One Week After Rebel Takeover, Life in Kabul Changes Drastically
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Rebel tanks and heavy artillery pounded the mouth of a northern valley today where government soldiers took refuge after being driven from the capital a week ago.
In the first new reports of fresh fighting since Taliban rebels took over Kabul on Sept. 28, witnesses said they saw hundreds of the fighters clamboring up the rugged mountains overlooking the Panjshir Valley.
The rebels reportedly were carrying Kalashnikov rifles and rocket launchers. At the mouth of the valley, a column of tanks and heavy artillery bombarded the area.
There were some unconfirmed reports that Taliban jet fighters also had bombed the valley earlier today in an attempt to flush out former government soldiers, led by former military chief Ahmed Shah Massood.
The Taliban, a movement that sprang from religious schools in Pakistan, already controls more than two-thirds of Afghanistan. There are some within the group who vow to ``liberate″ all of Afghanistan and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law nationwide.
Women are forced to cover themselves from head to foot and seldom venture outside. Men must wear beards and attend the mosque daily or be punished.
Although ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s government also was religiously fundamentalist, the Taliban have a much harsher idea of what Islam should be.
The new Islamic rulers have banned women from the workplace, closed schools for girls, and plan to revamp the education system, which they say is too closely linked to communism.
Tired after 17 years of civil war, some Afghans willingly pay the price for peace. Not Leila, a 30-year-old surgeon.
``It is true that the Taliban have brought peace, but at what price? We have to pay with our freedom and independence,″ said Leila, who has kicked out of her job at Kabul’s Jamhuriat Hospital last Saturday.
Leila, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said she studied and worked hard to serve her country, ``but now I have no hope left.″
The Red Cross is negotiating with the Taliban to let women go back to work.
Taliban fighters brandishing Kalashnikov rifles hauled men off the streets Friday and forced them into mosques to pray on the first Muslim sabbath since the takeover. Inside, fiery sermons warned of harsh penalties for ignoring the strict Islamic rule.
One senior Taliban leader brushed aside Western criticism, vowing to capture all of Afghanistan and rule with an iron hand.
``We don’t care what the West wants of us,″ said Said Ghaisuddin, the new education minister and a member of the six-man council ruling Kabul.
``We will carry out the will of God!″ he shouted into a microphone as he waved his fist into the air, leading thousands of worshipers in shouts of ``God is great!″
Thousands of Kabul residents, mainly officials of the former regime or their families, have fled the city.
On Thursday, Amnesty International warned that the Taliban are ``implementing a reign of terror.″ The London-based human rights group accused the new rulers of arresting as many as 1,000 Rabbani supporters.
Taliban fighters were seen this week thrashing two women in the capital with a steel antenna ripped from a nearby car. It was unclear why the women were targeted, for they were fully covered except for their eyes.
``They were crying and trying to run away,″ said Karimullah, a government worker. No one came to their rescue.
At the Red Cross-supplied Karte Se hospital, some nurses were allowed to return to work _ but only if covered from head to toe and only to treat women.
Ghaisuddin reflected the Taliban attitude toward women in his invocation to worshipers: Treat women as a gardener does his flowers.
``He does not take it into the marketplace for other men to covet or relish,″ he said.