Afghanistan Bans TV Sets, VCRs
Afghanistan Bans TV Sets, VCRs
Jul. 13, 1998
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ A shattered satellite dish hangs from the steel door of a Kabul police station. Strung like streamers on either side are coils of tape ripped from videocassettes, banned as offensive to Islam by the Taliban.
The religious army has stepped up its campaign to rid Afghanistan of influences it considers contrary to Islam, last week adding television sets, videocassette recorders and satellite dishes to the cassettes already outlawed.
Afghans have 15 days to get rid of some of the last bits of entertainment left to them since the Taliban army took over Kabul in 1996 and consolidated its authority over the majority of the country.
The Taliban says its latest ban will give people more time to pray.
``They should spend their time going to the mosque and learning about prayer,'' said Haji Mullah Qalamuddin, a Taliban government official. ``We want to reform society and make it 100 percent Islamic.''
There was no television just before the Taliban takeover, but that was because there was no electricity _ a four-year civil war between the government and opposing Islamic groups had destroyed power lines and hydroelectric stations.
The relentless fighting destroyed entire neighborhoods of Kabul and left up to 50,000 people _ mostly civilians _ dead.
After the Taliban threw out President Burhanuddin Rabbani and took control of the capital, they brought relative peace, returned electricity to the shattered city and began their campaign to impose their harsh version of Islamic law.
Music was one of the first casualties.
Within days, everything except religious songs were banned. Taliban soldiers gouged open audio cassettes and ripped out the tape, hanging miles of it on fence posts. Afghanistan's only radio station was ransacked and its library of music destroyed.
Religious policemen stopped vehicles and searched for hidden tapes, warning owners to spend their time in the mosque.
Taliban edicts, which critics say are rooted more in tribal traditions than in the Koran, or Muslim holy book, also put severe restrictions on women.
They were driven indoors, forced off the job, ordered to wear the all-enveloping burqa. Schools for girls were closed. Women were beaten for stepping outdoors without a male relative.
The Taliban also suggested that people paint their first-floor windows black to stop prying eyes from seeing women inside.
Television and videos eased women's boredom and were a reminder of a time before the streets of Kabul were patrolled by the Taliban police, who publicly beat anyone who defies Taliban rules.
``It was like having a little part of our life from the past,'' said Ashia Jamila, who was a teacher before the Taliban arrived.
The only movie theater in Kabul, which usually showed Indian movies featuring dancing girls and romantic love stories, was shut down. The Taliban also outlawed any books and other publications published outside Afghanistan.
The Taliban banned videocassettes without explanation last year, but did not expand that edict to the recorders and other appliances until last week.
``Televisions and these dishes are corrupting the morals of the young people in Kabul,'' Qalamuddin said.
Many of Afghanistan's poor had homemade television antennas, made of bicycle chains, metal pots and wire. The makeshift antennae picked up Russian, Iranian and Pakistani channels, but the reception was poor.
``You can't really see the picture but you can hear a little of what is being said,'' said a woman who gave her name only as Haila.
The latest Taliban edict has infuriated the estimated 200 shop owners who fix and sell television sets and dishes. They have signed a petition asking Taliban authorities for more time.
``What are we supposed to do with all our television sets?'' asked shopkeeper Ghulam Mohammed. ``I am not going to throw them out on the street and smash them.''
Since the announcement, some residents have been scrambling to find buyers for their television sets. Mohammed sent away a woman who brought her 18-inch set, telling her to throw it away.
But most people say they won't destroy their television sets. They will hide them, and dismantle their satellite dishes.
One resident, Abdullah Jan, bought a dish just to watch the World Cup soccer competition in France.
``When it's finished I will pack everything away and just keep it hidden,'' he said. ``Maybe things will change again and we will be able to use it. Who knows?''