Kabul residents shop online to avoid bomb attacks, harassment

A shopkeeper using his laptop to check on his online store in Kabul, where suicide bombings and other attacks have killed and wounded hundreds of people this year, and where sexual harassment on the street is widespread. Such start-ups are doing bris
A shopkeeper using his laptop to check on his online store in Kabul, where suicide bombings and other attacks have killed and wounded hundreds of people this year, and where sexual harassment on the street is widespread. Such start-ups are doing brisk business in the Afghan capital, as many residents turn to online shops to purchase what they need.PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL • Shoppers in the Afghan capital Kabul are going online for everything from fashion to furniture to avoid bomb attacks and sexual harassment, with dozens of start-ups doing a brisk trade where there were just a few two years ago.

Suicide bombings and other attacks in Kabul have killed and wounded hundreds this year and security is expected to deteriorate ahead of planned October elections.

Meanwhile, sexual harassment on the street is widespread.

The new e-retailers sell goods ranging from cosmetics and computers to kitchenware and cars, including foreign brands.

Student Asila Sulaimani described online shopping as a "good experience" in a country at war, with United Nations figures putting those under 25 at more than 60 per cent of the population, the vast majority of them smartphone users.

"Who dares go out shopping these days?" she said. "I am sure there are some people, but for me it has always been difficult... Fears of an explosion, an attack and the most common thing, harassment, follow me like my shadow."

SAFER SHOPPING FROM HOME

Who dares go out shopping these days? I am sure there are some people, but for me it has always been difficult... Fears of an explosion, an attack and the most common thing, harassment, follow me like my shadow.

STUDENT ASILA SULAIMANI, on how being able to shop for items online is a positive experience in a country at war.

Fellow student Roya Shakeb said: "I needed some books... I searched shops and libraries without success - then I came across online stores. The book was on my doorstep the next day. Unbelievable."

Commerce Ministry spokesman Musafer Qoqandi described online shopping as "unique" for a country at war for more than four decades, with about 50 companies in business, most of them unlicensed.

"Around the world, online stores are dealing with billions of dollars annually. It is time for us to join this convoy... It is hope-giving when we see the growing number of such stores in Afghanistan."

Separately, Taleban insurgents yesterday announced a surprise three-day ceasefire for the Eid holiday next week, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, days after the government offered a ceasefire until June 20.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 10, 2018, with the headline 'Kabul residents shop online to avoid bomb attacks, harassment'. Print Edition | Subscribe