Shopkeeper: Here's What the Taliban Like to Buy
White undies, foreign perfumes, brand-name soaps, he says
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2014 3:30 PM CDT
In this Thursday, Sept, 26, 2013 photo, Abdul Wasay, 75, sells toothbrushes and toothpaste on a busy street market In Kabul, Afghanistan, where he says he usually spends most of his days.   (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)

(Newser) – Ever wonder what the Taliban buy when they go shopping? Neither did we, but apparently they like spending big bucks on nice perfumes and brand-name soaps and shampoos. Oh, and they prefer white underwear, either Y fronts or briefs, a former shopkeeper tells the BBC. The young man in his 20s says he fled Miranshah, North Waziristan—a Taliban-controlled part of Pakistan—after an army offensive displaced 800,000 people and ruined his customer base. As for the Taliban, "they didn't like Pakistani products," he says. "They used to prefer foreign or branded perfumes and imported body sprays. They liked the ones with a strong scent."

For their women, he says, Taliban fighters bought perfumes like Blue Lady by Rasasi and Secret Love; for shampoos, it was Clear or Head and Shoulders; for soap, they bought Dove. Another Miranshah seller, a tailor, confirms that the Taliban were his best customers and spent 2,000 to 3,000 rupees per sale (the equivalent of about two weeks' salary). Other Afghan shopkeepers have another grievance these days, saying the nation's presidential-election crisis has ground sales nearly to a halt, the BBC reports. And in a sad report yesterday, officials said that eight civilians driving to Kandahar to go shopping and see a doctor died when a roadside bomb went off, Reuters reports. (For more on Afghanistan, see what the Taliban is accused of doing to voters.)

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Jul 14, 2014 2:31 PM CDT
The photograph that I most regret not getting was in Kandahar in 1992. I had arrived there with other UN staff days after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government. Rival mujahideen factions controlled checkpoints throughout the city, and heavily-armed teenagers fired randomly into the air to celebrate their victory. In the middle of the main market, there was a vendor who had about 40 feet of metal clothing racks from which western style women's clothing was hung. There were negligees and teddies, and push-up bras, etc. And going through them were a dozen women covered head-to-toe in burkas: black, green and blue. They held the articles up to themselves and haggled with the vendors. It was a photograph that everything: bearded mujahideen with rocket launchers, women in burkas, and lots and lots of underwear -- all set against the brown dusty backdrop of bombed out buildings. Discretion was the better part of valor, though, and I figured that the photo wasn't worth the possibility of being attacked for infringing upon the women's modesty. What's the point? People are people, and they generally like a lot of the same things. They like to look good and smell nice -- even when no one but themselves, and maybe a spouse, will notice. The Taliban are no different.
Jul 14, 2014 9:31 AM CDT
I'm just surprised that they paid for it, when it's so much easier to stick a gun in his face and TAKE it. That's the way they usually work. Intimidating their way through life.
Jul 14, 2014 9:21 AM CDT
From the thumbnail it looks like he was selling Green Bay Cheesehead hats.