Afghanistan dispatches: ‘Only time will tell if we stay subject when we’re hungry.’
ErikaWittlieb / Pixabay
Afghanistan dispatches: ‘Only time will tell if we stay subject when we’re hungry.’

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 perspective on recent Taliban abuses of power amidst a rapidly-deteriorating economic situation. For privacy and security reasons we are withholding the name and institutional affiliation of our correspondent. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.

In a city ruled by rapists and murderers, a knock at the door is heard. A young girl in her twenties—to judge by her appearance—opens the door and sees a number of Taliban carrying weapons. They ask for her brother, who was an officer of the Afghan National Army forces. But he’s not there. In his absence she’s dragged to the police precinct, where she’s asked for sexual intercourse, beaten and lashed. She says a Taliban officer tell the others to not let her go as she is a northernes. She later she posts her story in a video after barely avoiding being raped by several men; she shows her bruises while covering her face. The girl was lashed heavily, resulting in bloody cloths and bruises in the areas she can show to the camera. In the end she calls angrily for the leaders of the northern provinces and the politicians who fled with millions in cash to resist the Taliban.

Days later the girl is re-arrested by the Taliban, and then they post a video of a woman who is supposedly her, asking forgiveness and calling what she said scheme. The girl in the Taliban video says that she was beaten by her husband and she plotted whole story to serve as grounds for her to build an immigration case. But in the video posted by Taliban the girl is not the same girl who was beaten and battered. Even if it was her the girl was once beaten and nearly raped, and I don’t think anyone would risk that twice. In the first video she spoke as a person who has nothing to lose; hence, not a fear in the world, with a bravery not often seen since 15 August.But unforgivingly her courage to speak up was oppressed so hard that not a single loval media source dared to pursue her story. The very same story happens on daily basis, whether it’s Taliban extortion, public humiliation or beating.

When the sadists are not lashing young girls and having the time of their lives, they hold military parades on the streets of Kabul with American tanks and equipment, maybe to distract from the obvious failing of the economy. On the same note, ordinary people have started to suffocate under the pressure of inflation. Yesterday 1 USD equaled 98 AFS in the traditional exchange markets. After the takeover of Taliban 1 USD has been in 90s AFS with fluctuation to 91, 95 up to 98. The devaluation of domestic currency has brought down people’s purchasing power to nearly nothing at the low end of the country’s social hierarchy. When speaking of the “low end” one might think of a marginal number in a chart, but the low end in this country is more than 47.3% percent of the population who are under the poverty line and earn less than a dollar a day.

This number has actually increased significantly following recent events. Income has stopped for much of the population, and the middle class is shrinking down as more people run out of their savings. Following the inflation and devaluation of the Afghan currency against the US dollar, fuel has spiked and tripled in cost. Given that most of the food staples in Afghanistan are imports the price of gas is added to the increasing price of the food and medical care, which in turn drain any savings left in our pockets. For instance, a bottle of vegetable oil used to be below 1200 AFS while the price of dollar was 77 AFS. Now the same bottle is sold for 1800 to 1900 AFS. This inflation is happening while income in almost every household is little to nothing, which make is it unbearable to tens of millions of people. Which means a great number who earn less than a dollar a day (95 AFS) will earn so little that they cannot cover essential nourishment for survival, let alone heat and housing.

In Ghoor province, which is mainly a Hazara ethnic settlement, many suffering from heavy hunger and poverty have left their homes for the  Firoz Koh mountain side in hopes of being helped. Among them are children, women and elderly people who I’m afraid will not last long in extreme circumstances of cold and hunger. The cash-poor Taliban have already paid 69 employees of a school in Kandahar with wheat. And in Kabul after a simple protest of by employees of the governmental electricity company – Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat or DABS – the Taliban threatened full termination, even though they had received no salary for more than four months.

The short story Arabs and Jackals by Franz Kafka I believe describes this mess fittingly. In the story the jackals describe their long hatred against Arabs for a European traveler. The jackals describe them as unclean. When the Arabs hear the conversation they shoo the jackals away and then speaks of how they are quite fond of them, throwing them some meat. But when the jackals start eating the meat the Arab starts whipping them. After the traveler protests, the Arab says “We’ll leave them to their calling. Besides, it’s time to break camp. You’ve seen them. Wonderful creatures, aren’t they? And how they hate us.”

The Taliban and their followers have lost their voices yelling their hatred of the NATO and the Americans, but the very survival of their administration and millions of people in the country they now rule are now literally dependent on the meat the NATO countries and others throw. A Taliban once told me with a hideous pride that hungry people make better subjects. I’m not sure about that. Only time will tell if we stay subject when we’re hungry. Thinking back to the Kafka story while the Taliban sees the whole world as enemy while asking for meat nevertheless, surely someone on the other side of the world must think: “wonderful creatures aren’t they? And how they hate us”