Student army fills Kabul with hope and dread - World - News - The Independent

Student army fills Kabul with hope and dread


"Garoom! Garoom! Rocket!" shouted the old Afghan, pretending to fall to the earth as if he'd been killed. It was a perfect act, for the Afghan had plenty of experience of seeing how bodies flew when a rocket landed. Many relatives had perished in the hail of rockets that obliterated parts of Kabul during a two-year siege by renegade mujahedin.

The rocket attacks on Kabul stopped nearly two weeks ago, when a force of Islamic students known as the Taliban ambushed the rebels of Hezbi Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and sent them running down Kabul's icy ridges. The old Afghan said: "We hate rockets and guns. If these new people, the Taliban, give us peace, then we are with them."

With 2,000 Taliban fighters poised 8 miles outside the city and another 8,000 further south with more tanks and a dozen MiG fighters, many of Kabul's inhabitants look on the students with gratitude and dread. Because of Taliban, the Hezbi Islami rebels are in retreat. Because of the students, peace has descended on the city. The roads from the south are open, bringing badly needed food, medicine and blankets.

However, the Taliban might be next in the queue to pummel Kabul. Their leader, a one-eyed cleric, Mohammed Omar, claims his students have a divine mission to bring peace to Afghanistan by disarming warlords whose feuds have left over 20,000 Afghans dead in Kabul alone. President Rabbani refuses to give up his guns to the students. A confrontation looms.

In Kabul there are entire neighbourhoods where no buildings stand. The rubble has collapsed into the streets and only brick walls remain. If peace is not reached in Kabul between the warring mujahedin factions, it will not be long before the capital is too ravaged for Afghans to bother fighting over.

Like the houses, with their roofs, doors and windows blown away, the people of Kabul have been disfigured by war. Many lack limbs. They hobble through the debris, picking for anything that might be of use; a picture frame to burn for a few minutes of warmth, or a sheet of tin to shield them from the wind during the bitter nights.

Many of Kabul's 700,000 inhabitants have moved house several times in the siege, whenever the attackers switched the direction of their assault. The eastern and southern neighbourhoods are so badly shelled that many fled to the west, where they are crammed into metal shipping containers. Some live 16 to a classroom in an abandoned school. Bob McKerrow, a New Zealander who heads the Kabul delegation of the International ederation of the Red Cross, which is bringing in medicine and supplies, said: "Malnutrition is getting worse in Kabul. I've had mothers come up to me and tell me their milk has run dry. These mothers are having to feed their babies on bread and tea. There's nothing else." Relief agencies fear Afghanistan may become a forgotten war, neglected by the donor countries.

At the same time, new Mercedes speed through apocalyptic scenes that resemble Dresden after the bombing. These limousines were given to militia commanders by President Rabbani to buy their loyalty, but people in Kabul see the cars as symbols of the warlords' corruption.

Yesterday, relief workers arrived in old Kabul, a human anthill of mud houses hanging from a steep mountainside. They brought two lorries of blankets and plastic mats. The scramble for these items was so frenzied that one militiamen clubbed people with the end of a rocket-propelled grenade.

One woman, clutching a new plastic mat, was Qandi Ghul, 40, a widow with six children. A month ago, her husband thought it was safe to return to old Kabul. He was wheeling their few belongings on a cart when a rocket killed him.

"We have no money. No roof. Two of my children work in a bakery, earning 7,000 Afghans a day (£1.50). rom that, we must all live." The woman, lifting her veil to speak, added: "If the Taliban make it cheaper to buy a piece of nan bread, then let them come."

The Islamic traditionalism of the Taliban worries some Kabul women, many of whom had Western educations before the Communists and the mujahedin came to power. The Taliban is against women working or leaving their homes without a hejab, a long veil that covers the whole body except for the face.

irozan, 20, a graduate who supports 10 people in her family on the £60 a month she earns cleaning cups in an office, said: "I don't mind wearing a hejab. It goes with Islam and I feel relaxed wearing it with so many mujahedin roaming around. But if the Taliban won't let me work to feed my family, I don't know how we'll survive."

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage

Commuter travels 320 metres, 75 steps, two ticket barriers and a labyrinth of roads to get to work
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week