The situation in Central Asia is all that is being talked about these days. Afghanistan no longer exists, or at least not under this name. The events that occurred mark history: after twenty years of war, the country returns to the hands of the Taliban. We have all seen the dramatic images of the Afghans running to the airport of Kabul, the capital, and the “falling men”, the people who inevitably fell in a desperate attempt to clutch themselves to the US C-17 military plane, which took off with 640 refugees on the 16th of August.
However, let us take a step back. To deeper understand, we should consider what happened in the Taliban hostile takeover in 1996, when they took power. The “moral police” forces were established, Sharia law became the only form of law, and Kabul became the epicenter of a violent and repressive environment as well as a terrorist landmark worldwide. This lasted until 2001, when the Americans invaded the nation following the Twin Tower terrorist attacks on the 11th of September of that same year, since the alleged mastermind of the crime, the feared Osama Bin Laden, was there.
“Vain, but full of money and weapons“: this is how the war in Afghanistan was defined by many journalists and politicians. “They’d say it was fought to give an immediate response to terrorism, but to “bring democracy” to all Westerners who felt attacked“.
As already mentioned, in 2001, the United States sent troops to Afghanistan and started the “War of Terror”, overthrowing the Taliban regime. The US and its allies have supported the Afghan government militarily and economically for twenty years, and in April of this year, Biden announced the withdrawal of the soldiers, considering the mission “completed” and holding the Afghan forces responsible for defending their country. On the 15th of August, 2021, a few months after American troops and their allies’ withdrawal, President Ashraf Ghani left the country, abandoning it to the new “Commanders of the Faithful”: Haibatullah Akhundzada, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other leaders. Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban and Afghanistan then became the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
As the ISPI (Italian Insitute for Internal Political Studies) writes, “the blame of the victory and return of the Taliban at the head of the country ultimately falls on the weakness of the armed forces: despite 2 trillion dollars were allocated over twenty years for training and equipment, and by the lack of legitimacy of the Afghan institutions“. Even the signing of the Doha agreement in February 2020, designed by the Trump administration with the de facto exclusion of the Afghan government, “It demoralized many Afghan authorities, reinforcing the corrupt impulses of many officials and their yielding loyalty to the central government“. An army officer reveals to the Washington Post that “many have seen that document from start to finish and everyone has started to look after themselves. It was like the US had abandoned us“.
Many are scared, and most of the population agrees that undoubtedly “people will try in every way to escape and leave the country because of fear.” The Taliban are known for the use of violence and the total disregard of human rights. Now that they have regained control of the Afghan territory and have conquered Kabul, it is worrying that they will say goodbye to everything afghans achieved in these twenty years. A few days after taking Kabul, the Taliban announced an amnesty for state officials, inviting women to join the government but “according to the rules of Sharia” and stated they have “forgiven all those who fought” against them. “This is a moment of pride for the whole nation,” said the Taliban Zaibihullah Mujahid spokesman in the first press conference in Kabul. “After twenty years of struggle, we have liberated Afghanistan and expelled foreigners”, he said in front of the cameras. “We do not want external or internal enemies, and we will not threaten anyone“, he added, with the promise of having a different policy than two decades before. Suhail Shaheen, another spokesman for the Taliban, said, “Afghan women will be able to access education including university“, continuing that “they will have to wear the hijab, instead of the burqa“.
According to the videos that went viral on the internet, nobody believes the Taliban’s promises: “they already consider themselves dead“. Most women see only two possibilities: leaving the country and living as refugees – which has now become almost impossible, or accepting the danger and if brave, fight in order not to lose all the rights and freedom they have had access to in the last twenty years. Today two-thirds of the capital’s population is under 30 years old, most have never experienced what it means to live under the Taliban regime, but those who already know are running for help. Mariam Atahi, an Afghan female activist sustains that “all women will now have to give up studying, working, and leaving their houses without a companion, or having any relationship with the male sex outside their family will be impossible. Any form of entertainment will be prohibited and with harrowing consequences“. Before 2001, girls of the age of 12 and over, were taken as prizes of war and forced to submit to all rules. Those who rebel were subjected to flogging and public execution, and even though the new regime claims to have different ways, no one truly believes them. According to some testimonies, the Taliban have already made lists of single women, to force them to marry as soon as possible.
