Mental Health Consequences of Restrictions Imposed by the Taliban

Psychiatrists: If the increasing restrictions imposed by the Taliban are not eradicated, major societal consequences will soon result.

“Despite the painful migration, it is still bearable when one is not insulted for their participation in a certain faith and personality.”

Amir [pseudonym] finished his secondary and university studies with his father’s financial support. His father made every effort to ensure his son received an education.

In order to achieve a bright future, he overcame several obstacles during his academic career. He got accepted to a public university after passing the Kankor (national entrance exam for university), and then he graduated three years ago.

He began working at one of the professional divisions of the department of education during the former government in Kapisa province. He continued working for over a year, even after the Taliban’s return to power. He is currently a day laborer in Iran, still striving for a better life. He claims that having his individual rights curtailed by the Taliban has caused him not to continue working at the ministry of education.

“I used to shave my beard during university and my tenure at the ministry of education. After the Taliban’s return to power, everybody started staring at me while I was attending the office. I could notice the look of hate in their eyes. They do not believe that I am also a human with the right to decide what I look like, i.e., my appearance. I was humiliated and insulted; my privacy was infiltrated many times. My mobile phone was checked several times. The Taliban Ministry of Education drafted a warning and forced us to wear caps while offering prayers and asking us not to shave our beards. Otherwise, the Taliban warned us that they can easily remove us from our job. I was humiliated in front of everybody at the office of the head of the Department of Education, and for me, this was a red line. I was forced to leave my country, and currently, I am working as a salesperson in a carpets market to make a living.”

Amir spends at least 12 hours working in a carpets market as a salesperson.

During an interview with Etilaatroz, Amir says that the people in Afghanistan have been deprived of their individual freedoms and their right to live, and this is what made him escape Afghanistan too.

“Oversees, I am not being insulted for my faith and personality, even though being a refugee is painful — it is more bearable because I have human rights. I do not intend on returning to Afghanistan if the Taliban are in power.”

Second Photo: Amir, a refugee, chooses to stay anonymous because he still has family back in Afghanistan

We spoke with Amir about his challenges in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Our phone call was cut short after Amir’s wife called him for breakfast, “Breakfast is getting cold. . . it is getting late to go to work.”

Amir is one of the thousands of Afghan citizens who left Afghanistan and migrated to neighboring countries, but their situation is dire.

A reliable source confirms the restrictions imposed on employees of the Ministry of Education, further adding that these rigid rules are implemented at the province level through a commission that consists of governors and the directorate of ‘Vice and Virtue’ in each province.

“This commission is watching employees’ activities. If these employees act opposite of what has been imposed, they instantly get removed from their jobs”.

Photo: Document about the restrictions imposed by the Taliban for employees’ appearance

According to this source, these restrictions are imposed systematically. The Taliban have brought ill-formed excuses for current employees for the purpose of replacing and appointing their own members to the various posts.

“The Taliban identify the dissidents by removing them from their jobs. The dictates are followed seriously, and there is not even a single individual who could possibly oppose this policy.”

Not only are the employees of the Ministry of Education facing these restrictions, but also other employees in different government offices, including ordinary citizens.

By creating the directorate of ‘Vice and Virtue’, the Taliban are interfering in people’s personal life, and every day they are committing social and human freedom violations. There are credible reports by international agencies on these violations as well.

The Mental Health Consequences of the Restrictions

I asked my friend, Dr. Khaibar Walizada, a Kabul-based psychiatrist, about the effects of restrictions.

His response: “Freedom is latent in human nature. When a restriction is imposed on humans, a conflict is created between demands and imposed restrictions. The absence of individual freedom entails many disastrous consequences on the human nervous system. One of the consequences could be desolation, lack of motivation, interest, lack of interest in life and physically disastrous consequences such as lack of sleep, appetite, and anxiety.”

Photo of a depressed person.

Psychiatrists warn about the rising rates of suicide and drug addiction.

Dr. Yamen Ghafoor, a fellow psychiatrist (pseudonym):

“Today, we are witnessing that majority of the country’s population, in particular, youths, have lost their hope for the future. They do not have any interest in life. They seek a way to leave Afghanistan. All these are the effects of restrictions that are imposed on people. People imprisoned in a place lose their peace, and people do not want to live in a place where there is no peace.”

Based on the findings by Etilaatroz’s journalists, on average, three to four mentally disturbed patients visit a psychiatrist daily. These numbers were close to zero before the Taliban’s return to power.

According to a report published by “Save the Children,” — a children’s advocacy group — the economic crisis, as well as the disastrous security situation, has had detrimental effects on the population’s mental health, particularly children.

This global organization estimates that approximately 4 million and 460 thousand children and adults need therapy and psychiatric treatment. Approximately only 1 million and 309 thousand have access to treatment services, according to this organization’s statistics. At least one out of 4 girls have experienced depression and anxiety, the report adds.

The mental health crisis is further exacerbated due to poverty, lack of individual rights, and ever-growing unemployment.

A brief analysis:

Studying internal elements which led to the collapse of the previous government is a separate discussion. However, one should take into consideration the political climate, as well as the international community’s culpability in creating this dire and catastrophic situation. Even though allied countries should bear some responsibility for what they have caused, they have decided to turn their backs on the Afghan people.

The apparent violation of human rights, curtailing women’s rights, especially the right to work and education, stifling the freedom of speech, and disrespecting citizens’ privacy, have all turned Afghanistan into a giant prison.

A combination of arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Taliban, alongside a collapsing economy, has further added to the misery of the Afghan people.