• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Almost eight years after the Taliban were ousted from power, the beginning of a vibrant new youth culture is taking hold in Afghanistan’s capital city. It’s most evident in the legions of fashion-conscious youths who seek to throw off the strictures of the Taliban past.
Today’s hip Kabuli males wear short-sleeved shirts and tight, faded jeans – ones that often sport many pockets and chains. Long pointy leather shoes are in, as are body building and being clean-shaven. “People don’t like keeping stubble, because during the Taliban times we weren’t allowed to shave,” says Waleed Amin, an economics student.
Indian cinema is a major influence, says Sayed Ashraf Sadat, deputy editor of the English-language Afghanistan Times. “When Shahrukh Khan [a Bollywood heartthrob] appears wearing tight jeans and red shirts, those items are immediately brought to the market.”
More young women, meanwhile, are shaking off their all-encompassing burqas in favor of chic hijabs, head scarves that they allow to cover only half their hair. They wear jackets to match and the same tight, faded jeans.
“We often come to Kabul now and have picnics on holidays, something we couldn’t do before,” says Angela Rastaghar of Mazar-e-Sharif, who is accompanied by her fiancé, Danish, and his sister, Sora, at Kabul’s verdant Babur Bagh garden.
Bolder youths sneak off for furtive dates in the “family” sections of Kabul’s fast-food joints, though premarital mixing is still frowned upon by society at large.