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Anti-Taliban protests spread in Afghanistan

In Asadabad, several people have been killed during a demonstration against the fundamentalists
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   A group of people carry the national flag at a protest held during Afghanistan's Independence Day in Kabul, Afghanistan

It is the fifth day under the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the situation in the country remains chaotic. Since the fall of Kabul to the insurgents on Sunday, the Central Asian country has been in turmoil. Hundreds of people continue to crowd around Kabul's international airport with the only hope of fleeing a country that is 20 years behind the times.

Although the Taliban have tried to present a less radical image and have promised "amnesty" for all those collaborating with foreign forces, as well as for officials who worked for the now ousted government, most Afghans doubt that the insurgents will deliver on these promises and recall the brutality of the Taliban regime that ruled with an iron fist from 1996 until 2001, when they were overthrown by the United States.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - A group of people carry the national flag at a protest held during Afghanistan's Independence Day in Kabul, Afghanistan

Although the Taliban have not yet formed an executive and have not yet revealed the political system that will govern the country, one thing is clear: Sharia in its most purist version will be the law of the land. During the fundamentalists' first official press conference after the fall of Kabul, the Taliban's chief spokesman, Zabihulla Mujahid, said that Islamic law would be at the centre of the political system in the Taliban's new Afghanistan. Women and girls are the most vulnerable to the fundamentalists' rise to power.

Women's rights and freedoms will be reduced to a minimum, as they were under the previous Taliban regime, changes are already evident and images of women on posters and billboards in Kabul are beginning to disappear, the first of many steps to make them invisible. Even so, many of them are not willing to give up the little progress that has been made in terms of their rights and freedoms, and there have been some demonstrations against the Taliban regime throughout the Central Asian country.

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AFP/WAKIL KOHSAR - A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon with images of women disfigured with spray paint in Shar-e-Naw in Kabul

Coinciding with Independence Day, which celebrates the end of British colonisation of the country, Afghanistan has seen a day of intense demonstrations against the new Taliban regime, displaying the Afghan tricolour flag and rejecting that of the Islamic Emirate. The first protests took place in Jalalabad, and have spread to other areas of the Central Asian country until reaching Kabul.

In Jalalabad, the protests were suppressed by the Taliban and at least three people were reported killed and dozens wounded by gunfire. Similarly, in Asadabad, capital of Kunar province in the east of the country, several people were killed on Thursday in a new demonstration against the fundamentalists, according to Reuters. With social unrest already beginning to spill onto the streets of the capital, the Taliban have called on Afghanistan's imams to urge unity during Friday prayers and to persuade people not to leave the country to avoid a repeat of the chilling scenes at Kabul's international airport.

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AP/RAHMAT GUL - Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021

According to Reuters, which has access to a report by the Norwegian Centre for Global Analysis, the Taliban have reportedly already begun arresting Afghans linked to the previous administration, as well as those who collaborated with US and NATO troops. "The Taliban are arresting and/or threatening to kill or arrest family members of targeted individuals unless they surrender," the document says. Meanwhile, the evacuation of foreign personnel as well as Afghans continues, albeit with considerable impediments. The US has asked the Taliban to leave a safe corridor to Kabul airport, which is in its most frantic hours.

The worst predictions for Afghanistan indicate that despite the renewed image the Taliban want to present to the international community, the reality on the ground is very different, and that when the last foreign troops and personnel leave the country, darkness will return.