiming that the presence of guns on the rides frightens women and children.
“Initially, the public didn’t know us, our dress, our language,” added Ehsanullah, who bears a name. “Gradually, people are starting to relax around us.”
The Kabul Zoo, too, was filled with excited Taliban. An impromptu game of wrestling, a popular sport here, took place on a lawn that usually serves as a picnic area. Fighters, as well as curious non-Taliban families, sat on the grass watching. Wrapping their arms around their opponent in a bear hug, the wrestlers lifted the loser off his feet and rocked him.
There was no competition on the most popular animal for the Taliban.
“I loved seeing the lion because we are also lions,” said Mohammad Amin, a talibé from Farah province, sitting at the edge of a pond where herons waded. “I was ready to be a suicide bomber. Now I am happy that I see Islamic law coming to Kabul.”
Among the non-Taliban in the crowd, not everyone was enjoying themselves so well. An employee of the presidential secretariat, at the amusement park with his young son, said he was unsure if he still had a job. During his adult life, there have been puzzling and sudden regime changes since the early 1990s, he said, ending with the Taliban returning to power.
“My head is spinning,” he said.
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