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Gandhara Briefing: Taliban Targets Universities; Women Barred From Parks; Gay Afghan Men Fear Persecution

Afghan women protest against the Taliban decree on enforcing compulsory face coverings for women in public.
Afghan women protest against the Taliban decree on enforcing compulsory face coverings for women in public.

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 insights into the Taliban's alleged persecution of the Achakzai Pashtun tribe, the recruitment of former elite Afghan commandos to join Russia's war in Ukraine, and a secret school for Afghan girls.

NOTE TO READERS: The Gandhara Briefing will next appear on December 2.

Taliban Cracks Down On Universities

RFE/RL's Radio Azadi reports on the Taliban cracking down on Afghan universities, which have become a hotbed of anti-Taliban protests led by female students.

In the latest incident, the Taliban beat up dozens of female students who staged a rally on October 30 outside their university in Badakhshan. The incident came after a group of women were barred from entering the campus because of their appearance.

"The beatings and the discriminatory rules are aimed at preventing us from protesting and silencing the voices of women," said Nahid, one of the women who protested outside Badakhshan University.

"We resisted and kept protesting even after we were beaten," said Nadia, another protesting student. "Ultimately, we overcame the pressure and went to our classes."

Hadia Tooba, a women's rights activist, said that while the "rest of the world is obsessed with development and improving their lives" the Taliban is "preoccupied with the colors of our veils."

Women Barred From Public Parks, Bathhouses

Radio Azadi reports on the Taliban barring women from entering public bathhouses and parks in Kabul.

"What they said -- that women can't go to recreational places and baths -- is ridiculous," said Maria Tutakhil, a Kabul resident. "If another decree is imposed on women, it will be that women cannot even leave the house."

The closure of public bathhouses, which are often frequented by residents who lack hot water or bathing facilities at home, will hit the poor particularly hard.

"Where can a mother and her children take a bath?" asked Hamira Farhangyar, former president of Kabul's Cheragh Medical University.

Failing Afghan Drug Rehab Centers

In this video, Radio Azadi reports on the sharply deteriorating conditions at drug rehabilitation facilities in Afghanistan.

Many rehab centers have closed or are struggling to remain open since international donors cut or reduced funding after the Taliban seized power.

"We have problems providing food, medicines, and clothes for them," said Abdul Nasir Monqaad, the director of a 1,000-bed rehabilitation center in Kabul.

Afghanistan has an estimated 3 million drug addicts, around 10 percent of the population.

The Taliban has rounded up addicts and locked them up for months as a form of treatment.

"I am scared of going to the clinics because they might beat me," said Noor Ali, a drug addict.

Gay Men Face Taliban Persecution

In another video report, two gay men told Radio Azadi that they live in constant fear under Taliban rule and have to meet their partners in secret.

Homosexuality is a taboo topic in Afghanistan, a socially and religiously conservative country. Many consider homosexuality un-Islamic and immoral, and gay men can be imprisoned by the state or killed by their family members in so-called honor killings.

But since the Taliban seized power, members of the gay community say their fears have intensified.

"They brutally torture and even kill us," said one gay man who meets his lover secretly. He says his "blood freezes in his veins" whenever he sees the Taliban.

Crumbling Afghan Currency Notes

Radio Azadi reports on banknotes in Afghanistan falling to pieces. No new banknotes have been issued since the Taliban's takeover.

"Worn-out bank notes cause a lot of problems for business," said one money changer in Kabul. "They create problems between shopkeepers and customers."

This week, Afghanistan received a batch of newly printed afghani notes under a deal with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

That's all from me this week.

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

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Editor's Note: The Gandhara Briefing will not appear the next two weeks but will return on December 2.

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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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