DUBAI: Afghan Aziz Ahmed, the 32-year-old owner of Sabir Afghan restaurant, poses during an interview yesterday. - AFP

DUBAI: Afghan restaurant owner Aziz Ahmed, who has called the UAE home for over 20 years, says the Taleban's return to power is little short of a nightmare. "Even if my mother dies, I will not cry (as) much as I cried yesterday, but we have no option left," Ahmed, 32, told AFP. "Now, we are hoping for 'good'. We are hoping that these people have changed," he said the day after the Taleban seized Kabul.

Other Afghans in Dubai who spoke to AFP were more confident that the new Taleban rule would bring stability to their war-wracked country. "Taleban, is not a problem," said Ezzatollah, who works at an Afghan bakery in the Al-Barsha residential area of Dubai. "I'm not scared to go back home," he said, as he prepared naan bread for a group of customers.

According to the Afghan consulate in Dubai, one of seven emirates that make up the UAE, the Gulf country is home to approximately 150,000 citizens. Many of them run successful businesses, while others work in shops, restaurants and construction. Gholameddine, the manager of Ahmed's Sabir Afghan restaurant in Dubai, said he would be happy to return home only once the country is safe and secure. "I've been living in the UAE for about six years," he told AFP. But his dream, he said, would be to earn his living at home in Afghanistan where his elderly parents live.

Ahmed, who fled the Taleban for Dubai in the 90s, said the group's recent pledges to govern with more restraint were reassuring - if true. "When the name Taleban comes to your mind, you feel terror, you think of killings, you think of beatings. It's a bad dream," said Ahmed. He said the Taleban are now saying "they changed". "We are hoping and desperately waiting for that change to be convinced."

In the weeks leading to their return, the Taleban's leadership have sought to show a softer side, saying people have nothing to fear. They have also pledged there would be no retribution against those who supported US-backed forces. "I need to see concrete changes, they must be visible not just talk," said Ahmed, who wears the traditional Afghan dress and sports a beard. "I need to see ladies... moving freely," he added.

Under the hardline version of sharia law which the Taleban imposed during their previous rule, women and girls were mostly denied education or employment. Full face coverings were mandatory in public and they could not leave home without a male companion. "In Islam, nothing is by force. You cannot force me to pray, you cannot force me follow Islam, you cannot force me to let my beard (grow)," Ahmed said.

According to Ahmed many Afghans, including his own family, are deeply worried about what the future will hold. "They are... scared, and I keep telling them to calm down," he said. "These (Taleban) are illiterate people, they are not educated. Without an education, how can you run the government? It's not possible. "When we moved to the UAE, there was Taleban rule, and now... they're back." - AFP