After leaving his singing career, popular singer Abdul Qadeer waits daily on a street in the bustling city of Chor Bazaar in the Afghan capital, Kabul, at his small shop to repair electric motors.
Abdul Qadeer is not the only Pashto and Dari singer to struggle financially since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, with many like him forced out of their entertainment businesses and looking for new ways to support their families.
The small music market called “Sara Chowk” in Chow Bazaar, which once had more than 100 shops on a 200-meter-long street, has now been empty of musical instruments, musicians and folk singers since the Taliban seized power and declared their rule by Sharia.
Speaking to The Eastern Herald, Abdul Qadeer, who recently set up his shop on the side of the road, said: “I am a singer and I used to earn by singing in different places, but now I work as a mechanic on the roadside.”
“Since the early morning, no customers have come, and things are getting more difficult financially,” he added.
And Abdul Qadeer added: that most of the artists “left the country and the rest of them sell vegetables, and others make bolani (Afghan sandwiches of fried bread).”
On August 15, the “Taliban” movement took control of Afghanistan, in parallel with a final stage of a US military withdrawal that was completed at the end of the same month.
The Taliban is a Sunni Islamist nationalist movement founded in 1994, and its leaders say they implement Islamic law.
The movement had previously taken control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on September 27, 1996, declaring the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and moving the capital to Kandahar, and it continued to rule until 2001 when it was overthrown after the United States invaded Afghanistan in December 2001.
While the Taliban were in power, the Taliban banned music, kites, and other recreational activities, and enforced Islamic laws through an oath of “enjoining good and forbidding evil,” the so-called promotion of virtues and the prohibition of vices.
Taliban men in the market
At the Sarah Shock Music Market, Taliban security forces are visible everywhere, with a white ribbon on their forehead that says “Islamic faith”, which makes local stores afraid to discuss music.
When Jamshed, a market worker, was asked what happened to the music stores, he replied with a laugh: “You don’t know what happened, it’s all gone,” pointing to the many stores that now sell various culinary products.
He added to The Eastern Herald that “the shops that manufacture and sell musical instruments on both sides of the road have been abandoned or converted into shops selling things of daily use.”
On this busy street, voices selling food can be heard, but carols in human voices without music glorifying the Taliban seem to be the only entertainment allowed in Chur Bazaar.
Raees Mohamed, one of the market workers, claimed that he was a “butcher”, denying that he had ever worked in the entertainment field, although Jamshed confirmed that he used to manufacture and sell musical instruments in his shop before turning it into a meat store.
Sharyn Gul, a taxi driver, said the Taliban “smashed a number of musical instruments, forcing the musicians to abandon making and selling them.”
He added: “People used to come here to buy different musical instruments and rent singers and musicians for weddings and other celebrations, but that has ended since the Taliban took control of the country.”
Recently, a video posted on the Taliban’s social media platform showed members of the movement dancing the “Atan” dance to the traditional Afghan drum.
After the clip was published, Afghan journalist Parvez Khan Karokhel, who covers cultural and entertainment news for a local media outlet, declared that “this dance will be allowed under Sharia law.”
The Atan (Pashto) dance is a form of folk dance performed by the Pashtuns in times of war or during weddings or other festivities and performed by a band waving scarves in the air while musicians play drums.
The escape of singers and musicians
Famous Afghan artists and musicians began fleeing the country even before the Taliban seized power and formed its interim government, knowing that the situation could change at any moment, so they acquired dual citizenship.
When the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, Ariana Saeed was a well-known singer and also a Canadian citizen, lucky to have left the country with her fiancé that day.
In recent weeks, at least 6 folk singers have fled with their families to neighboring Pakistan, fearing persecution after the execution of folk singer Fuad Andrabi in northern Baghlan province, according to media reports.
Jawad Andrabi, the son of Fuad Andrabi, blamed the “Taliban” for his father’s death, but the local council of the movement denied his involvement in the incident and promised to prosecute the killers.