The brutal reality of Taliban rule is coming to pass in Afghanistan as civilians are reportedly killed in the street, members of the resistance and former government are targeted in revenge killings and women are beaten for speaking out.
- The militant group is accused of killing civilians and forcing residents from their homes
- Women in Kabul say it is now too dangerous to protest against the Taliban
- Human Rights Watch says the Taliban are also targeting people associated with the former government
The Taliban have also ordered people from their homes to make way for their fighters and are accused of intimidating humanitarian workers trying to administer much-needed aid.
In Kabul, many women who protested against the oppressive rule of the militant group just two weeks ago say it has now become too dangerous to participate in demonstrations, with threats of death and capture gripping the city.
Two weeks after announcing their Cabinet, the Taliban are showing the people of Afghanistan “no mercy”.
Revenge attacks in Panjshir
The Taliban had promised there would be no revenge attacks, but in Panjshir province — the last pocket of Afghan resistance — there are reports of civilians being shot as they try to escape.
“Five times they attacked my family,” one young man from Panjshir told the ABC.
“My father [was] captured by them. Then he escaped to the mountains and came with us.
“My brother [was] injured. His leg … and two bullets fired on his foot.
“They said, ‘Why you escape to the mountains, you’re fighters, you’re armies.’ We told them we are not fighters. We are civilian peoples. We escaped from the war. We want to save my life … our lives, but they don’t listen.”
The young Panjshiri man told the ABC he saw three women dead at a gate on the province boundary.
“This was a very bad situation that I saw. They were on the street and someone came to carry the body of them,” he said.
“They escaped from the war. They were Panjshir people. They escaped from Panjshir and wanted to come [to] Kabul.
“I think maybe a lot of people watched this bad scenario.”
The young man said some of his relatives had been killed, including one man who was a farmer.
“He was a civilian person. He doesn’t fight. He was a farmer. When he get out from his house, they shoot him and then he [was] killed,” he said.
Panjshir was the last province to fall to the Taliban.
Resistance forces led by Ahmad Massoud held the province for more than two weeks after Kabul fell, but the Taliban eventually entered the valley and raised their flag over the governor’s office .
Panjshir has a long history of resistance and, before last week, it had never been under Taliban rule.
The province has been blockaded and critical supplies have been unable to reach residents. Many people have fled into the steep mountains where temperatures can drop to 0 degrees Celsius overnight.
“You can’t live in the mountains,” the young Panjshiri man said.
“I think that people will be killed by cold weather. There is no food to eat in the mountains.”
Another Panjshiri local told the ABC via Whatsapp that the Taliban had been stopping people to ask them about their associations with the resistance movement or Afghanistan’s previous government.
“The take the mobiles and check them. If they find a suspicious photo, they kill that person,” he said.
Human Rights Watch associate Asia director Patricia Gossman said the organisation had verified the Taliban carried out revenge killings as they swept across the country, but many of the reports out of Panjshir were still unconfirmed.
“We have documented reprisals — revenge killings and disappearances — in a number of provinces, largely targeting members of the former security forces and former government,” she said.
“In the Panjshir valley there are a lot of reports — unverified most of them — but we are particularly concerns about reports of Taliban looking for individuals associated with the former government or former security personnel.”
Hunted in Kabul
The young Panjshiri man speaking to the ABC said his family made the journey south to Kabul during a three-day ceasefire, but he feared he was not safe in the city either as the Taliban were reportedly hunting down people from the province.
“Now, they search for the people of Panjshir, young people especially, in Kabul city. They want to capture them and bring them to the jail,” he said.
“Some of my friends call me and send me messages to hide yourself.”
Ms Gossman said there was tacit approval from Taliban leadership.
“The Taliban authorities say there is no policy behind these attacks, but it is clear that commanders and fighters who have carried them out have a lot of autonomy in this area — as they always have had — and that these revenge punishments are condoned from the top,” she said.
Also in hiding are several women who were protesting against the strict Taliban rule just a few weeks ago.
