Project Info:

This project looks at the changing face of Afghanistan, a country ravaged by war for over two decades, by focussing on some of the many activities that were previously banned by the infamous Taliban regime. These include weather forecasting, bird keeping, women’s employment, kite flying and women’s education.

During the five years they were in control of the country, the Taliban turned Afghanistan into the most extreme Islamic society on the planet. They implemented a catalogue of restrictions, enforcing them through the systematic use of punishment beatings, amputations and executions. The most basic of activities and services were banned - watching television, weather forecasts and even flying a kite.

Women suffered especially badly during this time. They were only allowed out when accompanied by a Mahram, a close male relative and were required to wear a Burkha, covering them from head to foot.

Image Captions:

# Kite Fighting
Every Friday afternoon across Afghanistan, children of all ages engage in kite flying and aerial kite combat (Gudiparan Bazi). Soon after they came to power, the Taliban banned this traditional Afghan pastime. They ransacked kite shops and burnt their stock, claiming that kite-flying was a distraction from religious worship. 11 year old Delewar is one of hundreds of children who play Gudiparan Bazi on the hills overlooking Kabul. The kite on his back was lying in the dust after being defeated in battle. Delawer will take it home to repair it for a new battle.

# Weather Forecasting
The Taliban decreed that to predict the weather was to predict God’s will and it was therefore considered to be sorcery and un-Islamic. Russian Weather balloons in an abandoned building at the National Weather Agency. Abdul Qadeer, President of Meteorology in Afghanistan, stands next to a broken Russian radar dish used to track weather balloons.

# Womens Employment
All female recruits and trained officers are confined to the academy when on duty, to protect them from extremists opposed to the employment of women in positions of authority. The employment of women was strictly forbidden by the Taliban and just one of the many restrictions they placed on the rights of Afghan women.

# Sport
The Taliban prevented women from taking part in any sport and men were heavily restricted in what they could do. Football was sometimes banned (shorts showing skin were always strictly forbidden) and cheering at matches was only allowed if spectators shouted Allah Akhbar, God is Great. It has only been very recently that women have been able to practise sport, mostly under the guidance of western coaches and often only in secret locations. Banned from the last two Olympics the Afghan team in 2004 comprised of just five athletes, including the first women (Friba and Robina) to ever represent Afghanistan.

# Cinema
Rahmattala Ameni has been working at the Park Cinema since he was 10. When he heard on the radio that the Taliban were banning cinema he fled to Pakistan and then Iran where he worked in a match factory. Returning to Kabul a few days after the fall of the regime he organised the reopening of the cinema and the purchase of the two refurbished projectors you can see in the picture from India.

# Bird Keeping
Nirzamon has been keeping and selectively breeding pigeons on the roof of his house in Kabul for more than 40 years. The Taliban not only claimed that it was an un-Islamic pastime, like kite-flying, but that any man on his roof could look into a neighbour’s garden and potentially see an unveiled woman.

# Womens Education
A young Hazara girl in uniform outside the Zainab Qubra Girl’s School, in the Dashti Barshi suburb of West Kabul. The razor wire perimeter, set up by peace-keeping forces, protects the school from extremists who have attacked and burnt down several girl’s. Like the Taliban before them the extremists still want to prevent women from being educated. Despite the danger 6700 young girls attend this small under-funded school.

# Images of Women
The Taliban banned free press, any images whatsoever of women and also the filming or photographing of animate objects. In their traditional contradictory style though small passport size images of men were allowed to be taken. Now prevalent throughout much of the country, as on the poster on a Kabul market stall and in local and national newspapers, images of unveiled women in the printed media are slowly becoming an acceptable part of everyday life.

# Men Shaving
The Taliban decreed that men were strictly forbidden to shave their beards and were expected to grow them at least long enough to protrude from a fist clasping the hair at the chin.

# Women Driving
Fronia Guyan, aged 18, Sophia Ziaw, 13 and Suhila Ziaw, 57, are all learning to drive at the Bakhtar Driving School in Kabul. Their teacher, Frotan, has taught over 350 Afghan women to drive during the past two years, something that would have been inconceivable under the Taliban.

# Music
Music fans celebrate Afghanistan’s first major music event for over 15 years, which took place on May 13th 2004 in the Ghazi National Stadium in Kabul. Afghan legend Farhad Darya returned to his homeland, from self-imposed exile in Canada, to perform in front of an audience of men, women and children. Under the Taliban, when playing music was forbidden, weekly executions and amputations were carried out in the stadium.