The photo tweeted this Sunday by Lotfullah Najafizada, director of the ToloNews news network (a leading news channel in Afghanistan), sums up the fear that gripped the inhabitants of Kabul at the arrival of the Taliban at the gates of the capital of Afghanistan. At first glance, the image seems innocuous: two workers paint white an advertisement on the wall of a building. It’s not about putting a new ad there, it’s about covering the female image that promotes beauty services for weddings. That is the degree of fear surrounding the return of Islamic extremists who already silenced Afghan women between 1996 and 2001.
In Herat, a city close to the Iranian border and with strong Persian influence, the Taliban is berating women who work in offices and even banning them from entering the local university, where they make up 60% of students. According to some testimonies published on social networks, those responsible asked them to wait at home until the Shura of Quetta makes a decision on whether or not they can continue their studies. The Quetta Shura is the assembly of Taliban leaders who run the militia from that city in Pakistan, highlighting the neighboring country’s ties to Islamic militants.
So this Sunday morning, with the Taliban at the gates of the Afghan capital, some professors from the University of Kabul said goodbye to their students, predicting that they would not be able to see them again for a while. One of them, Aisha, expressed her fear of not being able to graduate, “like thousands of students across the country.” Also from Kandahar comes news of the arrest of intellectuals and activists. The last of them, Ahmad Wali Ayubi, was arrested at his home, according to his family, and his whereabouts are unknown. Local sources consider the Taliban-proclaimed amnesty to be a trap and report that around 10 people considered to be members of a well-educated elite were murdered and property confiscated.
Taliban leaders are aware that, after four decades of war and terrorism, Afghans fear above all violence and chaos. Therefore, they try to present themselves this time as a movement capable of guaranteeing the continuity of life under stable conditions. Their spokespersons have denied in recent days that militiamen in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (EIA), as they call themselves, are engaging in looting, revenge killings and forced marriages to local girls. “It’s poisonous propaganda”, says Suhail Saheen, responsible for contacts with the foreign press at the Political Office that the militia maintains in Doha (Qatar). as well as its local employees. “The EIA keeps its doors open to all those who previously worked and helped the invaders, or who remain in the ranks of the corrupt Kabul Administration, and announced an amnesty. We invite you to come forward and serve the nation,” tweeted Shaheen.
Those who flee from the advance may project an irrational fear onto their testimonies, but those who were trapped in the cities under their control denounce that the attitude of the bearded towards women and human rights has not changed. In Kandahar, which was the capital of the Taliban regime during its dictatorship, Reuters collected reports from several bank workers who, when reporting for work, were escorted to their homes by armed men with orders not to return. Rather, they received an offer that their positions be occupied by some male relative.
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In 1996, the guerrillas seized control of Kabul and snatched the government and presidency of mujahedin leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, one of the heroes of the victory against the Soviets. In its advance, the Taliban established an integralist regime based on a rigorous interpretation of Islamic law. Among other measures, it imposed physical punishment, from capital punishment in public squares to lashes and amputation of limbs for minor crimes; deprived women of any rights and forced them to cover themselves fully with the burqa; girls were banned from attending schools after the age of 10, and all cultural expression (cinema, music, television) was eradicated. Even archaeological sites faced their fury – in March 2001, militants destroyed the gigantic statues of the Buddhas of Bamiyán, considering them to be offensive to Islam.
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