In the four days since Kabul fell to Taliban militias, the capital’s one million people have been plunged into the medieval labyrinth that is Taliban rule.
Already, a secretive, six-man ruling council of Islamic clerics has reshaped the everyday lives of ordinary Afghans who, at least in Kabul, long enjoyed one of the most liberal lifestyles of any Muslim community in Central Asia. Cinemas have been closed, the Kabul television station shut down, and the playing of all music has been banned.
A decree on Sunday from the new Department for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prohibition of Vice ordered all men in government jobs to grow “proper beards” - meaning untrimmed ones - within 45 days. Westernstyle suits have been banned.
Women and girls have fared worse. Girls’ schools have been closed while the clerics, known as mullahs, study the “issue” of education for females. Women with jobs have been told to stay at home, and ordered, when venturing out, to wear a full “chaderi,” a gown that covers a woman from head to toe, allowing her to see only through a tightly woven face mask.
On Sunday, there were several instances reported in which Taliban fighters stopped women on Kabul streets and beat them, in one instance with a radio antenna ripped from a car, accusing them of not covering their entire bodies.
The mullahs, who have already imposed changes on the parts of the country that have been under Taliban control, are introducing the capital to sharia, the harsh Islamic criminal code that prescribes stoning to death for adulterers and drug traffickers, amputations of hands and feet for thieves, and flogging for the sale or consumption of liquor.
At least one man has already been paraded through the city on a truck, his face blackened, a weight attached to his lower jaw to keep his mouth open, and his left hand severed.
Still, the Taliban capture of the capital, after a 22-month siege, has brought a breath of relief to the people in Kabul.
Before the dust storms blew up Monday, the morning sunlight showed the capital in a rare state, with residents moving about without fear of the artillery that has killed at least 30,000 people and leveled much of the city.
The war began when the Afghan Communist underground seized power in Kabul in a coup in April 1978. In 1979, Soviet paratroops seized Kabul airport to begin a decade-long military occupation. When they pulled out, Najibullah, the Soviet-backed Afghan leader, retained power until 1992. Since, then he had been sheltered in a U.N. compound in Kabul.
After the collapse of Communist rule in 1992, a jumble of guerrilla factions jostled for control of Afghanistan. Burhanuddin Rabbani, one of the faction leaders, became president in the government’s most recent incarnation.
The groups that succeeded Najibullah have been picked off one by one by the Taliban.
With their victory at Kabul, the Taliban now control 70 per cent of the country and are fast closing in on the northern 30 per cent.
Throughout the day Monday, Taliban fighters in Japanese pickup trucks were said to be pouring north toward the Salang Tunnel, a Soviet-built feature high in the Hindu Kush mountains that is the last major barrier facing the Taliban before they confront the militias of Gen. Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek, and Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik.
Dostum, a former communist commander, was reported to have rushed 2,000 troops to the northern end of the tunnel to stage a last-ditch battle for survival.
He is said to fear the same fate as Najibullah.
On Thursday night, fleeing officials of the ousted Rabbani government offered to take Najibullah with them, but he declined, apparently believing the Taliban would not breach the U.N. compound.
Taliban fighters dragged Najibullah from the compound at 1.30 a.m. on Friday, and had killed him by 4.30 a.m., U.N. officials said. He had been tortured and shot and his mangled corpse was left hanging alongside his brother’s.
xxxx NEW RULES IMPOSED Schools for girls closed; Women banished from work, ordered to cover their faces; Military and government personnel must cease shaving, grow beards. Death penalty for murder, drug dealing, adultery; Amputation is penalty for theft.