04/15/2023, 10.21
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Taliban like Isis bans foreign games, movies and music stores

A ban that has primarily caused very heavy repercussions to the economy of families. More than 400 businesses closed, some merchants have lost the investment of a lifetime. Still others see fleeing abroad as the only solution. Taliban representative: They promoted Indian and Western values and culture, women did not wear the hijab.

Herat (AsiaNews) - Following in the footsteps of the Islamic State in Mosul during its years of jihadist rule, the Afghan Taliban in Herat have banned music, foreign films and video games by imposing strict enforcement of sharia, Islamic law.

The decision has had severe repercussions not only on the sociality of the inhabitants, who were accustomed in the previous period to greater freedoms, but also causing massive damage to the economy and businesses of hundreds of shopkeepers who have seen their lifetime investments, and savings, go up in smoke.

This was the case of 28-year-old Humayun, who had invested nearly 10 thousand euros to start an arcade in the western town of Afghanistan nearly four years ago. At first the investment had paid off, with the store's powerful consoles attracting many young people who spent their savings to play the latest versions of popular video games.

Everything changed in August 2021, with the takeover of the Koranic students in Kabul and the return of obscurantist norms such as the ban on female education or the heavy restrictions on women's employment in the NGOs, local and international, active in the country. 

Rising unemployment and a severe economic recession have taken a heavy toll on Afghans, including potential customers in stores in a city of half a million people. Exacerbating the situation was last week's "game over" decreed by the Taliban for Humayun and many other like-minded traders who sealed off the arcade.

The closure preceded by the ban decreed by the Ministry of Virtue Promotion and Vice Prevention, which branded foreign films, music and video games as "un-Islamic." "This business was my life," young Humayun told Radio Azadi, "and now I have no source of income or livelihood."

The Taliban decree, which came without warning, led to the blocking of more than 400 businesses in Herat alone and follows the crackdown imposed on various forms of entertainment, such as the closure of outdoor spaces for women and families.

In October, the Islamic extremist movement closed cafes across the country that offered hookahs, smoking of which is a popular pastime among Afghan men. Earlier, in May, they banned men and women from eating together in Herat restaurants and shut down women-owned and operated restaurants in the city.

The impact of restrictions on activities is evident in Herat, an ancient center of cultural and intellectual life in the Muslim world located in a strategic location that is also a crossroads of routes and trade to Iran and Turkmenistan.

Prior to the Taliban's return to power, the Hazratha market was the city's video game center. In addition, dozens of stores along narrow streets sold foreign films and TV series on Dvd, as well as Indian, Iranian, and Western music.

Now a surreal silence resounds in the market area and almost all stores are closed. "There is nothing left for me here, now all I have left is to move to another country," confesses a former shopkeeper named Fakhruddin.

His store sold movie posters, DVDs, and music CDs. He had invested just under ,000 to start it, but by now the business is doomed to die. "I have to provide for the needs of a family of 11," he confesses, "and this store was my only source of livelihood.

Mawlawi Azizurrahman Mohajir, provincial head of the Taliban ministry that controls morals and customs, responds to the criticism by pointing out that the closure of the halls and stores is a consequence of many families' complaints. The children, he reports, would spend - or rather, waste - too much time inside, neglecting other more important aspects.

"These stores," he adds, "were selling films that depicted and promoted Indian and Western values and culture, which are very different from Afghan culture and traditions. "And the films in the catalog did not have women in hijabs, which is against Sharia law," he added, referring to the strict interpretation of the Islamic dress code. "This is the reason," he concluded, "why the sale is banned."

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