FEAR OF TALIBAN AFFECTING BUSINESS
Three weeks into Taliban rule, people in Kabul are still in shock.
At VIP Salon, which offers haircuts such as a “Cristiano Ronaldo” or a “Justin Bieber”, there is despondency.
Its owner, Murtaza Sultani, 19, fashionably quiffed, was sitting in checked shirt, jeans and Nike trainers, watching Fast & Furious on his phone.
Only one customer had braved the salon that day. “We used to get 10 to 15, but now no one wants their hair cut, as they think men will be told to grow beards like before.”
Sultani shut the shop on August 15 after his mother called him in a panic to tell him Taliban were entering the city. When he reopened last week, one of them came and asked him: “What is this?”
“He and his men had guns, and I was scared,” said Sultani. “I told him, ‘Mullah sahib, we are sorry. After this we won’t open’.” But he did.
“I am the breadwinner for my mum and four younger siblings and have rent to pay for our house and the salon.
“I wish I could leave,” he added. “It feels like all the breath is being sucked out of the city.”
In recent years women and girls had thronged the streets in colourful scarfs, some in jeans and shirts, often laughing and smiling.
Now there were almost no women to be seen, and the handful who had ventured out were clothed in black and hurrying, heads down.
Taliban were everywhere. Drinking cappuccinos. Going shopping at the fake Apple shop. Taking selfies in front of Kabul landmarks or with foreign journalists.
Inside the hotel some were playing snooker (they are like children, said one of the receptionists) or helping themselves to the dinner buffet, once again ignoring the “no guns” sign.
The Taliban say they have brought peace and security to the capital.
One of the poorest nations on earth, entirely dependent on foreign aid and in the grip of drought, Afghanistan was already on the brink of a crisis. Those willing to give the Taliban the benefit of the doubt may feel different as the economy worsens.
Banks reopened last week but are allowing a maximum withdrawal of $200 a week.
“I got married just two months ago and already we are selling my wife’s wedding jewellery to buy food,” one man told me. “I don’t know what will become of us when it runs out.”