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A month after the Taliban conquest of Kabul, Afghanistan now faces a humanitarian crisis and uncertainty about what direction the new government will eventually take, while the country’s appearance is undergoing a profound transformation.
Much has changed, especially in the Afghan capital, since the fundamentalist fighters seized power at the end of a dazzling military campaign and against the backdrop of the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops.
Clothes, colors and mood change
Black-and-white slogans extolling the Taliban’s victory now take the place of the colorful murals that dotted Kabul’s clunky concrete barriers, installed over the years to limit the damage from attacks.
Large photographs of deposed President Ashraf Ghani, now exiled in the United Arab Emirates, or icons such as the late guerrilla Ahmad Shah Massoud, “the lion of the Panjshir,” have also been removed, as has the Republican flag.
However, the city’s traffic, prone to massive traffic jams, is now flowing more smoothly due to the exodus of a good number of Afghans to other countries and the final departure of foreign troops.
But one of the biggest changes is to be found in the clothing of the inhabitants of Kabul, who have largely abandoned jeans and T-shirts in favor of more traditional clothes in the face of the arrival of Islamic fundamentalists. Or, in the case of women, more revealing clothing.
“To be honest, I’m afraid of the Taliban so I don’t wear pants or a T-shirt anymore, and I’ve grown a beard. We have to adjust,” Sher Khan, who works as a security guard for a telecommunications company, told EFE.
No more music
Afghan weddings, which can host hundreds of people in large halls, have been silenced for fear of Islamists.
The Taliban went so far as to ban music when they ruled the country between 1996 and 2001, as well as relegating women to the home based on their strict interpretation of Islam and forbidding them from working or going to school, something that has not happened openly for now.
“There is no live music in the wedding halls anymore, there is only a small player in the women’s part. There is neither dancing nor happiness for young people,” Qari Malik, manager of one such hall in Kabul, told Efe.
Afghan media have also stopped broadcasting music programs.
The economic crisis
Muhammad Anwar, who runs a small currency exchange store in the capital, said he no longer has to worry about the armed robberies so common under the Ghani government.
Attacks by the Taliban, now in power, have also stopped. But the instability has eventually affected his business, and he has gone from earning about 2,000 Afghanis a day (about $23) to about 500 (about $6).
“Fewer people want to exchange money, as most banks have been closed for a month and won’t let people withdraw money, and the number of employees who were paid in dollars and then exchanged them for Afghanis has dropped significantly,” he lamented.
The shortage of cash has become a headache for Afghans, who have been forced to form long queues outside the few banks that are still open and can only withdraw a maximum of $200 per week.
The Afghan economic crisis threatens to plunge 97% of the population into poverty by mid-2022, according to the UN.
“We can say that overall, the unemployment rate is at its highest in 20 years. Government employees have not received their salaries for three or four months,” activist and analyst Ghulam Jailani Humayoon told EFE news agency.
In addition to the economic crisis, there is a humanitarian crisis, with millions of displaced people both inside the country and abroad. The UN secured a pledge of more than $1 billion from the international community on Monday, and the Taliban have seen this influx of aid as a positive step towards establishing diplomatic relations and weathering the crisis.