A women’s clothing shop owner in Kabul said he was “shocked” after Taliban gunmen burst into his store – but allowed him to continue working as normal, despite the garments on sale going against its strict rules on female attire.
Shabir Roshan told i he reopened his shop, Roshan Shopping Centre, in Afghanistan’s capital city after the Taliban took control of the country because he felt he had no choice.
“I have 20 workers and I have to pay them salaries,” he said.
However, he has told his female employees to stay at home, admitting that they are “afraid”, and few customers are coming through the door.
Soon after the opening, Taliban fighters with rifles entered his shop, but to his surprise they told him to continue working.
“As soon as I opened, they came to my shop with guns and everything, at first I was really scared,” he said. “But I’m Afghan, so I’m used to this kind of thing, you know?
“They assured me, ‘Keep open your shop and no one will harm you.’ I don’t know what will happen next. They assured me nothing is going to happen, everything will be OK, so let’s see.”
Asked whether the Taliban had a problem with the clothes he was selling, he replied: “Not at all, no issue. The Taliban didn’t mind.
“Of course I was shocked, I heard Taliban are all f**king animals. That was surprising, there were some women on the street but they said nothing.”
Mr Roshan sells the latest women’s fashion – specifically party dresses. Pictures on his social media channels – where he has a combined following of more than 72,000 – show flowy gowns with thigh-high slits, exposed one-shoulder numbers and strappy frocks.
Some of the dresses displayed on the mannequins are cinched in the waist to show off an hourglass figure. He even sells tailored suits for women – complete with blazer and trousers – as well as bejewelled heels and matching accessories.
All these styles, which are typical in Western markets, are against the Taliban’s strict order for women to be completely covered from head to toe in a burqa when out in public. In the past, insurgents have severely punished women – sometimes with public lashings – if they failed to wear one.
“They’re latest designs, party dresses,” Mr Roshan said. “Before I was doing really very good, now I don’t know what’s going to happen, so far everything is down. My shop is still open, but there are few customers.”
He said he believed he could continue to work as normal and that the Taliban had changed – a conviction evident in recent posts on the store’s Facebook page promising free delivery in the city while the streets are empty of shoppers.
“I will continue my work same like before, I’m not going to leave anywhere because I love my country,” he said. “I hope things get better, this time the Taliban has totally changed, they want contact with the outside world.”
When asked whether he believed the Taliban’s assurances, he said: “Of course I believe them, they passing by (the shop) everyday, they say don’t worry, no one will harm you, things like that. I am hopeful, that’s the least we can do, you know?”
There are growing concerns that the Taliban will backtrack on its promises to respect women’s rights, with many women too afraid to leave their homes while others have been ordered to stop working.
Mr Roshan said he took precautions to protect his staff, of whom five are women. “As soon as they came I told them to stay at their home for some days,” he added. “I’m going to call them next week, they are afraid.”