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Teenage Afghan guitar player eyes Taliban peace deal with trepidation

KABUL (Reuters) - Like many young Afghans, 13-year-old music student Sara Habib is nervous about an agreement between the Taliban and the United States due to be signed in Doha on Saturday, which would include pulling U.S. troops out of the country after 18 years.

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“I’m a little concerned about my future, because if any group like the Taliban or any other groups come to the country, I would no longer have my educational freedom,” the teenager said, while strumming her guitar after classes at a Kabul music academy.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 after seizing power following years of civil war, and imposed many restrictions on women and activities it deemed “un-Islamic”.

Since 2001, it has led a violent insurgency against the internationally backed government, killing thousands.

Previous attempts at negotiating peace have been scuttled by violence, most recently last December, when an attack on a U.S. military base claimed by the Taliban put talks on hold.

The Taliban has recently been projecting itself as more moderate, saying Islam gives women rights in areas such as business and ownership, inheritance, education, work, the choice of a husband, security and well-being.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Habib used to study at the International School of Kabul, where her favourite subject was music. After the school closed five years ago due to security issues, she decided to continue her guitar-playing. It made her and everyone around her happy, she says.

Seven months ago, she joined the Asoo music academy, where she and three other students sit in a small circle as they practise playing folk music, harmonising on their guitars. Habib taps a scuffed black boot to the beat.

A fellow music student at Asoo said peace was a long time coming. “There are negotiations every day, and other countries decide for us; how long can we tolerate this? And that’s why I’m disappointed with the country’s security situation,” said Mahdi Fayazi.

At home, Habib is no different from many other girls her age. She enjoys singing a song from an animated Barbie movie and reading books from “The Breadwinner” series of children’s novels set in Taliban-era Afghanistan by Canadian author Deborah Ellis.

“I have lots of hopes for the future,” Habib says, explaining that she doesn’t have much first-hand knowledge about the Taliban, as she was born after the group’s fall in 2001.

Still, she is clear about how she feels.

“Every group that is against women’s progress and also against human rights is not acceptable for me.”

Reporting by Hameed Farzad; Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Neil Fullick