Arabs pay Taliban top dollar to hunt rare birds in Afghanistan

Photo: Reuters

The Taliban-run information and culture ministry has given permission to Arab tourists to hunt rare birds in Nimruz province of Afghanistan, local Taliban officials confirmed.

A source familiar with the matter said that Arab nationals hunt Afghan rare birds, including bittern; vulnerable species called a houbara bustard; red-breasted merganser; common merganser, and white goose, that migrate from the Hindu Kush mountains to Nimruz province during the winter season.

A number of residents also confirmed that rare birds are being hunted by visiting Arabs in Nimruz province.

Abdul Majeed, a resident of Nimruz, said: “Twelve Qatari Sheikhs who entered Nimruz with the Taliban’s support two months ago, are hunting rare birds.”

According to him, despite the Taliban interim government’s ban on hunting endangered and rare birds in Afghanistan, Arab nationals visit Nimruz province for “entertainment” every year and pay the Taliban well.

Salim Naroi, a civil activist in Nimruz, stated: “Qatari Arabs have entered Nimruz province with all the facilities and provide food and non-food items for their three to four months’ accommodation and they have even set up tents in the hunting areas.”

The tourists have been hunting rare birds at the Chahar Burjak and Khashrud districts as well as at the Qal-e-Fath and Khabgah areas of the province for three months, Naroi said.

He added that the Taliban have provided them with facilities to hunt rare birds and the group accompanied the Arab tourists to show the hunting sites.

“As many as 50 tourists led by four Arab nationals [visited Nimruz] and the Taliban provided them with support and in return received money. Arabs hunt birds with falcons, when they notice a bird they release the falcons to hunt and bring it to them,” he said.

Habibullah Mazhari, head of the Taliban’s environment department in Nimruz, said that hunting is done “legally” based on an agreement between the Arabs and the Taliban-run ministry of information and culture.

“Arabs or Sheikhs are allowed to hunt based on the contract signed between the ministry of information and culture and the Sheikhs in the capital Kabul,” Mazhari said.

“Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Thani is allowed to hunt in Nimruz areas based on a five-year agreement, and according to the agreement and compliance with the law, Arabs are allowed to hunt,” he added.

He stated that Arab tourists pay millions of dollars to the Taliban for hunting birds in the country.

The Taliban official said that the Arabs have funded a 100-bedded hospital in the province at a cost of $20 million and donated $500,000 to the “vulnerable people of Nimruz province, and in return, they have to raise and breed 200 birds throughout the year and release them into the wild.”

According to the Taliban official, the tourists hunt birds using falcons, not bullets, stressing that illegal hunting is prohibited in the province.