The Taliban declared Monday a public holiday to celebrate the first anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan, a year marked by a sharp regression in women’s rights and a deep humanitarian crisis.
On August 15, 2021, Islamist fundamentalists seized the capital Kabul without a fight, following a lightning offensive across the country against routed government forces, thanks to the withdrawal of American and NATO troops. after 20 years of military intervention in the country.
“We have fulfilled the obligation of jihad and liberated our country,” said Niamatullah Hekmat, a Taliban fighter who entered Kabul that day, just hours after ousted President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
The chaotic withdrawal of foreign forces continued until August 31, with tens of thousands of civilians in panic rushing to the capital’s only airport to be evacuated out of the country, on any available flight.
Stunning images of crowds storming planes parked on the tarmac, climbing onto devices or clinging to a US military cargo plane taking off have marked the world.
Except this Monday declared a holiday, no official celebration has been announced so far to mark the anniversary, but state television indicated that it was broadcasting special programs, without further details.
A year later, the Taliban fighters express their joy to see their movement exercising power today, at a time when, for their part, the humanitarian aid agencies are alarmed to see half of the country’s 38 million inhabitants faced with extreme poverty.
“When we entered Kabul, and when the Americans left, these were moments of joy,” continues Niamatullah Hekmat, now a member of the special forces and suffering at the guard of the presidential palace.
But for ordinary Afghans, especially women, the return of the Taliban has only amplified the difficulties.
Very quickly and despite their initial promise, the new masters of the country largely returned to the ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam that had characterized their first passage to power between 1996 and 2001, severely restricting women’s rights.
– “Everything was taken from us” –
These are excluded from many public jobs and prohibited from traveling alone outside their city.
In March, the Islamists closed high schools and colleges for girls, just hours after their long-announced reopening.
And in early May, the Taliban’s supreme leader ordered women to wear full-face veils in public, preferably the burqa.
“Since the day they arrived, life has lost its meaning,” said Ogai Amail, a resident of Kabul. “Everything was taken from us, they even entered our personal space,” she continues.
On Saturday in Kabul, Taliban fighters violently dispersed with rifle butts and shots in the air about forty women who were demonstrating for the right to work and education.
If the Afghans have recognized a drop in violence with the end of the war since the Taliban came to power, many of them are hit hard by an acute economic and humanitarian crisis.
“People who come to our stores are complaining so much about the high prices that we shopkeepers are even starting to hate what we are doing,” said Noor Mohammad, a shopkeeper from Kandahar, in the south of the country, the historic cradle and center of power. Taliban.
For Islamist fighters, however, the joy of victory overshadows the current economic crisis.
“We may be poor, we may face difficulties, but the white flag of Islam will now fly high forever in Afghanistan,” said one of them, posted in a public park. from Kabul.