HERAT -- The Taliban's closure of roads and blockades of districts in Badghis Province are putting the lives of thousands of civilians at risk, say local officials.
The Taliban are preventing locals, government workers and health teams from entering Bala Murghab, Jawand and Qadis districts.
Residents of Qadis District cannot even move patients from the district to the provincial capital, Qala-e-Naw, for treatment because the Taliban are blocking them, said Saifullah Muradi, who lives in the district.
"The Taliban prevent travel in or out of the district and do not allow food to be brought to Qadis District," he added. "As a result, prices for food have gone up. Food and medicine are difficult to find."
By blocking the roads to the districts, the Taliban have put thousands of lives at risk, said Dr. Abdul Latif Rustayee, the director of the Badghis Public Health Department.
"In the current circumstances when the coronavirus is rapidly spreading, residents of districts need health services for which health teams must be present in villages, but the Taliban do not give permission to health workers," he said.
"The Taliban do not even allow locals to move patients in critical condition to hospitals, which is very concerning," Rustayee said.
"We are worried about the spread of the coronavirus in the districts, but because of the Taliban’s opposition, we cannot go there," he added. "We call on the Taliban to respect human lives and allow health teams to help patients."
Security forces seized control of the road leading to Qadis District from the Taliban in a joint operation on April 20, and movement on this road has returned to normal, say provincial authorities.
"The Taliban have mined roads leading to some districts so that no one can move in or out of those districts," said Gen. Shiraqa Alkozai, chief of security of the Badghis Police. "Security forces cleared the road to Qadis District from the Taliban ... and defused the mines on the road."
Security forces are trying to clear roads connecting the other districts as well so that travel and delivery of cargo can resume, he added.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have re-instituted limitations on telecommunication companies in Badghis after a brief halt earlier this year, said Azizullah Saberi, the acting director of the Badghis Department of Communications and Information Technology.
The Taliban have prevented private telecom companies from operating during the night, leaving only state-owned Salaam Telecom operational, he said.
The private companies operate only from 6am to 5pm since the Taliban do not allow them to operate at night, said Saberi.
"About 70% of Badghis residents have telecom services," Saberi said. "But shutting them off during the night deprives almost all of the residents from accessing them."
"The Taliban in Badghis know nothing about religion or humanity. They follow only their own ignorant ways," he added. "They are afraid of being tracked and killed by the security forces if telecom services are on during the night."
"Cutting off telecom services does not affect the government's activities since it has all facilities available to it," said Habib Fawzi, a resident of Qala-e-Naw city.
The Taliban's actions cause problems only for civilians, he added.
"Activities by the telecom companies are non-military; therefore, the Taliban should not stop those services," said Arif Rahmani, another resident of Qala-e-Naw city. "Disconnecting telecom services has interrupted interactions between members of families, causing serious problems for them."
The closure of roads and limitations on telecom services by the Taliban are un-Islamic and anti-religious acts, say religious scholars.
Shutting down roads is equivalent to armed robbery and the Taliban are committing a great sin, said Mawlawi Alauddin Karimi, a religious scholar from Badghis Province.
"Islam is a religion of communication. It is not a religion of disconnecting people. In fact, it is a religion of connecting people," he said. "The prophet of Islam advised all Muslims to build connections and to maintain their relations."
"We call on the Taliban not to close roads and not to disrupt the activities of telecom companies," he said. "Roads belong to the public, and no one should stop travel."
The Taliban should not link their every action to Islam since most of their deeds such as blocking roads and shutting off telecom activities during the night are un-Islamic, Karimi said.
The Taliban shut down roads for their own benefit, not for the sake of Islam, said Qari Fazel Haq, another religious scholar in Badghis Province.
"The prophet of Islam has said that a true Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are safe," he said. "But all Afghans are facing many problems because of the Taliban and have to suffer from their oppression."
"The Taliban close roads, shut off telecom services and cause problems for Muslims. This is not acceptable in Islam, and Islam completely rejects it," he said.