Afghanistan: Music shops, gaming and internet cafes banned in Herat

The Taliban have imposed new restrictions on businesses in western Herat province, banning music shops and gaming and internet cafes in the city.

Officials from the Herat province audio-visual union said a large number of people have lost their jobs due to the restrictions and also lost their investments after being forced to close their businesses by the Taliban’s vice and virtue department.

Wakil Ahmad Safi, a union lawyer, said that more than 350 people were operating under the umbrella of the union in Herat city and its districts and that closing shops has caused them significant financial losses.

“Unfortunate things happened and all the shops were forced to collect cassettes and DVDs, which caused a huge financial loss to the shopkeepers from 100,000 to 500,000 Afghanis,” Safi said.

A number of music shops in Herat said that the Taliban’s vice and virtue directorate has forced them to close their shops and ordered them to sell only cassettes, CDs, and DVDs with religious content.

According to them, the new restrictions have crippled them financially and they have lost everything they made since 2001.

Syed Hanif Jami, a CD and DVD seller in Herat, said he had been providing for his family by selling cassettes and CDs for 20 years and the restrictions have resulted in him incurring financial problems.

“Regarding [financial] loss, we have suffered a lot, you can see that the shop is completely empty because the vice and virtue friends came and told us the appearance of my shop was against Sharia. We said OK and agreed, and removed all we had, which was about 400,000 afghani’s worth; assets of twenty years,” he said.

The shopkeepers stressed if the Taliban continued imposing restrictions they would be forced to leave the country via illegal routes to find work in neighboring countries.

Gaming cafes have also been closed down by the Taliban in the province because they were “against Islamic Sharia”.

The vice and virtue directorate of Herat also suspended the license of gaming cafes, inflicting hundreds of thousands of afghanis in financial losses to the owners of these cafes.

Mohammad Salim Nowrozi, the owner of a gaming cafe, said that despite following all Taliban’s directions, the vice and virtue directorate closed his shop.

Nowrozi added that he and his three partners are dealing with severe financial problems after they shut down their business.

In addition, the Taliban on Saturday also halted operations of internet cafes in Herat.

According to the owners of internet cafes, the Taliban have closed their businesses for no reason, and many internet cafes have lost up to 800,000 afghanis in assets.

“Bans imposed by the Taliban have caused up to 800,000 afghanis in losses to the owners of the internet cafes and around 5,000 families will suffer from hunger,” said Homayoun, the owner of an internet cafe in Herat.

Some economic analysts, meanwhile, said that restrictions imposed on people’s businesses by the Taliban has paralyzed the economic cycle and that the Taliban caretaker government must provide alternative jobs if they want to close some businesses.

 “When a business stops, the government must have a replacement for it, and bans on the business put thousands of families, who directly or indirectly are provided with living costs [through it], at direct risk of starvation,” said Qudos Khatibi, an economic analyst.

This comes amid ongoing restrictions being imposed on Herat residents by the Taliban.

In October last year, the Taliban set a twenty-day deadline for coffee shops and hookah houses to close down.