As the Taliban and government battle for control of Afghanistan, residents of areas seized recently by the insurgents are already experiencing life under the repressive regime toppled two decades ago.
Emboldened by the withdrawal of US and Nato troops, the Taliban launched major offensives into new territory in northern and western provinces. Afghan forces have kept control of provincial capitals, but the insurgents have made gains in surrounding districts.
As a result, Afghans in villages and towns are waking up to find themselves under Taliban rule.
For Maryam, 28, life changed overnight after Taliban forces seized her district in Takhar province.
“It has been about 20 days since they took control of our district. They announced during Friday prayers that the men should have beards and the women can’t go out of their homes without a mahram [a male guardian],” she told The National.
The Taliban distributed leaflets with these and other rules, including bans on playing music, selling imported meat, charging interest on loans, gambling, consuming alcohol or drugs and missing daily prayers. They are encouraging people to report anyone committing these “crimes”.
The Taliban takeover cost Maryam her job at a private company.
“I haven’t been able to go to work, because they won’t let my employer continue to hire me,” she said. “I haven’t been out of home this whole time, because I don’t have a mahram. My father is very old and unwell and I support the family.”