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Afghan travellers use Taliban disguise to stay safe

Posted by The Agonist on January 2nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Kabul | Jan 2

AFP – Beards, eyeliner and jihadi ringtones – these are the latest defensive weapons in the war in Afghanistan, as travellers take novel steps to keep themselves safe from the Taliban.

Setting off on Afghanistan’s roads can be a dangerous business, with the threat of roadside bombs and the presence of armed insurgents who often stop cars and buses.

Those carrying dollar bills, documents written in English, or phones with the numbers of foreigners, can expect to be dragged out, interrogated, and even beaten or killed.

So cautious travellers have taken to moving in Taliban-friendly disguise.

One 30-year-old, who gave his name as Abdulwali, sits nervously on a bus in Kabul waiting to set off on a six-hour journey for Kandahar, the country’s southern heartland and the birthplace of the Taliban.

He has a turban on his lap, black kohl around his eyes, and a few days’ growth of beard. And when his phone rings it unleashes the sound of gunfire before a male vocalist launches into song.

“We will continue our jihad against the enemy! If we die during jihad we will enter paradise!” it sounds.

Abdulwali says he is “not really a Taliban-supporting kind of guy” but is travelling in disguise because he has to go to Kandahar for work.

“People say the Taliban are psychologists, that they read your face, and learn whether you are a supporter or not. That’s why I’ve uploaded Taliban songs on my mobile, and now I’m ready to play them if the Taliban stop our bus,” he says.

“I also started growing a beard days ago and put kohl on my eyes. The more you look and sound like them, the more safe you are. Hopefully nothing will happen to me.”

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