Posters and advertising boards, such as those for hairdressers and shop advertisements depicting women are obscured, and in all territories under the Taliban, it is compulsory to cover up again. To cover, but not with the usual burqa, which leaves not even a piece of skin uncovered. The hijab is the mandatory accessory, a veil that only covers hair, head, and chest. Many people might take it for granted, but the hijab is worn by many people for personal choice. This is the difference: the religious veils should not be seen as a symbol of oppression – in this case, it is. Terrified of being beaten, the most frightened women are rushing to buy the veil, and the price has doubled within a few days. The Taliban dominion is also frightening in terms of medical care. It is not sure if the female doctors will have to stop working, and if this were the case, the women not being able to be visited by men will remain on many occasions without assistance. Since 2001, the most significant achievement for Afghan women has been emancipation: access to education and holding public offices have been the first targets. Nevertheless, with the return of the Taliban control, many are burning books, certificates, and documents that can testify what they have learned and their expertise in specific academic fields, obviously acquired in these 20 years.
Sexual violence, physical punishment, exasperated misogyny, were all punishments in case of disobedience. According to the doctrine of the Taliban, women in public could not speak loudly or wear heels -to prevent a man from hearing the sound of their footsteps. They could not face the balcony, and the windows of those who live on the ground floor were darkened to avoid any male gaze. They could not appear in public gatherings of any kind, neither on television, in books, nor on the radio. However, after days of absence, some famous journalists make their return, obviously covered, appearing on national screens after days of absence. Will it be evidence of change? Will the promises of the “New Taliban” be honored?
Meanwhile, many “brave women”, so-called for having protested, went out to the streets of the capital with their faces uncovered, to claim their rights. They hold signs above their heads, with written: “Afghan women exist“. To this, the Taliban responded with moderate tones. They promised to respect them under Sharia law. Yet all this was also promised 25 years ago, and people now wonder how the Sharia will be interpreted: if in a different way or if they will relive in the past. According to the political regime, Sharia is the main source of legislation in many Islamic countries, but open to different interpretations. In Afghanistan, it was already at the basis of the Constitution approved in 2004, but with the Taliban in power in 2021, the uncertainty about how it will be interpreted prevails. Will the promises of the “New Taliban” be fulfilled? Or is it just history repeating itself?
On the international front, US President Biden was overwhelmed by criticism and accused of “epochal defeat” that many defined as “undoubtedly one of the greatest failures of the West.” America then decided to evacuate all US citizens and diplomatic personnel immediately. There is no change of position on the abandonment of military operations, since “the American mission in Afghanistan was never to build a nation, but to fight in terrorism“.
On the other hand, NATO maintains its diplomatic headquarters in Kabul to monitor the transition process, and many European Union countries have closed their embassies. Discussions began in Brussels on how to cope with the influx of refugees arriving from Afghanistan, Macron already announced the dispatch of two special force military aircraft. Pakistan – accused many times, especially by the US, of favoring and latently supplying weapons to the Taliban, has not yet taken a clear-cut position on the Afghan situation. On the contrary, Iran welcomes the new government as a possible rebirth after the “US military failure.” Russia is looking forward to having a dialogue with the Taliban and, for this reason, keeps the diplomatic headquarters in Kabul open, like China, which keeps the embassy in service and says it is willing to have a “friendly” relationship with the new Taliban government. The whole world is now looking forward to the UN Security Council, the extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers, and the emergency G7 and G20 meeting convoked by Biden, Johnson, and Draghi. However, as ISPI points out, “if the goal is to unite against the Taliban government, it may already be too late.”
Giulia Francesca Pressani
Biden Claims “Nation Building” Was Never America’s Goal In …. https://marketresearchtelecast.com/biden-claims-nation-building-was-never-americas-goal-in-afghanistan/131439/
“Afghanistan.” BBC News. Accessed August 19, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/c8nq32jw5r5t/afghanistan.
“Afghanistan Latest News As Taliban Take Charge: Live Updates.” CNN. Last modified August 19, 2021. https://edition.cnn.com/world/live-news/afghanistan-taliban-us-news-08-19-21/index.html.
Laura Ricetti on tv news TG5’s Fuga dall’Afghanistan, allarme terrorismo on the situation in Afghanistan in 2021