Afghanistan dispatches: ‘Winter is something I had never thought could be fatal living in the capital of a country.”
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Afghanistan dispatches: ‘Winter is something I had never thought could be fatal living in the capital of a country.”

JURIST EXCLUSIVE – Law students and lawyers 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.

Russia recently held talks with the Taliban in Moscow to address the future of the Afghan people, but let me tell you what “Moscow” means for us. In all the history books I have encountered, there are many times where a name of a city is followed by the word treaty, but if you go deep enough there is not once that it brought something good afterwards. Doha 2020 brought down an army and a nation where a superpower negotiated with her own prisoners, excluding the former government of Afghanistan. Before that, in 2001 the Bonn agreement legitimized the American invasion of Afghanistan. Before that was the so-called Friendship Treaty of 1978, where a different superpower legitimized its invasion. These sorts of treaties and agreements go back to the British conquest and beyond As a common citizen when I hear the name “Moscow talks” it strikes me with fear, a fear I know and my father knew before me, a fear that this will lead to more talks and then a deal because that is how these politics work and voila, we have a new oppressor.

Anyway, the Taliban have laid their web of lies and deceptions to seek influence and aid and have a political face rather a terroristic face at the United Nations Donor Conference that will prove vital to the future of a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban took the liberty to act political and lie about permitting girls to go to schools and universities and work and be included in their government. This all while girls and women aren’t allowed to study and work, and when it come to inclusivity, the Persian language [Dari] is omitted form any state owned website and is openly criticized by the Taliban on television channels.

This is all amidst the increasingly fast approaching humanitarian catastrophe as winter season is starting and while ISIS-K has gained a foothold in the country and have brutally murdered more than 300 souls. As the cold is increasing so is the displacements of various people from their home provinces by the Taliban; I assume it is for the purpose of making room for their own militias. In these past three days Kabul has seen less than an hour of electricity and in the past 60 days or so (since commerce effevtively stopped)  the price of gas and various sorts of food staples has tripled.

Kabul and northern parts of the country have a dry winter that cold cuts to one’s bone. It has become obvious that the Taliban have no control over their militias as there are many sorts of them who belong to a different war lord. Thus, with the help of these militias and their tribal network the smuggling of wood has increased and coal is inaccessible to many; which will end up very costly to the average citizen. The country had many people already living under dire poverty, but recent events have pushed many to brink of death. Many of whom are women and children, and children of war who have no one to watch over them or provide for them. Thousands of people lived only by day labor two months ago and I can say with certainty that labor and other daily professions took the first blow of the increasing collapse of the economy. In the last two months these people have survived on crumbs and by means of begging and some by crime. In Kabul winter brings more than hunger and cold, it also brings a degree of pollution and soot that sits on the skin if exposed to it long enough which as always will be deadly for many. The medical facilities of the city are nowhere near able to absorb the casualties of this bad environment. You might compare it to the 1950s Fog of London .

This winter will take more good lives than ever, but there seems to be no plan to deal with it, as food is running out, commerce hasn’t started back as everyone hoped it would, many government employees have not been paid for more than four months and gas and oil is increasingly scarce. Winter is something I had never thought could be fatal living in the capital of a country, and it brings one to wonder if we could be a case study of how modern hunter-gatherers would fare with cold. Something that not many can take time to address is mental health, especially in the younger generation as most of the population is under 25. Many have started having suicidal thoughts and depression. not surprisingly, is at its highest among the young. It is as though we have earned our name as the saddest city on earth.