Days after the Taliban captured a remote district in Afghanistan’s north, they issued their first orders in the form of a letter to the local imam.
‘It said women can’t go to the bazaar without a male companion, and men should not shave their beards,’ said Sefatullah, 25, a resident of Kalafgan district.
The insurgents also banned smoking, he added, and warned that anybody violating the rules ‘will be seriously dealt with’.
The Taliban are making huge advances across the country as they capitalise on the final withdrawal of foreign troops — capturing districts, seizing key border crossings, and encircling provincial capitals.
In some areas they are again introducing the harsh interpretation of Islamic rule that earned them notoriety until being overthrown by the US-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks.
Last month they took Shir Khan Bandar, a northern customs post that connected the country to Tajikistan over a US-funded bridge that spanned the Panj river.
‘After Shir Khan Bandar fell, the Taliban ordered women not to step out of their homes,’ said Sajeda, who said she worked in a local factory at the time.
‘There were many women and young girls doing embroidery, tailoring and shoe-making… The Taliban’s order has now terrified us,’ she said by phone.