After 20 years away from power in Afghanistan, the Taliban returned to govern the Asian country, this time with the promise of a moderate administration, without the medieval practices it imposed when it was in charge, between 1996 and 2001. The group at the time was overthrown by the US, which occupied the territory in the wake of 9/11.
One of the main differences would be in the treatment given to the Afghan women. In the first period of the ruling Islamic fundamentalist faction, women could not work, study outside the home, or walk the streets alone. If an episode of adultery was confirmed, a wife could be stoned to death—punishments thus were justified as “belonging to sharia, Islamic law.”
Now, the Taliban promise that women and girls will have the right to study in schools and universities, albeit in separate classes from men. The extremist group’s promises of moderation, however, are viewed with suspicion, particularly by the West. The international press has already denounced violations of the faction even before the consolidation of a formal government in Kabul.
Among the repressions reported since the Taliban took control of the country on the 15th, are the killings of civilians who collaborated with US troops, persecution of critics, interference in the press and repression of women’s freedoms.
Folk singer murdered by Taliban
Last Friday (27) , Taliban members killed the folk singer Fawad Andarabi, known in the Andarabi Valley, located in the Panjhsir region, the last region in the country not yet controlled by the group.
Folk music is one of the main styles in Afghanistan, but the Taliban has already made it clear that they do not intend to release concerts and performances in public. After the artist’s death, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, said the murder would be investigated, but warned that “music is prohibited in Islam.”
“We hope we can persuade people not to do these things, instead of putting pressure on them,” he said, without giving details about Andarabi’s death. In the 1990s, the Taliban allowed religious singing but banned other types of music, seen as distractions from Islamic studies.
According to extremists, the songs could encourage impure behavior.
Former Afghan Interior Minister Masud Andarabi commented on the artist’s death in a Twitter post. “Taliban brutality continues. Today, they brutally killed the folk singer Fawad Andarabi, who was simply bringing joy to this valley and its people. As he sang here, ‘Our beautiful valley… The land of our ancestors…’ will not submit to the brutality of the Taliban.”
Relative of German vehicle journalist killed by group
On the 19th, four days after the Taliban retake Kabul, the German state-run Deutsche Welle news agency announced that the Afghan group had killed the relative of one of its journalists and wounded another while searching for the professional in his home.
According to DW, the journalist was not found, as he would be working in Germany — he did not have his name revealed, for security reasons. Other relatives managed to flee Afghanistan in time.
In addition, three other journalists from the vehicle had their homes raided by the faction, and several similar cases of harassment of journalists have been reported since the 15th.
“The Taliban’s murder of a close relative of one of our editors is inconceivably tragic and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families are in Afghanistan,” said Peter Limbourg, director general of DW.
Anchor presents newspaper surrounded by armed Taliban members
On the 27th, another scene on Afghan television opposed the image of moderation that the Taliban intends to convey to the West. At the time, armed members of the group appeared on the broadcast surrounding a newscast anchor.
The presenter was interviewing a member of the Taliban. In the broadcast video, shared by a BBC journalist on the 29th, he talks about the collapse of the government of former President Ashraf Ghani and says that, according to the leaders of the new Islamic emirate, the Afghan people should not be afraid.
The entire scene takes place as eight armed men surround the presenter. Until this Wednesday afternoon (1st), the video had already been seen by more than two million people.
Deaths occur during demonstration against Taliban
Several Afghans took advantage of the 19th, when the country’s independence from the British is celebrated, to protest against the Taliban. According to The New York Times, several people were killed in the city of Asadabad, where members of the group shot at protesters carrying the national flag.
Acts were also registered near the government palace in Kabul, with about 200 people. Protests were also violently suppressed shortly thereafter by the Taliban.
Hours earlier, extremists had already declared a curfew in Khost, a town near the Pakistani border, also due to demonstrations by people carrying the flag of Afghanistan.
In its military offensive, in all provinces that were dominated, the Taliban removed the black, red and green national flag and hoisted the black and white of the movement.
Oppressed and fearful women
Since the Taliban’s resumption of power, Afghans have avoided leaving their homes unaccompanied, even though there has not yet been an official statement listing restrictions on women’s freedom.
According to reports to the AFP news agency, when women decide to go out, they still wear the hijab, a veil that leaves their faces uncovered. In addition, universities and companies have not yet allowed the Afghan women to return, fearing Taliban retaliation. On the walls of Kabul, photos of the faces of women on the facades of beauty salons have been torn off or covered with paint.
Journalist Shabnam Dawran said in a video posted on social media that she was prevented from working at the Afghan state broadcaster RTA, where she worked for the past six years. She reported that her access to the newsroom was denied, while her male colleagues maintained their normal routine.
According to a study by Reporters Without Borders, less than 100 of the 700 women journalists in Kabul still work on private radio and TV stations since the Taliban took power on the 15th. The survey still shows that, in 2020, 510 women worked for eight of the largest media and press groups in Kabul; now only 76, 39 of whom are journalists.
More oppression against journalists
Also on Independence Day, while covering demonstrations in Kabul, Marcus Yam, a journalist and photographer for the Los Angeles Times in Afghanistan, was raped by armed Taliban soldiers. While covering the protests, he said, a member of the extremist group punched and knocked him down.
“I could see him holding his Kalashnikov more tightly and I was very scared. The man, who was tall, kept screaming,” he said, in an account published in the newspaper he works for.
After saying he was a foreigner and being understood by another Taliban member, who was also trying to contain the protests, the treatment changed: “He apologized, but not for beating us. [Yam estava com um outro jornalista estrangeiro] a bottle of cold water and a can of Monster Energy were brought in, a favorite of the American soldiers who controlled the city until a few days ago.”
On the 17th, two days after taking power, high-ranking Taliban members had held their first press conference, trying to show restraint and promising to respect women’s rights — within the “framework of Islam.”