Young Taliban dancing to a different tune

Since the group's return to power, even its leaders seem to have relaxed slightly on the topic


AFP September 24, 2021
Young members of the Taliban dance and sing next to a river near Kandahar. PHOTO: AFP

As the setting sun turns the Arghandab river violet, seven young Taliban turn in a circle on the bank, singing and dancing in traditional Afghan style.

The scene would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, when the hardline group were first in power and banned music outright.

And just months ago the riverbed was the site of bloody clashes between the Taliban and government forces — the concrete bridge the men are dancing under is cleft in two, destroyed in fighting.

But now a chorus rises from the rocky bank, as they move from side to side, clapping their hands and chanting the lyrics of a patriotic Afghan song: "Send me a hello from Kabul... I miss you very much."

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, all entertainment, including singing and dancing, was forbidden.

But these younger Taliban do listen to music — even if most of it is religious.

Last year the bridge over the river was destroyed by bloody clashes between the Taliban and government forces

Since the group's return to power in mid-August, even its leaders seem to have relaxed slightly on the topic — at least in larger cities, where people are not being punished for listening to music.

The young Taliban under the bridge have come here to relax before they head back to Kandahar, the group's spiritual birthplace, just 10 kilometres (six miles) away.

Although the origin of their song is unclear, it celebrates national unity in a country riven with ethnic and tribal divisions.

"This song belongs to us, it belongs to our country," says Hafiz Mudasir, a dancer in his twenties.

'We had a plan'

Like his companions, he is tall, thin and bearded — and still full of excitement at his group's victory after two decades of fighting the US-led occupation and the former government.

"Twenty years ago, American troops arrived, but we had a plan," he says.

The Taliban have promised a more moderate brand of rule this time -- though they have made clear they will still govern under their interpretation of sharia law

Taliban fighters took Kabul on August 15 following a lightning offensive launched in May as the United States and NATO began their final withdrawal.

They have promised a more moderate brand of rule this time — though they have made clear that they will run Afghanistan within the restrictive limits of their interpretation of sharia law.

"We're not doing anything bad. It's our enemies who are spreading rumours, saying we're killing people,” says Hafiz.

But many in Afghanistan are distrustful and fear a return to the harsh rule of the 1990s.

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