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.
The Taliban claimed to have taken full control over the Panjshir valley in the last couple of days, yet the National Resistance Front (NRF) has also claimed it is still in Pansjhir and still fighting. The Taliban’s claim seems more plausible, given that the Taliban appear to have received personnel and air support from Pakistan and billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment courtesy of the current US administration. These seem to have especially decisive in the battle of 5th September, when foreign aircrafts and their well-trained military fought beside the Taliban, proving superior over Afghan resistance fighters fighting on their own.
Meanwhile in those parts of Panjshir—or all of it, since we don’t really know—in the hands of the Taliban, they have started systematic ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and forced displacement. People are forced to leave their homes and flee (mostly women and children). On the other hand, men and young people who are from Panjshir or northern provinces of the country—especially the regions who helped the resistance and revolted against the arbitrary regime—are being arrested by the Taliban in Kabul and Panjshir and are being transferred to unknown locations. Their whereabouts and condition remain unknown to the public and their families. To my understanding, these inhumane acts meet the criteria of Crimes Against Humanity under the Rome Statute art. 7, subsections a, e, h, i and k. But the international community is silent. I fear the time for action is running out and it may a tad late already.
The Taliban announced an interim administration on 7th September. The non-diversity and exclusivity of the interim administration have intensified anti-Taliban protests in the country. Thousands of men and women took to the streets and protested against the cabinet, which is an all-male and all Pashtun. Taliban are deeply rooted in tribalism and consider themselves superior to other religions, ethnic groups or other language speakers. This disregards the fact that Afghanistan is perhaps one of the most diverse countries of the region, with hundreds of minority groups and languages. Centralization of power in a specific tribe has angered many and I fear this will escalate into a civil war if not controlled fast enough. To control the situation the Taliban are oppressing the protests, beating reporters bloody and shooting civilians. Multiple people have been killed. Yesterday, 8th September the Taliban detained women who were in the protesting in Kabul and had some beaten with lashes.
The Taliban view women as merely a means for reproduction. The basic rights that the Taliban recognize for women are opposed to some undeniable and uninterpretable rulings of Islam, even though they have tried very hard to disregard them. For instance, the right to education is undeniable in Islam. The Taliban cannot deny this, so what they do is to assign unreasonably ridiculous rules before women can enjoy their right. Thus with regard to education Taliban believe in gender segregation, and have imposed strict rules on men and women on how to dress, and have literally raised walls to separate the students and have scheduled times for men and women to get out of university or to enter the class so they won’t face each other in hallways. Sami Hamid, a renowned Afghan author and poet, has written that “gender segregation is discrimination against humanity”. As regards to work there isn’t much to be said since the whole country is in a state of halt and no one is working, yet a Taliban politician has still said the women cannot do a man’s job and should not be working. They don’t believe that women are equal to men so it doesn’t make sense to recognize them as half of the society; in this context it is worth mentioning that in the last census 51% percent of the Afghan population were women and that percentage may actually be growing.
To end this dispatch on a general note, overall morale in Kabul has dropped significantly and a state of uncertainty and despair has taken over. I now understand when Nietzsche said if you know the “why” you’ll figure out the “how”. We have lost the meaning of “why” in our lives, and frankly who wouldn’t? In a place where freedom is just a worthless word, where your life’s every aspect is dictated and where a coward of a man lashes women in public and their leaders blame women for not staying at home, there is nothing you can do. Most of us are living only on our survival instincts, with no purpose driving us to thrive. The world is now focused on Afghanistan and watching, yet it has not stopped the Taliban from acting against the most basic human rights. I wonder what will happen when people stop watching? The thought brings me to despair in the face of an unkind future. This is our life now and it seems things will remain this way indefinitely.