Now, there are widespread death threats and many women in Kabul fear their families will be targeted if they participate in protests again.
One women’s rights activist who was involved in organising the protests said the Taliban were now looking for her.
“Taliban hit us and opened fire up in the air with AK-47 guns to scare us,” she said.
“They hit me with sticks, and other women, and detained us on the ground floor of the bank. It was a very painful experience for me. We were treated so violently and pushed to shut our mouth and sit at home.”
She has a master’s degree and has long fought for the right to education, but after more than a month of Taliban rule, she is struggling to see a way forward.
“I am very hopeless and disappointed. In this moment, I am crying,” she said.
‘Elimination of women’
Just as they promised to forgive those who fought against them, the Taliban publicly committed to respect women’s rights, with the condition that policies would be within the norms of Islamic law .
Girls have been excluded from study in Afghan schools and the ministry responsible for enforcing the Taliban’s strict Islamic laws has been moved into the building that used to house the ministry of women’s affairs.
When the Taliban announced their Cabinet, there was no mention of a minister for women.
Female employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home , with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men.
A female student living and studying in Kabul told the ABC the Taliban were “showing their real face”.
“For the last few days there is a fear and [it is] hard to convince people to go out to protest,” she said.
“When we go out, most of the women are at home [and] have fear to join us.”
Small and short protests have been held outside both the Ministry for Education and the former ministry for women’s affairs. Women carried signs saying: “Elimination of women equals elimination of human beings.”
The young student said she wanted nothing more than to continue her studies, but the Taliban’s promise to allow women to study under the condition they were segregated from men was an impossible situation.
“The male teachers are not allowed to teach women. Ninety-five per cent of our mentors were men,” she said.
Another young woman who is being hunted by the Taliban due to the nature of the work she did before they took over said it was now too dangerous to protest.
“I saw that the Taliban were filming us and could easily identify us,” she said.
“I rushed home, but some of my friends were arrested.”
The women said the Taliban fighters they observed during protests fired weapons into the air to break up groups of 10 to 15 people.
United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan representative Deborah Lyons told the UN Security Council staff were being targeted by Taliban fighters .
Ms Lyons said the mission was “increasingly worried by the growing number of incidents of harassment and intimidation against our national staff”.
“The UN cannot conduct its work — work that is so essential to the Afghan people — if its personnel are subjected to intimidation, fear for their lives, and cannot move freely,” she said.
Ms Lyons said: “We are also extremely disturbed at the increasing violence used against Afghans who are protesting Taliban rule.”
‘I have nowhere to go’
While protests in Kabul have been shut down, there have been demonstrations in the southern city of Kandahar over what residents are describing as forced evictions by the Taliban.
The militants have reportedly removed 3,000 people from their homes to make way for their own fighters.
A local journalist had permission to interview a woman at the protest, but as the situation escalated, he was still struck by a Taliban fighter.
The woman was highly distressed, saying she had nowhere else to live.
“Taliban came to our house in the evening and told [us] to vacate the house until morning and I have given five martyrs — losing five members of my family — in recent conflicts,” the woman said during the protest.
“All the families in this area built up their houses with the little hard-earned money they had and can’t afford to move. I have nowhere to go.”
Reports of the Taliban carrying out civilian killings and forced evictions, intimidating NGO staff and violating women’s rights are compounding an already desperate humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Across the country, more than 600,000 people have been displaced.
People in rural areas are facing food and water shortages as well as a crippling drought.
In the cities, inflation is pushing food prices up and Afghans are unable to easily access their money in the country’s banks.
Human Rights Watch, as well as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, have called on the UN Human Rights Council to “establish an independent mechanism to monitor human rights in Afghanistan” to document the human rights abuses.
“With no aid going into the country right now [and] the economy on the brink of collapse, this is going to have a very serious adverse impact on so many in Afghanistan who are already at the poverty line or below … who are now facing food shortages and a lack of access to cash, so across the board it is a human rights crisis,” Ms Gossman said.
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