Afghanistan’s hunters change into hunted as Taliban conquer previous order

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Sporting a black turban, thick beard, kohl eyeliner and lengthy hair, Noor Ahmad not must disguise his loyalties.

Earlier than the Taliban conquest of Kabul, the 27-year-old intelligence officer within the Islamist motion went about his duties within the Afghan capital covertly, clean-shaven and clad in denims and T-shirt or a jacket and tie. His mission — to conduct undercover surveillance operations in opposition to assassination targets.

He has no regrets concerning the victims: “They supported the international occupation. We focused folks in very quiet, out-of-the-way locations, away from site visitors and civilians.”

Following the sudden Taliban takeover of Kabul in August, males like Ahmad have burst into the open after years of hiding from Afghan and worldwide safety forces. As one of many winners in Afghanistan’s newest warfare, he’s free to stroll among the many throngs of Talibs who collect in parks and magnificence spots every night to observe the sundown, eat fruit and chat. The losers at the moment are those in hiding.

The abrupt altering of the guard in Afghanistan has blown away hierarchies and conventions in each space of life, with the beforehand highly effective on the run and extraordinary folks having to adapt to new strictures though they bridle in opposition to them.

 A vendor sells Afghanistan’s national flag and Taliban flags on a Kabul street.
A vendor sells Afghanistan’s nationwide flags and Taliban flags on a Kabul road. Afghans are adapting to new strictures though they bridle in opposition to them © Aamir Qureshi/AFP by way of Getty Photos

Protesters in Kabul demand better rights for women.
Protesters in Kabul demand higher rights for ladies. Some ladies have returned to work in segregated workplaces and are venturing to markets with out male escorts © Bulent Kilic/AFP by way of Getty Photos

Khalid, a former officer within the Afghan intelligence service, has been in hiding since Kabul fell. His job was to interrogate captured Taliban and Isis fighters. He as soon as arrested a person who pretended to be a roadside heroin addict however was really planting “sticky bombs” on automobiles in Kabul.

On the morning that the Taliban entered town, Khalid and his colleagues unexpectedly discarded their uniforms and deserted their headquarters. There was no time to get rid of paperwork figuring out the workers of an organisation devoted to infiltrating and disrupting the Taliban.

“On the third day after Kabul fell, I obtained a telephone name saying ‘you’re Khalid and it’s at the moment your shift’. They had been studying the rota on the wall. I mentioned I’m Fawad and I’m a shopkeeper,” he mentioned. “I received one other telephone name saying ‘you’re Khalid and it’s our obligation to kill you’. They mentioned I had been an oppressor they usually informed me concerning the operations I had been concerned in.”

He doesn’t imagine the Taliban’s promise of amnesty for anybody who labored for the previous authorities. A few of his ex-colleagues had been captured throughout house-to-house searches and killed, he mentioned.

Life has additionally been overturned for many who had been never on the front line within the battle in opposition to the Taliban. Hedayatullah Habibkhil, a 39-year-old civil servant, lacked the assets to cover or flee together with his household. A former senior clerk to the parliamentary committee that routinely uncovered immense authorities waste and corruption beneath the previous regime, he’s attempting to adapt to the brand new order.

He nonetheless turns as much as work every single day on the abandoned Nationwide Meeting campus, and hopes to safe a salaried job as soon as a goal has been discovered for the previous house of Afghan democracy.

A defaced portrait of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
A defaced portrait of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud © Aamir Qureshi/AFP by way of Getty Photos

Civil servant Hedayatullah Habibkhil
Civil servant Hedayatullah Habibkhil was not in a position to flee together with his household and is in search of to adapt to the brand new regime © Jonathan Boone/FT

He has grown a beard and swapped his enterprise swimsuit and tie for a standard shalwar kameez and black turban. He tries to make himself helpful to the group of fifty Talibs who guard the advanced by advising them on constructing upkeep.

“We’re skilled folks with years of expertise as directors. It’s onerous to take orders from these illiterate folks,” he mentioned. “They’ve come right here by pressure and we now have to do what they inform us.”

Kabul’s feminine professionals are testing the bounds of life beneath a regime that’s but to permit most ladies to return to highschool and the place the ladies’s ministry has been scrapped and changed by the Taliban’s morality police.

After weeks of uncertainty and staying at house, some have returned to work in segregated workplaces. Girls can nonetheless be seen out procuring and with out a male escort, albeit in low numbers and conservatively dressed.

Shakiba Haidery, a 20-year-old scholar, has made one concession to the Taliban: a black cloak worn over her in any other case trendy garments.

“I’m not very snug . . . as a result of I imagine folks ought to be free to resolve what to put on,” she mentioned. “However I’ll put on it if it means I can exit. If the Taliban don’t permit ladies to get educated and go to their jobs, then households should not going to have the ability to afford to eat.”

With greater than 150 information organisations shut in current weeks, Haidery mentioned she can be unable to fulfil her dream of changing into a journalist.

Defaced portraits of women at a Kabul beauty salon
Defaced portraits of ladies at a Kabul magnificence salon. Many ladies have conceded to the brand new regime by sporting conservative costume © Jorge Silva/Reuters

Once-bustling shopping streets are quiet following the Taliban takeover
Many once-bustling procuring streets are quiet following the Taliban takeover © Wakil Kohsar/AFP by way of Getty Photos

Even Taliban fighters are having to regulate: Mohammad Rassoul Syed Ghazniavi mentioned he was exhausted from coping with members of the general public who flock to the mayor’s workplace, the place he now works.

“This job is much more difficult than jihad,” he mentioned. “It was simpler earlier than as a result of our solely focus was doing operations and attempting to remain protected. Now we now have to take care of all these folks and fear about how they’re going to discover sufficient meals to eat.”

Khalid, the previous Afghan intelligence service interrogator, mentioned it was unimaginable for these in his scenario to regulate to the brand new Afghanistan. He’s looking for a solution to get his household overseas and is getting determined.

“There is no such thing as a place for us right here now. We now have not even been in a position to return to our home for the reason that Taliban got here,” he mentioned. “Both we escape or we are going to run out of cash and die right here.”

 

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