While the Taliban has consolidated control over Afghanistan, women’s rights activists are still protesting

KABUL — Tuesday’s Taliban formed an interim government for Afghanistan and appointed senior members of close connections to Mohammad Omar, founder of the movement.

(*????) The Taliban formed an acting government for Afghanistan on Tuesday, appointing senior members with close ties to Mohammad Omar.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid defended the appointments, describing them as inclusive, with the Taliban holding discussions about the temporary cabinet “all over the country.” He said people were chosen based only on who “fought hard and sacrificed the most for freedom.”

The group said it would name permanent leadership soon.

The announcement came the day after the group said it had quashed the last pocket of armed resistance against its rule. However, Tuesday saw the biggest street demonstrations against the Taliban since the group’s return to power.

A close Omar aide, Muhammad Hassan Akhund, was appointed acting prime minister, and Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group’s founding members and a longtime Omar confidant, was appointed as his deputy. The acting defense minister, Mohammad Yaqoob, is a son of Omar, who died in 2013 of illness.

In a statement, Akhund said the temporary ministers “will work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and Sharia law in the country, protecting the country’s highest interests, securing Afghanistan’s borders, and ensuring lasting peace, prosperity and development.”

He said the group would protect the human rights of all Afghans and called on educated and experienced citizens not to leave the country, saying Afghanistan’s new government “desperately needs their talents, guidance and work.” The Taliban have been accused of not allowing hundreds of Afghans in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif to leave the country on planes chartered for their evacuation.

Members of the powerful Haqqani network, a wing of the Taliban, were also named to head two ministries, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was appointed as the acting interior minister. Haqqani, the leader of the network, is on the FBI’s most wanted list in connection with a 2008 terrorist attack in Kabul that killed six people, including a U.S. citizen.

Taliban gunmen fired in the air on Sept. 7 to scatter protesters in the Afghan capital of Kabul. No injuries were reported immediately. (Reuters)
  • Food and medicine shortages were reported in parts of Panjshir province, where the Taliban claimed Monday it was in control. According to one account, the militants set fire to food and other supplies. According to a top official of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, some anti-Taliban militants fled the area and hid in the mountains.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken denied Republican claims that the Taliban is holding Americans “hostage,” saying in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday that some evacuation flights out of Afghanistan have been prevented from taking off, because they included passengers without valid travel documents.
  • As universities restarted across Afghanistan for the first time since the Taliban takeover, some classrooms implemented gender segregation.

Hundreds of men and women marched Tuesday through several neighborhoods in Kabul calling for freedom and expressing support for the anti-Taliban forces in the recently captured Panjshir Valley. Taliban fighters led the protestors for much of the march until they reached the presidential palace, where the firing started.

“We were attacked by Taliban, they opened fire, some of the protesters were detained. Maryam, an activist texted from Kabul that journalists were prevented from covering the rally and stopped filming it. A Taliban car also drove into the crowd, she said.

The weapons the Taliban captured from the United States may not be an international threat, but they give the group more ways to control the Afghan population. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

Maryam, who for security reasons spoke on the condition that only her first name be used, said the rally in Kabul was against foreign interference in Afghanistan, particularly by Pakistan, which is widely seen as a backer of the Taliban. There were also reports that women were detained and people fled for safety amid the gunfire.

Maryam added that Taliban members deleted photos and videos of the protests from phones of people they seized. According to Saad Mohseni, the owner of the radio station, a cameraman from Afghanistan’s Tolo News, was briefly held by the Taliban.

“People were different today,” said one protester and employee of the former Afghan government, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Many of the protesters “were afraid, but they pushed forward anyway.”

Following the demonstration, Mujahid said protests were not allowed during this tenuous period, so that people could not “use the current situation to cause trouble.”

On Monday, women also marched through the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif. Only when protests threatened to become violent and Taliban fighters became agitated, did the demonstrators leave. Witnesses claimed that two police cars drove in the direction of marchers.

“We were afraid, but at least we demanded our rights,” said Karima Shujazada, a 26-year-old protester in Mazar-e Sharif who helped organize a march to the provincial governor’s office and through the city.

Women’s rights protests have also taken place in recent days in Herat and Kabul. In Zaranj near Iran’s border, women also marched to protest for their civil rights. A march was violently repressed by the Taliban in Kabul on Saturday. However, a spokesperson for the Taliban later stated to the Guardian that four Taliban men were detained after they allegedly attacked women during that protest.

Across Afghanistan, a generation of girls has grown up in a world completely different from the one their parents knew. When it last ruled, from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban banned girls from school and women from the workplace. Although the Islamist militants claim to be more moderate in their governance, most Afghans are skeptical.

As university classes resumed across Afghanistan this week for the first time since the Taliban takeover, some institutions imposed gender segregation and divided classrooms with curtains or boards.

“I really felt terrible when I entered the class. … We are gradually going back to 20 years ago,” a female student at Kabul University told Reuters.

The Taliban’s actions are being closely watched from abroad, with Western governments signaling that the resumption of most aid will be contingent on whether Afghanistan’s new rulers respect basic human rights.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said at a recent news conference that women would eventually be “asked to return” to their jobs.

Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the last pocket of resistance forces in the Panjshir region, on Monday called for a national uprising against the Taliban, saying the group had “become even more brutal, radicalized, hateful and fanatic.”

The Taliban said Monday it had seized the mountainous province from forces led by Massoud.

A senior resistance official said that while the Taliban had taken control of the Panjshir Valley, resistance forces had retreated into the mountains to fight the Islamist militants. Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, the person spoke under anonymity. He said that many families living in the valley fled for Kabul and other provincials.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly dire. According to Reuters, a World Health Organization official stated Monday that many medical centers in Afghanistan are under threat of closure due to the ban on Western donors from financing the Taliban government.

One of the key ways that any aid could get into the country will be via the Kabul airport, which Qatar and Turkey have offered to help run, although an agreement remains elusive.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, said Doha hopes that the Kabul airport can reopen in the next few days.

Amid the uncertainty, U.S. officials are under pressure to find ways to help evacuate remaining American citizens and at-risk Afghans from the country. Many planes that were chartered in Mazar-e Sharif to evacuate the people of Afghanistan have not been allowed to depart for several days because there are conflicting reports about why.

An Afghan official at the airport told the Associated Press that those seeking to leave were Afghans, many of whom did not have passports or visas. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. said that at least two aircraft were in place to transport American citizens and at-risk Afghan allies to Qatar.

Asked about that at a news conference in Doha, Blinken said the United States was making efforts to ensure that charter flights can fly out of Afghanistan safely. Washington estimates that nearly 100 U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan, including dual nationals, he said.

Blinken said the Taliban has agreed to allow anyone to leave as long as they have valid documentation, and he said he is unaware of any “hostage-type” situation. “

The State Department helped four U.S. citizens leave Afghanistan over land Monday, a senior department official said, marking the first such evacuation it has facilitated since the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan last week.

Khan reported from Peshawar, Pakistan, Pannett from Sydney, Mehrdad from Doha and Taylor from Washington. This report was contributed by John Hudson, Zeynep Kartas in Istanbul, and Ellen Francis in London.

Read More

Related Posts

By Rachel Pannett and Ezzatullah Mehrdad