- 16 Aug 21
Women, young girls, journalists, human rights advocates, and religious minorities are in particular danger as Taliban forces seize power in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Photo: City of Kabul.
On Sunday, August 15th, 20 years after they were removed from Afghanistan's government by a U.S.-led invasion, Taliban forces pushed into the country's capital of Kabul with little resistance from Afghan government forces – as America pulled the last of its military forces from the country.
Saturday saw Taliban militia fighters take the final standing government stronghold, Mazar-e-Sharif, and on Sunday they took the city of Jalalabad, which falls just east of Kabul.
Hours after Taliban forces advanced on Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Ghani was backed by the U.S. government when he was elected in 2014, and has served a term of seven years.
Posting on Facebook, Ghani said he faced a "hard choice", and ultimately decided to flee the country to avoid bloodshed. He signed his post off with "Long live Afghanistan".
The Taliban released a statement saying they had entered the capital of 6 million people, and were working to restore law and order.
Uncertainty, fear and chaos have swept the country, with Al Jazeera reporting that at least five people are dead as thousands attempt to flee the country and the Taliban's strict interpretation of Shari'a law. The United Nations Security Council are due to have a meeting later today (Monday, August 16) in order to discuss the events unfolding in Afghanistan.
This may come as little comfort to women, ethnic and religious minorities and young girls currently on the ground in Kabul. In an article published in The Guardian today, female journalists described how they feared persecution for pursuing careers and attempting to uplift the voices of Afghan women. When the Taliban ruled from 1996-2001 in Afghanistan, women were not permitted to work, and severe punishments, including hangings, whippings and stonings, were administered.
“For many years, I worked as a journalist … to raise the voice of Afghans, especially Afghan women, but now our identity is being destroyed and nothing has been done by us to deserve this,” a woman named Aaisha said on Monday. (Her name has been altered to protect her identity).
“In the last 24 hours, our lives have changed and we have been confined to our homes, and death threatens us at every moment. We see silence filled with fear of the Taliban around us.”
Yet another opinion piece from an anonymous female University student in Kabul tells of the fear, and the reactions from men on her campus – who made fun of the women fleeing their dormitories.
"Now it looks like I have to burn everything I achieved in 24 years of my life," she says. "Having any ID card or awards from the American University is risky now; even if we keep them, we are not able to use them. There are no jobs for us in Afghanistan.
"When the provinces collapsed one after another, I was thinking of my beautiful girlish dreams. My sisters and I could not sleep all night, remembering the stories my mother used to tell us about the Taliban era and the way they treated women."
We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates. Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians.
— Malala (@Malala) August 15, 2021
The situation in Afghanistan has seen outcries from governments and media organisations across the Western part of the world. Among them, the Australian journalist's union – who urged the Australian government to protect Afghan colleagues by including members of the media in humanitarian visa offerings.
Irish minister for foreign affairs Simon Coveney described the events over the last week as a "catastrophic foreign policy failure," and earlier today assured the Irish public that they have been in contact with each of the 23 Irish citizens currently in Afghanistan. Additionally, he confirmed Ireland has already agreed to take 45 refugees and waive their visas. It has also been agreed that Ireland will take another 100 to 150.
“We will prioritise of course people working with human rights organisations, with the media there, women and girls in particular," Coveney said.
“We may in the coming days have to do a whole lot more than that,” he said, adding that if Ireland takes more refugees it must have places to accommodate them."
Amnesty International Ireland’s Executive Director Colm O’Gorman welcomed the Irish government’s statement this morning, saying:
“The Irish government’s commitment to take an additional 100-150 refugees from Afghanistan, and their recognition that much more will need to be done, is welcome. Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian catastrophe, and Ireland and the rest of the international community must do everything possible to protect its population.
“We also welcome the convening of the UN Security Council today. As Afghanistan’s people face up to a stark new reality, the Security Council must also adopt an emergency resolution calling on the Taliban – who now effectively control the country – to respect international human rights law, protect civilians, and end reprisal attacks, as negotiations on transitional arrangements continue.”
“What we are witnessing in Afghanistan is a tragedy that should have been foreseen and averted," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's Secretary General. "It will only be compounded further without swift and decisive action from the international community. Thousands of Afghans at serious risk of Taliban reprisals – from academics and journalists to civil society activists and women human rights defenders – are in danger of being abandoned to a deeply uncertain future.
“Foreign governments must take every necessary measure to ensure the safe passage out of Afghanistan for all those at risk of being targeted by the Taliban," she continued. "This includes expediting visas, delivering support for evacuations from Kabul airport, providing relocation and resettlement, and suspending all deportations and forced returns. We urge the United States to provide continued security at the airport while evacuations are ongoing."
This is an ongoing story.
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