A young man tries to escape being recruited by the Taliban.


"We'll take you by force if we have to..."

There are many rumours and reports of the Taliban forcibly recruiting across Afghanistan, but few are prepared to talk openly about it for fear of retribution. Ghulam (not his real name) and his family have been pressured by the Taliban to join them and train as a fighter in a large military camp across the border in Pakistan. This is his testimony.

Ghulam knew that he couldn't resist if he was forced, so he had to find ways to delay.

“I've worked in a fuel pump station for years and live at home. One day, I was with my family when they (The Taliban) sent us a letter saying they are recruiting in all 34 provinces and that we must “stand with them”.

“They took some of the neighbours by force and they threatened to take us too. I said I was thinking of joining anyway and it would be much better to let me do it in my own time. But as I delayed, life became very difficult for us. It was very threatening because we knew they had already taken other people.”

“Three people were said to have joined them from our village, but the Taliban took them by force because they had worked with the previous government.”

“The Taliban said to me, We'll take you by force if we have to. I said, Please give us a bit more time to decide who should join you so we join you by choice. This worked for a while, but in the end I had to just tell them that I could not join. My family was afraid the Taliban would take me by force. So then I had to flee my own home and go to live elsewhere, in secret, where I couldn't be found. When I checked in with my family, my father said, they come every day and ask for you and knock on the door. Where is your son? It is compulsory to join us! My parents told them that I went to Iran. I feel like I no longer exist in my own country.”

Ghulam has younger brothers. He worries about the older ones getting recruited, but also for the younger ones who would be left behind.

"After a while they left with the new recruits to cross the border to Pakistan. That is where they do the brainwashing and the basic training. All of that is organised in Pakistan. Three to four of the neighbours disappeared that way and no one had updates for weeks.”

However, one of Ghulam’s neighbours did recently manage to contact his family. He was calilng from outside Afghanistan. He said the Taliban had taken them in a big convoy of vehicles, first to Paktia, then to Khost and Waziristan and finally to Pakistan. He was at a large Taliban military camp where he'd been told all the fighters received their training before being posted off to different destinations.

Ghulam feels fortunate to have escaped the Taliban's attempts to recruit him so far, but he is angry that he must live with the constant fear of another recruitment letter arriving, or another knock on the door of his family's home.

Afghan Witness interview. Pseudonym is used for safety.