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Hiding books, buying burqas: Kandahar prepares for Taliban rule

When the fighting got so near that the walls of his house shook, Abdul, a retired teacher in Kandahar, decided it was time to hide his books. Reading has been a respite for Abdul since the Taliban began their extraordinary advance on Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city, a few months ago. Until recently, Kandahar hosted one of the largest American military bases in Afghanistan; Abdul fears that insurgents will take revenge now they are in control of the city.

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“I have not slept all night,” he says. “The government has failed our country.”

Abdul is part of a book club that allows people to swap titles with each other: Kandahar has no libraries. Self-help books, many of them by foreign authors, have helped him manage his anxiety. He also reads essays on politics and terrorism.

But even such simple pleasures are now under threat. The author of one of his books about fundamentalism was assassinated in Kabul a few weeks ago. Abdul owns a collection by Kandahar’s most famous poet, Abdul Bari Jahani, who now lives in America. Last time the Taliban were in charge they banned his books.

Abdul decided that hiding his library was the safest option. “I don’t want to take any chances if the Taliban take over Kandahar and search my house,” he says. Whatever the group’s official policy on owning such titles, Abdul fears that his fate will depend on the whims of whoever may raid his home. “If they do not like my books or what I have been keeping in my house, they could take my life in a moment.”

One shopkeeper reports brisk

Article source: https://www.economist.com/1843/2021/08/13/hiding-books-buying-burqas-kandahar-prepares-for-taliban-rule

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