Impending Doom: What Lies Ahead For Innocent Afghans
For Justice Makes Democracy Possible, But Man's Inclination To Injustice Makes Democracy Necessary ~ Reinhold Niebuhr
In recent weeks, Taliban forces have made several territorial gains in occupying different regions across Afghanistan. It's almost unbelievable how rapidly the country fell into enemy hands despite its two-decade-long war on terror. Now, with the civilian death count rising swiftly, it's hard to predict what the future holds for Afghans who have lost their livelihoods.
Before we look into this issue further, let's remind ourselves of the reason behind Taliban's dominance in Afghanistan. This terrorist organization started gaining traction shortly after the Soviets agreed to end their nine-year conflict with Afghanistan. In fact, most of these men had fought as "mujahideen" against the Soviets and received military aid from CIA as well. Ethnically, they are termed as Pashtun and a large majority of them obtained their education at Northern Pakistani seminaries (locally known as "madrassas").
Note: Saudia Arabia is alleged to have paid for their studies, seemingly content with the strict interpretation of Sunni beliefs and Sharia law preached in these institutions.
When these militants first started gaining momentum, their mission was "simple" - fight corruption and establish Sharia law in the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. As a result, they began capturing important Afghan provinces and publicly hanged then-President Mohammad Najibullah Ahmedzai in 1996. Soon after coming into power, they brought in their version of Sharia law and implemented a slew of barbaric restrictions, effectively crippling Afghan freedom. However, less than six years later, the 9/11 attacks prompted US to overthrow their government and induct a newly-elected democratic administration instead. Taliban forces quickly retracted back to Kandahar and its surrounding areas, seeking refuge here for the years to come.
Understandably, Afghans suspect Taliban's new rule would be just as merciless as the previous one. Regrettably, these concerns aren't without merit considering the human rights abuses that were previously documented under their command. Strict punishments were doled out for minor offences such as stealing which required chopping people's hands off. Likewise, women endured alienating constraints and their role was essentially limited to serving men. Furthermore, these patriarchal viewpoints were ingrained in all walks of life and prevented women from getting an education beyond middle school or being able to leave their house without a male chaperone. Rather brazenly, Taliban continued targetting women during the time US troops were in Afghanistan, often looking to kill anybody who spoke out against them.
Twenty years later, there is a new generation of female workers and students inhabiting Afghanistan and Taliban's insurgence presents itself as a serious issue. Contrary to popular belief, women have taken up several positions in the Afghan government and their representation in professional occupations is no longer limited. Unfortunately, the Taliban will likely confine these women behind closed doors while less qualified men take over their jobs.
This is a painful prospect for women like Rada Akbar, a photographer from Kabul, who tweeted:
Reports from fallen provinces are indicating that militants have already conducted door-to-door operations, where they seem to be obtaining information about women residing in different houses. Those aged between 12 and 45 were then forcibly married to Taliban fighters meanwhile others were asked to remain indoors. Similarly, in Kandahar, a female bank employee was reprimanded by the Taliban for turning up at work and had to be escorted back against her will.
In unprecedented times like these, young women in schools also fear losing internet privileges. Since the pandemic has shifted their learning online, studying indoors is possible for them. Nonetheless, the Taliban are notoriously against all internet sites, especially ones that allow communication of any sort. Consequently, Afghans could find themselves totally cut off from the rest of the world which disproportionately affects young people attempting to finish their schoolwork. Furthermore, Afghanistan's education minister Rangina Hamidi pointed out how the psyche of children attempting to learn in this environment makes it a hard feat to achieve. Here is what she had to say,
I can assure you that when you're living in the war zone, no matter what system of education you try to bring to that environment and no matter how much focus you put on quality to make a great curriculum and provide the great service, if children are haunted by images of destruction and the sounds of destruction on a daily basis, I don't know which society on this earth can really operate in any normalcy, if we can call it that. It's honestly very, very difficult.
Lastly, for the 72000 displaced children currently living on the streets of Kabul, life could take a very different turn. They are now under imminent threat of Taliban recruitment, whose reliance on minors for unsuspecting attacks is well-known. Earlier on, they used religious schools to give children military training and brainwashed them against foreigners "here to corrupt their land". Children as young as 17 were allowed to engage in combat and lost their lives fighting the wrong battle.
If anything, I hope this article makes you realize just how dire the situation in Afghanistan truly is. People are dying at an unimaginable rate and those who have fled their homes are barely getting by in squalid Kabul camps. In addition, Kabul's Hamid Karzai Airport has seen a mass exodus of people attempting to flee the country. This video was recorded just a few kilometres away from the airport :
As things stand, for a large section of the Afghan population, uncertainty is becoming their new norm.
I am pleading to United Nations and all world leaders here, please intervene if you can. Stop unnecessary bloodshed before it's too late!