JURIST EXCLUSIVE – Law students in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. Here, a law student in Kabul offers his latest observations and perspective. For privacy and security reasons we are withholding his name and institutional affiliation. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
On Sunday 15 Aug, 2021, life stopped in Kabul. After the Taliban’s takeover of the country, normal life came to a halt and a state of fear filled the hearts of Afghans. After more than a week, Afghanistan is still in chaos. People are literally dying to get into the airport. Ones with every sort of legal documentation cannot get in.
There is little coverage of the ordinary people and what they are up to. Most of us feared a shortage of foods and supplies, and it’s gradually happening. The supermarkets and shops are running out of essential products and there is no supply to fill what has been already consumed. The banks are closed and I fear their insolvency is not far, as people are using their cash in hand. Since the start of the war months ago, people have not made deposits to banks and now they are waiting to cash out what they have in their accounts. Last week, when the rumors of Kabul being taken by the Taliban spread, people swarmed the banks to cash out but they were only able to get 12% for a hundred thousand AFs in their account, some say. Subsequently the banks had to close. The worst part is that there are no hopes of opening the banks. There is tremendous uncertainty among Afghanistan’s international financial partners, hence, there will not be the option of borrowing money. The fact is that the Taliban are totally against the traditional (western) form of banking, and will force banks to offer a Sharia Compliant mode of finance, which itself is very young and can’t really function on its own without the help of a traditional form of banking.
I took to the streets after days of staying at home. I had a brief conversation with a Taliban fighter. He told me that they get food once a day. He also added that in his own village he had small earnings which covered his and his family’s expenses, now they don’t even get food to live by. He also said he would have bailed out to go back to his family long ago, although he fears the punishment for fleeing from Jihad. That prompts the thought that the Taliban have no budget to even cover their own expenses, and have absolutely no idea how to implement the government’s budget plan. I fear things will start to go downward in a pretty ugly manner, given that essential products are running out, the banks are closed and there are no hopes of opening them. The Saray-e-Shahzada (biggest currency exchange market in the country) is still closed, and if it is opened Afghanistan currency will take an unprecedented dive against the USD and will inevitably need to close again.
The telecom companies have stopped printing credit cards and the value of the remaining cards in the market has increased tremendously. A credit card of 50 AFs is nearly doubled in price. I believe if these companies are not assured that they can offer service with full support of the state, communication and a simple call will turn to be a luxury that most of the population won’t be able to afford.
In the education sector, there is not a single person who has shown interest in opening the universities. This is truly depressing. The people in power are such puny and pathetic individuals – they cannot think of a way to keep the banks and large companies alive, but they’re very interested in keeping girls and boys in separate classes and will fume if a bit of their hair is out. The fact that the country is going to be bankrupt sooner than you think doesn’t bother them, but god forbid if you wear jeans.
Extremists have always despised law academics for being a force to be reckoned with, in the sense of relaxing Sharia law rules. In these last twenty years, the law faculties of Afghanistan have approached teaching law with a mixture of Sharia textbooks and modern doctrine drawn from other legal systems’ textbooks; law academics have always tried to find common ground with other legal systems and modernize the legal sector in the country. Now that an extremist group has sole discretion in the affairs of the country, the law faculties will be merged with Sharia faculty. This means that the preponderant part of the curriculum will be covered by Sharia professors and their textbooks. In other words they are trying to kill Law as a discipline and will only teach what they can understand. Hundreds of law students were trying to get scholarships for 2022; that is not likely to happen. Now, lawyers and law students have no incentive to work and to learn as there are no hopes of them being included in an extremist system that would see the law-educated students and academics as westernized, and even as infidels.
I feel resentful and in a state of despair watching everything we have worked for evaporate while there is nothing we can do about it. A friend of mine, a diplomacy student, told me that “at least we can teach what we have learned to our kids someday”. And maybe she’s right. Maybe we can teach them to watch the world from a wider perspective than a button hole. It is true, the Taliban can take what they will, but we will never forget there are places which aren’t made of stone, that there are things inside us which are ours that they can’t touch. They can enact absolutely ridiculous rules or wipe out our profession, but they cannot reach what we have learned and what we will pass on. And we will hope for better days.