Under Taliban rule, residents of Kunduz fear the future: 'People are scared'

Taliban fighters in Kunduz.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil)

The Taliban has proclaimed it won't lead by fear in Afghanistan, but residents of Kunduz — a city seized by the militant group just a week ago — say they are already under strict rule, with checkpoints on nearly every street corner, alcohol sales banned, and women who work for the government told to stay home.

Before the U.S. war in Afghanistan began in 2001, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan for five years, enforcing extreme sharia law. There were mass executions of civilians; women were prohibited from attending school, forced to wear burqas, and had to be accompanied by a male relative while in public; and photography, paintings, and most music and movies were banned. With the U.S. withdrawing, the Taliban has swept across Afghanistan, seizing major border crossings and cities. Now that its fighters are in Kabul and have seized the presidential palace, the Taliban is effectively in control of Afghanistan.

The Taliban captured Kunduz last Sunday, and what is happening there might give a glimpse into how the rest of the country will be ruled. The New York Times interviewed several residents by telephone, as well as Taliban commander Gul Mohammad Elias, the newly appointed mayor. By the time the Taliban seized Kunduz, after weeks of fighting, power lines were down, most people didn't have water, and trash and rubble littered the streets. Afraid to go to work, many civil servants remained at home.

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Elias told the Times he called workers into his office and asked them to return to their jobs, saying "that our jihad is not with the municipality, our jihad is against the occupiers and those who defend the occupiers." Some listened, but those who didn't were visited by Taliban fighters, who demanded they go back to work. Elias quickly called another meeting of male government workers, one resident told the Times, this time with armed Taliban fighters in the room.

At the regional hospital, a note states that if employees don't start showing up, the Taliban will punish them. One health care worker said Taliban fighters are tracking down his colleagues who fled Kunduz and ordering them to return. Female hospital employees, afraid of getting in trouble, are wearing burqas. "People are scared, they are not happy, and if anyone says that people are happy, he is lying," one civil servant told the Times. "Everyone is wondering, what will happen to our future?"

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