Taliban extend control to details of Kabul daily life 17 rules make it illegal to fly a kite, keep a bird

January 16, 1997|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Kite-flying has been banned.

It is also illegal for the women of Kabul to wash clothes in streams or at pumps outside their family compounds.

"Violator ladies should be picked up with respectful Islamic manners and taken to their houses and their husbands severely punished," an order from the city's new rulers says.

Keeping birds in cages for enjoyment also has been forbidden. The penalty for breaking this rule soon will be death -- for the bird.

Ever since the Taliban Islamic Movement took over the war-ravaged Afghan capital last fall, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has issued a steady stream of decrees on how Kabul residents should lead their lives. Taliban leaders say it is all part of their effort to create a pure Islamic state.

Women were forced several months ago into head-to-toe cover -- even more extreme than in neighboring Iran -- whenever they go outside.

Men have been told to wear turbans, grow beards and pray at the district mosque -- or else.

Now, the process of regulating daily life has taken a significant new turn with the publication of 17 official misbehaviors that must be avoided, and the punishments that could come if they occur.

The regulations call for rather extreme measures. Order No. 2, for instance, is "to prevent music."

"In shops, hotels, vehicles and rickshaws, cassettes and music are prohibited," the order reads. "If any music cassette is found in a shop, the shopkeeper should be imprisoned and the shop locked."

Order No. 3 states: "After one and a half months, if anyone is observed who has shaved and/or cut his beard, they should be arrested and imprisoned until their beard gets bushy."

But not all hair is good. Order No. 10 bans men from wearing fashionably long "British and American hairstyles."

Order No. 15 prohibits tailors from taking body measurements of Kabul's still-fashion-conscious women. "If women or fashion magazines are seen in the shop, the tailor should be imprisoned," the order says.

When the Taliban wanted to enforce their earlier edict against women appearing in public without full Islamic covering, many women were attacked with sticks and car antennas if they were deemed to be dressed improperly.

Those beatings have largely stopped, but women no longer appear in public unless covered.

In another recent order issued to cover the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which started last Friday, the ministry asked women to stay inside for the entire month.

Women are allowed to go out for food or a medical emergency, but should not "just wander around in the markets and parks," it declared.

These kinds of regulations appall and dismay many Kabul residents, who once constituted a cosmopolitan outpost in traditionally conservative Afghanistan.

Much of the code of conduct is what rural Afghans grow up with and accept naturally. Many of the Talibs grew up in the stern worlds of "madrassah" religious schools associated with refugee camps in Pakistan; others are from conservative rural towns and villages.

The Taliban give few rationales for their rules, other than to say they are all part of establishing an Islamic state.

One of the few orders announced with an explanation is the ban on kite-flying. The practice, popular with adults and children across the city, causes "useless consequences such as betting, death of children, and their deprivation from education."

The betting generally centers on kite-fighting matches, and the danger is that children will fall off their roofs, where they often fly their kites. As for education, Kabul has been a war zone for more than four years, and there has been virtually no schooling.

Although foreign workers in Kabul see the new notice as an aggressive expansion of Taliban rules, they also detect some backtracking.

An earlier ban on all music, for instance, has been modified to apparently allow music inside people's homes. Similarly, a ban on all pictures and portraits -- seen as a form of improper "idolatry" -- has been scaled back to allow family photos inside the home.

Pub Date: 1/16/97

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