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Zabiulla Nuri, 45, an Afghan musician based in Kabul, says the Taliban broke his musical instruments.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Frud Bezhan, regional desk editor for Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban this week burned scores of musical instruments it claimed to have recently seized across Afghanistan.

The Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on July 19 released photos of the blaze. The ministry declared music is un-Islamic and promotes "immorality that has caused the youth to go astray and society to be destroyed."

Widely condemned by Afghans on social media, the move is seen as part of the Taliban's war on music.

The extremist group banned music soon after seizing power in 2021 and has burned instruments and beaten musicians. That has led hundreds of musicians to flee the country in fear of their lives.

Why It's Important: The Taliban also banned music during its brutal regime in the 1990s.

At that time, many musicians fled to neighboring Pakistan and Iran, where they could practice freely and pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Most musicians who remained in Afghanistan either played secretly in their homes or hid their instruments.

Now, a new generation of Afghan musicians have decided to escape their homeland.

"Music is ending in Afghanistan," a musician, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. "We [musicians] will go to Pakistan or anywhere else [where we are safe]."

Ahmad Sarmast, the self-exiled founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, told Radio Azadi that Afghanistan is the only country where music is prohibited.

"The people of Afghanistan have been deprived of all their musical rights, which includes access to music education, listening to music, participating in musical programs, making a living through music, and access to facilities for publishing, reproducing, and sharing music with society."

What's Next: Great strides were made in reviving Afghanistan's musical traditions after the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban's first regime in 2001.

Those gains have now been reversed, and more musicians and artists are likely to flee Afghanistan or abandon their musical careers if they remain in their homeland.

The Week's Best Stories

Afghan women demonstrated in Kabul on June 19 to demand the Taliban back down from its decree ordering the closure of beauty salons. The women say the shutdown would leave their families with no income. Taliban officials say beauty salons are forbidden under Shari'a law and demanded they be closed by July 25.

The Taliban has suspended the activities of a major Swedish aid group operating in Afghanistan. Afghans fear the move will aggravate an already devastating humanitarian crisis that has pushed millions to the brink of starvation.

What To Keep An Eye On

The family of Afghan journalist Irfanullah Bidar said he has been missing since July 12.

A source close to the family who did not want to be named for fear of retribution told Radio Azadi that Bidar was detained by unknown gunmen outside a mosque in the eastern city of Jalalabad. The men put a bag over Bidar's head before whisking him away in a car, the source said.

The source said Bidar, a reporter for Radio Safa, had no known enemies.

The disappearance of Bidar, a father of four, has been widely blamed on the Taliban's notorious intelligence service. The militant group has not publicly commented on his disappearance.

Why It's Important: Bidar is the latest journalist to be arrested or disappear in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has intensified its crackdown on independent reporters and media outlets.

In its annual report issued in May, the Afghanistan Journalist Center, a media watchdog, said cases of arbitrary arrests and detention, threats, and intimidation of journalists rose around 60 percent in the past year.

Since seizing power, the Taliban has waged a brutal crackdown on dissent that has targeted human rights defenders, women activists, intellectuals, and journalists.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Frud Bezhan

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday.

Since seizing power, the Taliban has attempted to root out all forms of secular education in Afghanistan.

Welcome back to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Mustafa Sarwar, a senior news editor at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban ordered the closure of all teacher-training centers in Afghanistan on July 4, according to a letter circulated by its Education Ministry and obtained by Radio Azadi.

The order affects 49 teacher-training centers and 198 support facilities across the country, according to a source at the ministry who spoke to Radio Azadi on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Around 5,600 instructors and other staff were employed by the training centers. Created under the previous Western-backed Afghan government, the centers were aimed at improving the quality of education in the war-torn country.

In its letter, the Taliban did not reveal the reasons for its decision. But the militant group said employees of the centers could be given jobs in Taliban-run education facilities, although it is unclear how many would take up the offer.

The Taliban's Deputy Education Minister Sibghatullah Wasil, in an interview with BBC Pashto, suggested that the centers were inefficient and "had no plans, no work, and were not busy."

Why It's Important: The Taliban's decision to close the training centers appears part of its wider efforts to root out all forms of the modern secular education that thrived in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban's first regime.

Since regaining power, the militants have converted scores of secular schools, public universities, and vocational training centers into Islamic seminaries, leading to a surge in the number of madrasahs in the country.

The hard-line Islamist group has also vowed to overhaul the national curriculum and build a vast network of madrasahs across the country's 34 provinces.

Last month, a Taliban education official, Abdul Wahid Tariq, said the group had so far built madrasahs in five provinces.

The Taliban's closure of the teacher-training centers will likely see thousands of instructors and educators lose their jobs.

"Cutting off the income of these people and making them unemployed will cause society and the families of the teachers serious problems," a Kabul-based teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Radio Azadi.

What's Next: The Taliban appears likely to continue what some activists have called its war on education.

The group has banned women from attending university and girls above the sixth grade from going to school.

The Taliban's efforts to eradicate secular education and replace it with radical religious instruction are likely to contribute to the spread of extremist ideologies in Afghanistan.

The Week's Best Stories

An Afghan refugee seeking asylum in the United States is now captivating audiences on-screen, portraying a character she has a lot in common with. In her first-ever acting role, Anaita Wali Zada plays a haunted young immigrant named Donya who finds herself beached in the northern California city of Fremont. Her new life: working in a factory, writing fortunes for Chinese cookies.

A court in Pakistan recently ordered the government to grant citizenship to the Afghan husbands of four Pakistani women. While it sets a precedent for a few hundred similar cases, the huge majority of Afghan refugees cannot get Pakistani nationality -- even those who were born and have lived in the country for decades.

What To Keep An Eye On

When the United States pulled out its forces from Afghanistan in 2021, it left behind billions of dollars' worth of military equipment and weapons.

The Taliban seized the arms after the fall of the internationally recognized Afghan government during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal.

Some of those arms are being sold in weapons markets in border areas with Pakistan with the consent of local Taliban officials, according to a new report by the Small Arms Survey.

The Switzerland-based research group says the Taliban has tried to tighten its control over the group's massive weapons stocks. But it said arms smuggling exists.

Why It's Important: The Small Arms Survey says the presence of weapons markets in Afghanistan increases the risk of arms proliferation in the region.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are home to dozens of militant groups, and observers have raised fears that U.S. weapons have fallen into the hands of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, which is waging an increasingly bloody insurgency against Islamabad.

The Taliban has rejected the findings of the survey as propaganda, saying all weapons under the group's control are accounted for.

Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, recently accused the Taliban of selling U.S. weapons left behind in Afghanistan to Washington's "enemies," including Iran.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Mustafa Sarwar

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

To subscribe, click here.