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Dial-in sex abounds in Kandahar

Several overseas phone numbers offer an intimate chat with the ladies, or some of their equally outgoing friends

india Updated: Nov 13, 2006 21:19 IST
Terry Friel (Reuters)
Terry Friel (Reuters)

On the television screen, the two naked young women writhe together to the sounds of "Hotel California" as the occasional crackle of gunfire punctuates the Afghan night.

Several overseas phone numbers offer an intimate chat with the ladies, or some of their equally outgoing friends.

The heaviest fighting in five years has slowed reconstruction to a crawl in the deserts and oases of Kandahar, where the strict Islamist Taliban movement began in 1994, but pornography, opium and illegal alcohol are flourishing, officials say.

At least one satellite operator offers foreign channels such as eurotictv, allsex, 247Sex and transex, along with the God Channel and the Church, Miracle and Hope channels.

In a country where converting to Christianity from Islam carries the death penalty, the Christian channels are just as offensive to some as the pornography, although not as popular.

"Pornography is a problem," admits new provincial police chief General Asmatullah Alizai. "According to our Islamic rules and beliefs, people cannot accept this kind of thing.

"I don't want people to see this kind of film."


Alizai believes pornography, drugs and alcohol, especially in a traditionalist city such as Kandahar underlines the need for President Hamid Karzai's plan to re-establish the Taliban's department for the prevention of vice and the promotion of virtue, better known as the religious police.

"We should use any means possible," he says.

Under the Taliban's rule from 1996 to 2001, when their hardline Islamist government was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition, music and film were banned and women and girls often beaten if they ventured outside the home alone or unveiled.

All women in Afghanistan wear a headscarf or an all-covering burqa and they can be shunned by their community for simply appearing on television, even with their head covered.

Porn arrived in Kandahar as soon as the Taliban left, but was generally confined to backrooms of teahouses.

Now, it's increasingly there for anyone with the right satellite subscription or a couple of dollars for a VCD. So far, only limited attempts have been made to block some providers.

Explicit VCDs smuggled mainly from Pakistan but also from India are on sale on the streets for a few dollars each, but vendors are secretive and wary.

Sellers at the crowded VCD and CD market, where tunes from blaring Bollywood hits clash with traditional Persian and Pakistani instrumentals, don't like to discuss the trade.

"They come from Pakistan," says Farid Achmad, firmly insisting virtually all his wares go on to neighbouring Iran to the west.

"They are banned. The government would not let you sell anything like this," he says uncomfortably, sipping a green tea.

Porn's growing popularity and availability comes as the Taliban re-exert their influence across the country, especially in Kandahar and other southern provinces.

More people are turning to the insurgents, partly out of frustration at the lack of jobs and a non-drugs economy, partly for money and partly because in some areas the group imposes a rough order where the government cannot, complete with their own courts.

The Islamist hardliners are also trying to reimpose some of their old strictures, burning schools that admit girls and executing their teachers in front of students.

Head of Kandahar's provincial women's affairs department, 34-year-old Rona Trena, says pornography is a problem, but one largely confined to a small number of young men.

"It's not a good habit to have," she says. "But it's in the shops and some of these young men are watching it."

"Seeing women like this is not normal."

First Published: Nov 13, 2006 21:19 IST