Rocket launchers banned at the fairground as Taliban seeks to soften image

Taliban fighters will no longer be allowed to carry their weapons in amusement parks in Afghanistan, the group’s spokesman said on Wednesday, as the new rulers of the country seek to soften their image.

“Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are not allowed to enter amusement parks with weapons, military uniforms and vehicles,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the main Taliban spokesman, on Twitter.

“(They) are obliged to abide by all the rules and regulations of amusement parks.”

Following the group’s takeover of the country last August, Taliban fighters flocked to amusement parks and entertainment facilities across the country, with photographs of gun-toting fighters riding bumper cars or pedal boats going viral online. One was pictured with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher standing on pirate ship ride in a fairground.

For many young fighters who had spent their lives fighting a two-decade insurgency against the US-backed government, it was their first taste of life in a country no longer at war.

Taliban is attempting to show a softer side

At one of Kabul’s largest amusement parks and a waterside park at the Qargha reservoir, in the city’s western outskirts, many fighters told Reuters they had never been to the capital before the Taliban takeover on August 15.

After growing up in rural areas many were eager to enjoy themselves at amusement parks before returning to duties around the country.

But as the group transitioned from guerilla warfare to running a country it has attempted to show a softer side in comparison to their brutal rule between 1996 and 2001 when they enforced an austere vision of Islam that included banning television and flying kites.

Even as it seeks to project a more moderate image this time around, it has reintroduced gender segregation in education, with female students separated from males as public universities reopen after a six month closure.

Taliban fighters have been banned from carrying weapons in amusement parks Taliban fighters have been banned from carrying weapons in amusement parks Credit: Jorge Silva/REUTERS

Fears have also grown over a potential crackdown on dissent, with the United Nations human rights spokesperson saying reports indicate there was a growing pattern of arbitrary arrests in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday an Afghan editor said that following an outcry the Taliban had released two female journalists detained earlier this week. The Taliban did not acknowledge detaining the women.

Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis is growing following the suspension of most foreign aid to the Taliban government, which has not been recognised internationally. 

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