Afghanistan marks 1 year since Taliban seizure as woes mount

On Monday, the Taliban marked a year since they seized the Afghan capital in a swift takeover that prompted a hasty flight from the nation’s Western-backed leaders, plunged the economy and fundamentally transformed the country .

Bearded Taliban fighters, some hoisting rifles or the white flags of their movement, made victory parades on foot, on bicycles and motorcycles through the streets of Kabul. A group marched past the former US embassy, ​​chanting “Long Live Islam” and “Death to America”.

A year after that dramatic day, much has changed in Afghanistan. Former insurgents struggle to govern and remain isolated internationally. The economic downturn has pushed millions more Afghans into poverty and even starvation as the flow of foreign aid slowed to a trickle. The UN’s humanitarian chief for Afghanistan has warned that unless donors come up with $2.6 billion very soon, the country will face “sheer catastrophe” next winter with millions of lives at risk game

Ramiz Alakbarov told a virtual press conference from Kabul that the UN’s $4.4 billion humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan this year has received only about $1.8 billion, leaving a gap of $2.6 billion in funding food and other desperately needed aid.

He said more than 90 million people in Afghanistan suffer from “food insecurity”, about 35 million live in poverty and 6.6 million are classified at the emergency level on the brink of starvation.

Alakbarov said he had just visited several hospitals and saw “heartbreaking scenes” of malnourished children who will not survive the winter without additional support.

Although the Afghan people are known for their resilience and ability to survive, he said, unfortunately “negative coping strategies,” including the sale of organs and the sale of children, will be seen again “if it is not provided support”.

A Taliban supporter holds a flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2022. (REUTERS/Ali Khara)

Meanwhile, hardliners appear to dominate the Taliban-led government, which has imposed severe restrictions on access to education and jobs for girls and women, despite initial promises to the contrary. A year later, teenage girls are still banned from school and women must cover head to toe in public, with only their eyes visible.

Some are trying to find ways to keep education from going out of steam for a generation of young women, and underground home schools have sprung up. Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, said in a statement that Afghan women should not be forgotten. “As the world faces multiple overlapping crises, we must not forget the women and girls of Afghanistan. When women and girls are denied their basic rights, we are all diminished,” she said.

A year ago, thousands of Afghans rushed to Kabul International Airport to flee the Taliban amid the chaotic withdrawal of the US military from Kabul after 20 years of war, America’s longest conflict. united

Some flights resumed relatively quickly after those chaotic days. On Monday, a handful of commercial flights were scheduled to land and take off from a runway that last summer saw Afghan men clinging to the wheels of planes taking off, some falling to their deaths.

Schoolyards were empty on Monday as the Taliban announced a public holiday to mark the day, which they refer to as the “Proud Day of August 15” and the “First Anniversary of Return to Power”.

“Trust in God and people’s support brought this great victory and freedom to the country,” wrote Abdul Wahid Rayan, head of the Taliban-run Bakhtar news agency. “Today, August 15, marks the victory of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan against the occupation of America and its allies in Afghanistan.”

During a meeting to mark the anniversary, Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi congratulated “the entire nation on the day of the conquest of Kabul, which was the beginning of the complete end of the occupation.”

In remarks broadcast live on state radio and television, he boasted of what he described as “great achievements” under the Taliban, including an alleged end to corruption, improved security and a ban on poppy cultivation. On the eve of the anniversary, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani defended what he said was a split-second decision to flee, saying he wanted to avoid the humiliation of surrendering to the insurgents. He told CNN that on the morning of August 15, 2021, with the Taliban at the gates of Kabul, he was the last person in the presidential palace after his guards were gone. Tomas Niklasson, the European Union’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said the bloc of nations remains committed to the Afghan people and to “stability, prosperity and sustainable peace in Afghanistan and the region.”

“This will require an inclusive political process with full, equal and meaningful participation of all Afghan men and women and respect for human rights.”

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