KIANA KARIMI WRITES – “Who lives, who dies, who tells your stories?” The refrain from the American Musical Hamilton encapsulates the fears of Afghans as the Taliban once again usurped power. A crescendo of terror stupefied all as the Taliban quickly bludgeoned their way to Kabul following the withdrawal of American troops. The despotic terrorist group once again reigns supreme.
The crisis is worsening by the hour as the Taliban blocked the airport to prevent Afghans, Americans, and US residents from leaving, negating their previous claims of allowing “safe passage” to the airport. Thousands of Afghans who worked with and helped American forces are now lost in the midst of chaos and hold onto little hope to escape. Nevertheless, as of a day ago, President Biden announced that troops may stay past the August 31st deadline as his team will “determine at the time who is left” and that “if there’s American citizens left we will stay and get them all out.”
After two decades of spending over a trillion dollars, attempting to end the “War on Terror” and peacebuilding was all lost in a matter of 11 days. Lasting for four presidential administrations, the arduous, messy conflict concluded the way it started, under Taliban rule. To give a quick summary, the U.S. ventured to Afghanistan to fight a war and prevent further terrorist groups from cultivating in the terrorist hotspot.
Many question the timing of the U.S.’s withdrawal and criticize President Biden’s course of action. However, it is essential to note that the withdrawal was not partisan, as former President Trump strived for a full withdrawal of troops. A costly twenty-year war was far too long, but was there ever a right time to exit Afghanistan? No. Would Afghans have faced the same fate if the U.S. were to withdraw in the future or long before? We don’t know. Focusing on the past or the “could have, should have, would haves” is inefficient and derails from the main focus, the plight of Afghans. We must put philosophical debates and scathing remarks aside and focus on the rapidly growing issues at hand, such as the looming humanitarian crises that befall the terror-stricken nation.
Barricading themselves in their houses, women and young girls fear the state of their nation as history is bound to repeat itself, Afghanistan International reports. The Taliban claimed that they would protect women’s rights under Shari’a law, and that they are a different, more moderate Taliban. However, the past treatment of women does not look too kindly to the Taliban’s interpretation of Shari’a law. In addition, the Taliban spokesperson kept talking in conditionals with regards to women’s rights. Take this for example, “women would be allowed to work and study and “will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam.”
What is their perspective and interpretation of Shari’a law? In their attempts to be recognized as a legitimate government entity, will they try to respect women’s rights and gain a minute form of respect from world powers? As burqa, a dark garment covering the body and face, prices skyrocketed shortly after the fall of Kabul; that was the first hint.
Is their distorted notion of protecting women’s rights murdering two female Afghan Supreme court judges? It’s not a coincidence that women in positions of power are targeted as the murderers send out a message to all women that a storm of suppression will engulf, cloud, and muzzle their voices.
Zarifa Ghafari, one of the first and youngest female mayors in Afghanistan, awaits her turn for slaughter as she stated, “I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one to help me or my family. I’m just sitting with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me.”
Her worries are not unsubstantiated.
The Taliban’s facade quickly crumbled as they went back into their old habits of terror, destruction, and oppression. Female Bank Tellers were sent home by the Taliban, the police evacuated female university students, and the scariest of all female students were denied public transport as drivers were scared to be seen with a woman in public.
In fact, there’s pictorial evidence that the Taliban violated their blanket amnesty and started beating women and children near the airport.
The only progressive action the so-called “new, reformed” Taliban took is obtaining a twitter handle.
The oppression of women is ever so clear, and there is an even bigger humanitarian issue that is barely being reported—the forgotten faces of every war, children. As the spotlight is on Kabul, the plight of children and women in other regions are overlooked. During the Taliban’s trek to Kabul, over 27 children died and 136 injured in the regions of Kandahar, Khost, and Pakha. Some got caught in the crossfire (e.g. rocket attacks), were tortured by the Taliban, and some just ran away from their homes. A total of 250,000 in which 80% are women and children according to the L’Agence des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés.
In a couple of months leading up to the U.S.’s full withdrawal, attacks against women and children kept rising. Around 172 schools were destroyed. For instance, outside a secondary school in Kabul, approximately 60 schoolchildren (primarily girls) were killed by bombings. No one claimed responsibility for the bombings. Nevertheless, the majority believe the Taliban is the culpable party. Using Shari’a law as a marginalization mechanism, they bar young women from an education starting from ten years old as educating young girls is “sinful.”
In other districts, senseless killings occur. In the Malistan District, the Taliban attacked Mahdi, a young man who only desired to save his parents. “I told them my father is ill and I want to take him to the doctor… They beat me without any reason and hit me with the butt end of their rifle…” In the city of Taluquan, the Taliban killed and seized children in the crossfire. Children throughout rural cities are suffering severe mental illness due to the rising attacks by the Taliban. “ Hospitals in Patika reported the admission of children who went through mental illness” after observing bloodshed.
Boys and girls across Afghanistan fled their homes out of the fear the Taliban would take them. The Taliban has a history of recruiting boys for their army and girls as either wives for their soldiers or sex slaves. Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai a retired police chief says, « Les talibans envoient des garçons, de beaux garçons, infiltrer les barrages de police pour ensuite empoisonner ou tuer les agents. » “The Taliban sends boys, handsome boys, to infiltrate police checkpoints and then poison or kill the officers.” For young girls, darker tales lie ahead as the Taliban regularly traffick young girls as it’s seen as a local custom and not a crime.
As the media only focuses on adults in Kabul, who will tell the stories of these young adults and children? How will their faces not disappear in the debris of war? Journalists should focus beyond the capital; other regions that don’t have accessibility to technology may be suffering a worse fate than we could ever know.
Recent videos outside of the Kabul airport show adults passing children over the gates to ensure their freedom. However, one government entity announced they will not be evacuating unaccompanied children. The U.K. Defense Secretary stated that they will accommodate families but not children.
Will other NATO countries follow suit of their decision? French President Macron took a stance and said that France and its allies need to prepare for an irregular migration. What will be the humanitarian responses of Western Countries? More importantly, after media coverage slowly dies down, will justice be served for young Afghans or will they just become another victim of media hype? Or will they be reduced to another hashtag?