HERAT -- The Taliban have resorted to a new kind of violence -- setting ablaze local residents' TV sets -- in the remote villages of Dawlatyar District, Ghor Province.
The vandalism, say the residents, is meant to keep them in the dark about the Taliban's crimes. Public burnings of multiple TV sets have the dual purpose of intimidating local residents and depriving them of access to news.
"The residents of Dawlatyar District have the right to enjoy life," Saifuddin, a resident of the district who goes by one name, told Salaam Times. "The Taliban, who are active in some areas of Dawlatyar, have forcibly taken TV sets out of civilians' houses and set them on fire."
"The Taliban militants do not want civilians to have a good life," he said, adding that district residents have called on the government to prevent such suffering.
Those residents "worked hard and brought home TV sets so they could listen to and better understand government plans", Saifuddin said.
"Residents sold their livestock to buy TV sets and satellite receivers so that they could see [on TV] their president as well as their parliamentary representatives," Ghulam Hazrat, a resident of Ghor Province, told Salaam Times.
"We ask the government to launch an operation in order to drive out the Taliban militants in the area," Hazrat said, adding, "We have always stood with our security forces and will continue to do in the future."
"The Taliban militants search local homes without permission," said Abdul Ghafoor, another resident of Ghor Province. "While viewers like to watch the news every day to stay informed, the Taliban are preventing them from doing so."
"The Taliban tell us that we must grow a beard and that we do not have the right to shave it off," Ghafoor told Salaam Times.
"Residents do not like the Taliban's rules and regulations that take us back to darkness,"he said. "We call on the government to rescue us."
Hiding their crimes from the public
The Taliban militants are attempting to conceal their steady stream of crimes by keeping the Afghan public away from media outlets and by limiting their access to information.
"We repeatedly shared our concerns with the security agencies, stressing that the presence of the Taliban militants in Dawlatyar District is extremely dangerous," Hamidullah Muttahid, a member of the Ghor Provincial Council, told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban committed all kinds of horrific crimes and terrorist acts in Ghor," he said, adding that is why "the Taliban collected all TV sets and set them on fire in front of crowds".
"Residents have been denied access to daily news and current events because of the Taliban's oppression," he said, noting, "The Taliban want to keep them uninformed and unaware of Taliban crimes."
The Taliban want to keep Ghor residents away from government programmes in order to keep them uninformed, confirmed Abdul Samad Ahmadi, a civil society activist in Ghor.
"The militants murder innocents and commit other unforgivable crimes every day across Afghanistan," he told Salaam Times.
"The public is fed up with the brutal laws and savage practices of the Taliban, but civilians have to stay silent because if they raise their voice, they may be killed by the Taliban," he emphasised.
"The Taliban's actions show their opposition to freedom of expression and reveal they do not want the public to stay informed about their evil plans, including the suicide attacks and explosions they conduct across Afghanistan," said Mohammad Gul Puya, a civil society activist in Ghor.
"In addition to collecting ushr and zakat from the locals, the Taliban have taken away the right to freedom and free speech," Puya noted.
"Civilians do not want to see the vicious faces of the Taliban militants -- not even for a day," Fazlul Haq Ihsan, chairman of the Ghor Provincial Council, told Salaam Times. "The only achievement of the Taliban is destruction and murder.
The local population is fed up with the militant group and hope for its annihilation, he said.
"Civilians hate the Taliban, and they do not wish to suffer further harassment by this group," explained Puya, the civil society activist in Ghor.
"The public hatred of the Taliban has frustrated and disappointed the militant group," he said, noting that "the militants have, as a result, begun to harass civilians and are pressuring them to follow their inhumane laws and practices."
The government's crackdown
Incapable of facing Afghan forces head on, Taliban militants often flee to the remote districts and villages of Ghor Province when government forces arrive.
"The enemies of the Afghan people have burned the locals' TV sets in remote areas of Dawlatyar," Gen. Shah Agha Shetab, Ghor provincial police chief, told Salaam Times. "They [the Taliban] must realise that the Afghan people stand united against their enemies."
"The Taliban's viewpoint is that the public should be kept away from the media and news so that they won't hear about the crimes [the Taliban] commit against Afghans," Shetab said.
"The Taliban militants, however, have miscalculated and are wrong because our security forces stand firm against them and will destroy them," he stressed.
"I pledge to my fellow citizens that we are prepared to fight the enemy, and you can be certain of that in any and every situation," he said, assuring residents of Ghor Province.
"We have received complaints about the burning of TV sets by the Taliban in Dawlatyar District," Abdulhai Khatibi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told Salaam Times. "Our security forces will not allow the Taliban militants to harass local civilians or disturb their normal lives."
"The Taliban are no longer capable of fighting the security forces, and civilians do not support this criminal group," Khatibi said, adding, "This is why the militants are trying to push forth their ominous plans through harassment."