Arifa Ahmadi* started her first day under full Taliban control by burning her jeans and any other clothes that the Taliban would be likely to disapprove of as the nation woke up to a new era after the last American troops left the country overnight.
Ahmadi is a part of the generation that has grown up during the past 20 years and enjoyed freedom, education and employment under a government backed by the west – but lost her job after the Talibanes took over the country.
“I tried a lot to get a job in a customs office in Farah and I got that. I celebrated it with my friends. I invited them to my home. We were very happy,” Ahmadi told the Guardian. “But I lost it only after three weeks. Many of women were asked by the Taliban to leave the office. As I looked at the situation, I didn’t even try to go back.”
Ella añadió: “A man with a long beard is sitting on my chair now.”
The Taliban have so far been at pains to show a more conciliatory face to the world, with none of the harsh public punishments and outright bans on public entertainment that characterised their previous time in power before 2001.
But Ahmadi left Farah after the Taliban overran the city and has been living in Kabul since then, hoping to leave the country through a foreign company.
“I have been crying since this morning. My brother went out and bought me a burqa, I burned my jeans today. I was crying and burning them, I burned my hopes with them. Nothing will make me happy any more. I am just waiting for my death, I do not want this life any more,” Ahmadi said.
“Since the Taliban took Farah, all these days I was feeling like I’m falling, and today I felt like crashing to the ground and dying. I have no feeling now, I am a dead girl now. Everything finished for me this morning, and also for all the people in the city. You can see nobody laughing outside. An absolute feeling of depression is all over the city.”
The US secretary of state, Antony Blink, said on Monday “a new chapter has begun” for Afganistán with the Nato military operation over, but on the streets of Kabul many were desperate, and lining up outside banks to withdraw money. The Taliban ordered banks to reopen this Saturday with a $200 withdrawal limit for a week.
“I started my first day under Taliban complete rule at the entrance of a bank in the Shahr-e-Naw area of Kabul. I went there at around 6am, before the bank opened but many people were already queuing there,” Nesar Karimi, an engineer in Kabul, dicho. “I was there until 12 but they closed the ATM, said they ran out of money and I came home with nothing. Hundreds of people were there. The Taliban were beating people with pipes, I wanted to stay but that was a mess and I came back home. It was my second day attempting to withdraw some money but could not.
“I lived here in Kabul for most of my life but had never seen Kabul like this,"Añadió. “It’s a sense of no feelings on the streets. People lost all their senses, they now do not care, I do not care, my generation lost everything in a matter of hours. People are broken.”
The capital city had been the most liberal city in the country under the previous government – home to everything from body building and energy drinks to extravagant sculpted hairstyles, jangly pop songs and Turkish soap operas – but many in the city are now trying to quickly change their lifestyles. Even before the last US flight left Kabul at midnight on Monday, many of the bright and garish sights and sounds of city life in Afghanistan were changing as those left behind tried to fit in with the austere tone of their new Taliban rulers.
“I decided to let my beard grow and wear Afghan traditional clothes as the first precautionary measure to avoid their threat,” said Jabar Rahmani, a resident of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. “Nobody can hear somebody else telling him what to wear or what fashion, but here I must do it to stay alive. The distance between life and death is very narrow under these people in control. Beards or clothing might be a very simple thing for people in other parts of the world, but here it is a life-threatening struggle," él dijo.
“I had studied for my entire life to do something for this land, but these people have buried my hopes. Not only the Taliban but also the international community is responsible for what had happened to the dreams of a generation. Why did they come [in the first place] if they wanted to leave us like this?” Rahmani is an atheist, a very small community in Afghanistan who were also living in hiding and fear even under western-backed government.
“I believe in no god and there are many people like me in Mazar and Kabul. And many people already know this, they may sell us to the Taliban. If they do not do it, I still would need to go and pray five times a day.”
While senior Taliban officials have said repeatedly their forces should treat the population respectfully and not hand out arbitrary punishments, many mistrust them or don’t believe they can control their footsoldiers on the streets.
Reshad Sharifi, a resident in Herat, said Taliban fighters banned him from wearing a T-shirt and shorts as he wanted to do his daily exercise.
“I have the habit of waking up early in the morning to go to a nearby mountain in Herat. I paused for some days and today was my first day walking and running under the Taliban. I always wear shorts and T-shirts. I did the same thing this morning but they stopped me by pointing a gun towards me,” Reshad said. “They told me: ‘Go back, dress like a Muslim and come back.’ I have been living in Herat since they took over but had not been hurt this much. I lost my hope for life.”
* All names have been changed