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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 05:43 GMT 06:43 UK
Ten years since Taleban took Kabul
Dan Isaacs
BBC News, Kabul

Children playing in Kabul
Children are enjoying everyday pleasures denied under the Taleban
It is 10 years to the day since the Taleban fought their way into the Afghan capital Kabul.

One of their first acts on seizing power was to introduce their strict interpretation of Islam.

This included the banning of women from work and education, and the prohibition of all music and television.

Along with these harsh regulations came strict Islamic punishments, which included stoning to death and amputations.

The Taleban were forced out of power in 2001 but today the country is once again facing a resurgence of Taleban militancy.

Music banned

Back in 1996 the world changed beyond all recognition for many Afghans.

Women in particular suffered from the sweeping changes brought by the Taleban.

Many tens of thousands lost their jobs, girls' schools were closed and women were forbidden from appearing in public unless covered from head to foot in the all-encompassing burkha.

Everyday pleasures were banned with a zeal never before witnessed in the modern Islamic world.

Police in Kabul at the site of an explosion
Suicide bombings in Kabul have become more frequent

The Taleban's Afghanistan was without music, television or images of any kind.

Even the flying of kites - a hugely popular pastime among Afghan children - was considered frivolous and un-Islamic.

Kabul in 2006 is all very, very different. Muslim traditions are of course still observed.

This is the month of Ramadan - a time for fasting and devotional prayer.

But what is different now, an Afghan friend told me, is that if you choose not to fast, you will not be punished.

The religious police are no longer watching your every move.

Music - not just traditional Afghan melodies, but the harsh beats of techno and rap - now blare out of radios across the city.

Resurgent Taleban

But this new cosmopolitan lifestyle is only a very limited snapshot of Afghanistan.

Conflict and grinding poverty still hold back many of the changes enjoyed by the few in the more affluent cities.

And of course the Taleban are once again emerging as a militant and political force in the southern provinces.

They do have some support - not least amongst those who see foreign forces in the country as just the latest wave of colonial aggressors.

But in Kabul I found only fear - fear that the progress made in the five years since the Taleban fled the city could be under threat.

Everyone from the young female students now studying hard on the campus of Kabul University to the migrant labourers looking for work in Kabul's thriving construction industry share that fear.

The Taleban's era was a dark age and not one they ever wish to see return.


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