July 29, 2021

a village in islamic time

ARTE – SATURDAY JUNE 5 AT 6:35 PM – DOCUMENTARY

The Afghan Taliban, at the gates of power after being driven out at the end of 2001, we know the soldiers. Since 2018, we have also become accustomed to seeing their leaders negotiating peace in Doha, Qatar, first with the United States and, since the fall of 2020, with their brothers who are enemies of the Kabul regime. But, as the reconciliation process is deadlocked, as the military pressure from the insurgents redoubles and the Americans leave the country, a nagging question: what do the Taliban look like in everyday life?

The documentary Afghanistan: living in the Taliban country, broadcast Saturday June 5 on Arte, then Saturday June 12 on France 24, lifts part of the veil. Directed by Margaux Benn and Solène Chalvon-Fioriti, it takes us a two-hour drive from the capital, to Omarkheil, a small village in the Wardak province (center), which has lived under the Taliban for twelve years. Here, the inhabitants praise the masters of the area for the regained security, the omnipresence of armed guards, in the market, in the streets; and in the wake of the two directors …

Expeditious procedures

The Taliban are in search of legitimacy at a time when they claim to take over the reins of the country. If the government school has been banned and buildings destroyed, education is nevertheless delivered, they say – of course to boys, in order to make them future Taliban, but also to girls. They can certainly only be educated up to 12 years old, in a single class, which provides four hours of religion a day and maths lessons. A sequence shows a science teacher facing young girls, an unthinkable scene under the Taliban era, between 1996 and 2001.

To prove their tolerance, the insurgents let the journalists question an educated and modern woman doctor. Coming from the capital to work in the dispensary, she recalls the harshness of life in these Afghan countryside. “The women here all have psychological problems, they never go out and wear the burqa. “

Read also: “Afghanistan: you will give birth in chaos”, become a mother in Afghanistan, between hope and pain

The Taliban are, finally, proud of their justice, rendered during expeditious procedures. Faster and more claimed “Less corrupt” than the government justice system, it is binding on Taliban soldiers and their families. But only Sharia (Islamic law) prevails, including stoning, amputation of the hand and beheading. “The existence of Taliban institutions does not exclude barbarism”, underlines the documentary.

Omarkheil is at the heart of a rural world that bears little resemblance to Afghan urban areas

Omarkheil is at the heart of a rural world that bears little resemblance to Afghan urban areas, where it is not uncommon to see women strolling, or even driving, with their faces uncovered. Here, music is prohibited in weddings. The Taliban are interfering in the daily lives of residents summoned to denounce neighbors who are reluctant to go to the mosque. The headmistress of a public school had to take refuge in the town of Herat (west) after being expelled from her village. “There is none more unhappy than the Afghans”, she says.

This is not the first time that the Taliban have opened their doors in this way. In June 2017, a BBC team spent four days in the town of Musa Qala, one of their strongholds in the south of the country. Already, at that time, those in charge of communication explained that they were concerned about providing public services to the population and wished to have good relations with the outside world.

Afghanistan: living in the Taliban country, documentary by Margaux Benn and Solène Chalvon-Fioriti (Fr., 2021, 37 min). Broadcast on Saturday June 5 on Arte, then Saturday June 12 on France 24. Available in replay on Arte.tv until May 31, 2024.