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Gandhara Briefing: Best Friends Killed In Kabul Bombing; The Taliban's Shari'a Pledge; Harsh Treatment For Drug Addicts

A memorial to the childhood friends.
A memorial to the childhood friends.

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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This week's Gandhara Briefing brings you our reporting on the two best friends killed in the bombing of a Kabul education center and the Taliban forcing students and teachers to sign pledges to follow its interpretation of Islamic Shari'a law.

Afghan Best Friends United In Death

Radio Azadi interviewed the families of cousins and best friends Marzia and Hajar Mohammadi. The 18-year-olds were among the nearly 60 girls and women killed after a suicide bomber struck an education center in Kabul on September 30.

"They were so attached that they spent 12 out of every 24 hours together," said Maryam Mohammadi, Marzia's mother.

"Both were eager to meet their two favorite writers," Marzia's uncle, Abdul Zahir Mudaqiq, said of their dream to meet Turkish-British novelist Elif Shafak and American writer Rachel Hollis.

Despite the tragedy, Hajar's mother, Aziza Mohammadi, said she is determined to educate her three remaining children.

Many victims of the bombing were from the Shi’ite Hazara community, including Marzia and Hajar.

Maryam Mohammadi called on the Taliban to protect the beleaguered community, which has faced incessant attacks from the Islamic State-Khorasan extremist group.

"I don't want my other children to end up like Marzia," she said.

Taliban's Forced Shari'a Pledges

Omid Zahirmal reports on the Taliban ordering male teachers and students in Kandahar to sign pledges that they will adhere to the militant group’s extremist interpretation of Islamic Shari'a law.

"I…son of...promise that I will follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and all the principles of Shari'a law," reads the one-page document.

The pledge includes following the Taliban's strict dress code for men, including growing a beard, wearing a turban or Islamic cap, and donning the pirhan tumban, the traditional baggy shirt and pants common in rural Afghanistan.

It is the latest attempt by the Taliban to police the appearances of Afghans in public.

This week, Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said that clerics were reviewing all of Afghanistan's laws as the group looked to implement a "pure" Islamic system in the country.

Addicts Storm Herat's Streets

Radio Azadi reports on the rapid rise in the number of drug addicts living on the streets of Herat.

The Taliban has taken an extremely hard line in tackling Afghanistan’s massive drug problem, rounding up addicts and locking them up for months as a form of treatment. But the approach has proved ineffective, and some addicts have relapsed.

"Everyone beats us or pelts us with stones," said Zmarai, one of the hundreds of addicts who live on the city’s streets and in parks. "We have no one, and the government must do something for us."

Mohammad Saeed, a physician who heads a drug-treatment center in Herat, says the lack of resources has severely dented their capacity to treat addicts.

"We are not able to offer the complex treatment these addicts require," he said.

Freezing Winter In Ghor

In Ghor, residents are concerned about how they will survive the upcoming winter without adequate fuel and food

The prices of coal and essential food items such as wheat and oil have skyrocketed.

"The price of coal is already out of our reach, similar to that of essential food items," said Ismail. The 45-year-old is responsible for taking care of his 14-member extended family.

"I often have sleepless nights thinking about what we will do this year," said Sarwar, 35, a day laborer.

That's all from me this week.

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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