In a “violent” crackdown on florists and other street vendors selling Valentine’s Day gifts, The Taliban “destroyed flowers and popped balloons” in the streets of Kabul.
Enforcers from Afghanistan’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (MoPVPV) raided flower shops in the capital Kabul, enforcing the hardline Islamic republic’s new rules.
“They destroyed flowers and popped balloons,” one terrified florist told The Times. “Those who took photos of what they were doing had their phones confiscated and broken."
The MoPVPV agents “beat balloon sellers in the street,” he added.
Local journalist Ayesha Tanzeem said the Taliban had patrolled around Kabul's flower street on Feb 14, but hadn’t tried to prevent Valentine's Day sales.
“They told shopkeepers to keep it low key and told some of them not to give interviews,” Tanzeem said.
MoPVPV spokesman Muhammad Sadiq Akif rejected claims that the agents had been violent, but stressed that Valentine’s Day was “haram” – against Islamic law.
He says that the strict enforcement of Sharia law is intended to preserve “the safety and wellbeing of women”.
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He added that women were made to wear the hijab and other “modest” clothing for their own protection: “When flies try to get into the honey pot, you screw the lid on to stop the flies. There is no point trying to swat the flies away.”
Last month in the northwestern Afghan province of Badghis, the local MoPVPV chief issued guidelines to international humanitarian organisations that all female staff should to wear burqas or they would be shot.
Ministry agents have also enforced other rules – removing the heads of mannequins in clothes shop windows because they “go against Sharia”.
However, some shopkeepers say the rules aren’t all that strict.
One, Sayed Maroof, explained: “They said we should remove these mannequins or cut off their heads. They cost me $65 each so I’ve put plastic bags over the heads instead”.
Mohammad Nasir, another Kabul shop-owner hasn’t bothered with the new regulations at all: “They told us to cut off the mannequins’ heads but I haven’t, and they have been through this street since and there has been no problem,” he said.
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