Kabul citizens endure night curfew for 21 years
Tue 09 Mar 99 - 01:41 GMT
KABUL, March 9 (AFP) - After 21 years living under a night curfew, Kabul residents now wryly say it no longer bothers them as the days have become as colourless as the nights.
The ruling Taliban militia offers little hope of relief in the restrictive regime despite improved security.
The Islamic militia, which took the Afghan capital in 1996, has forbidden music, cinema, television and outdoor weddings, besides tabooing anything that smacks of Western culture.
"In this mute and dark city, a curfew is no longer of any significance as we do not have a cinema or a concert and even parks to go to," said Fahim Ahmad, a civil engineer in a housing complex.
"The people are depressed and hungry and their only concern is how to feed their families," he said.
The curfew was announced on the first night after pro-Moscow communist groups took power in Kabul in April 1978.
Dubbed as "quyood-i-shabgardi" the night curfew from 09:00 p.m. to 05:00 a.m. has been enforced without break since then.
"It has become a habit with us. We think everyone else outside Afghanistan lives the same way," said Mohammad Farid, a young tailor.
"After the sun goes down something from inside tells me to rush home before the quyood comes into effect."
The curfew paralyses life. As the streets have no lights, residents prefer to lock themselves inside their homes -- often two hours ahead of the restrictions. They tune into foreign radio stations to know what is happening outside their homeland.
Heavily armed and turbaned Taliban fighters riding in Japanese pick-up vehicles patrol the main streets and residential quarters.
In case of medical emergencies and accidents people can go out but with special permission.
And if farmers want to irrigate their land in the countryside they must carry a lantern to avert any Taliban action.
Fighting has been raging in Afghanistan for the past 20 years. After the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion, a civil war has gripped the northern regions.
Deputy Interior Minister Mulla Khaksar, admitting the curfew is a legacy of the previous communist government, voiced the hope it would be lifted once peace is fully restored.
"We hope to lift this restriction once there is full security and peace in the country," Khaksar said. He could not say when as "prediction is forbidden in Islam."
Some residents consider curfew vital for their safety, fearing burglary and theft despite Taliban efforts to improve law and order.
A teacher, Abdul Wasey, said Afghanistan might need it for another 20 years. If people are free at night the crime rate would rise, he observed.
The governor of Kabul recently set up a commission to recheck particulars of all Taliban troops operating in the city and purge it of "dubious characters."
Officials said the move followed speculation that some people in the administration might have had a hand in recent thefts in Kabul and its suburbs.
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