Rahmat has seen his income as a taxi driver plummet since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, which triggered an economic collapse.
The militant group’s restrictions on women’s freedom of movement further reduced his pool of customers.
Now, Rahmat is facing another financial hit after the Taliban ordered all taxi drivers to change the color of their vehicles from yellow to turquoise.
"There is no business, and I have no means to comply with this latest order,” Rahmat, who lives in Kabul, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi. “I cannot burden my customers with higher fares, which they cannot pay.”
Hamidullah, another taxi driver in the Afghan capital, said he could not afford to pay for a paint job, which he said would cost around $300, a large sum for many Afghans.
“How can I pay that much money when I’m worried about how to feed my family,” he told Radio Azadi. “If the Taliban want us to repaint our taxis, they should pay for it.”
معرفی رنگ جدید و معیاری برای تمام تکسی های شهری و روستایی در کشور در کنفرانس مطبوعاتی که امروز سه شنبه مورخ ۱۹ ثور سال روان در مرکز اطلاعات و رسانه های حکومت برگزار گردید، هیئت رهبری وزارت امور داخله و ریاست عمومی پولیس ترافیک، راجع به معرفی رنگ جدید و معیاری برای تمام تکسی ... pic.twitter.com/GtdHL3RjA2— مرکز رسانه ها - د رسنیو مرکز (@GMICafghanistan) May 9, 2023
The Taliban's Media and Information Center releases photos of new turquoise-colored taxis.
The Taliban has said the move is aimed at combating crime, which is rife across Afghanistan. Vehicles posing as taxis have been used in kidnappings and robberies in recent years.
“If we have a specific color for all taxis, it will help eliminate the cases of kidnapping, other crimes, and insecurity," Mohammad Nabi Omari, the Taliban’s deputy interior minister, told journalists in Kabul on May 9.
The Taliban’s decision also appears to be an attempt to regulate the taxi industry in Afghanistan. Many taxi drivers do not have permits and avoid paying taxes. To earn additional income, some Afghans use their private cars as taxis, often picking up passengers on busy intersections.
Omari said all taxis will need to undergo a technical inspection, after which the owners will be issued a new operating license.
Afghans have criticized the Taliban for focusing on trivial issues while avoiding more pressing problems, including high unemployment and acute hunger.
The country is suffering from a major humanitarian crisis aggravated by the Taliban takeover in August 2021, and has been identified as a "hunger hotspot" by the United Nations.
Since the Taliban seized power, around 1 million people have lost their jobs and nearly 90 percent of those employed earn less than $1.90 a day, according to the International Red Cross.
"This is laughable because the yellow color is universally associated with taxis," said Arash, a Kabul resident. “This is not needed. People and taxi drivers cannot afford it. The Taliban should focus on delivering services so people's lives can improve."
Sami Yousafzai, a veteran Afghan journalist and commentator who tracks the Taliban, said the move is “ill-thought-out and surreal.”
The Taliban’s choice of color is likely inspired by Qatar, where cabs are turquoise. The militant group operates a political office in the tiny Gulf state.
“They are apparently following the example of Qatar, which is one of the world's richest countries, while Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world,” said Yousafzai.
Taliban officials have not said what penalties, if any, await taxi drivers who violate the new order.
But Yousafzai said the new rules will likely be “another revenue stream for the Taliban as they arrest taxi drivers and impound their vehicles.”
The Taliban has imposed a number of decrees that have provoked anger and bewilderment.
In April, the Taliban closed video-game parlors and shops selling foreign movies, TV shows, and music in the western Afghan city of Herat. The group had earlier closed sheesha cafes and restaurants run by women in the city.
In November, the Taliban banned Afghan women from entering public bathhouses and parks as well as gyms in Kabul.SEE ALSO: Banned From Public Parks And Bathhouses, Afghan Women Say Life Under Taliban Is Like A 'Prison'
Earlier that month, the militants prohibited the sale of animal testicles, saying the practice of consuming the delicacy is un-Islamic.SEE ALSO: Taliban Takes Lamb Testicles Off The Menu As Bigger Issues Loom
Retail stores, meanwhile, have been required to cover or cut off the heads of mannequins. The Taliban believes statues and images of the human form are forbidden under Islam.