Behind the scenes

What daily life is like in Afghanistan now

Banks are closed, unemployment has ‘spiked visibly’ and working women have been told to stay at home

Since the Taliban toppled the Afghan government in just a matter of days, most reporting has centred on the urgent evacuation of foreign citizens and at-risk Afghans via Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Time is running out to safely resettle Afghan allies, partners and those who may be targeted by the world’s deadliest terror group, with less than one week left before the US is set to finalise its withdrawal from the country, meaning an end to safe evacuations from Kabul airport.

But while the main focus has been on the evacuation operation, there remain millions of Afghans with no hope of escaping. So what is the situation like for those who are now looking at life under the Taliban, following two decades of US-backed rule?

Access to services

On 24 August, nine days after Kabul fell to the Taliban, government services remained “largely unavailable”, reported The New York Times. Banks are closed which has led to people “running out of cash” but unable to borrow money because everyone is facing the same issue.

Inflation is also impacting people’s lives: according to one journalist on the ground, “the price of five litres of cooking oil has surged to 1,200 afghanis (£10.50), from 500 afghanis (£4.23) before”. However, the borders being closed means that some fruit and vegetables are now “cheaper than before”.

Petrol is scarce and unemployment has “spiked visibly” across Kabul. One civil servant told the paper that the capital is “facing a deep poverty crisis”.

Overwhelming inequality

Despite the Taliban claiming that they would recognise women’s rights, including access to education and employment, women in Afghanistan are already seeing their freedom curtailed.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that working women in Afghanistan must stay at home until proper systems are in place to ensure their safety. “It's a very temporary procedure,” he claimed. “Our security forces are not trained [in] how to deal with women… Until we have full security in place… we ask women to stay home”.

Writing for The Guardian, an unnamed reporter in Kabul described the streets as being “almost entirely devoid of women” with the few present “wearing the traditional blue burqa” which wasn’t widely worn in Kabul “until now”. All the women the reporter saw were “accompanied by a male guardian – a requirement that the Taliban has imposed on women across the country”. 

The reporter remarked on the absence of law or security officials, from police officers to traffic authorities, “who once provided a semblance of order”. They spoke to a resident who said he witnessed “the Taliban driving police cars against the traffic in the middle of the road at high speed”.

Palpable fear

“Everyone is terrified,” said one man in Afghanistan, using the pseudonym of Aziz to protect his safety. “Women are scared of being shut in their homes en masse… interpreters are worried about reprisal killings for helping the West; LGBT people know they could be murdered for their sexuality”. 

Aziz, who is gay, told the i newspaper that he is “100% sure I’m going to die”. Even before the Taliban took control, homosexuality was already an imprisonable offence in Afghanistan, explained the paper, but under the terrorist group the official punishment is either “death by stoning or ‘wall-toppling’ – being buried under rubble”.

Quashing dissent

On Tuesday, Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, announced that she had received credible reports of “summary executions” carried out by the Taliban of civilians and Afghan security forces who had surrendered, Sky News reported. Summary executions occur when a person is immediately killed without a fair trial after being accused of a crime.

Bachelet also cited reports of the recruitment of child soldiers and the repression of peaceful protests and expressions of dissent.

In a joint statement, a group of United Nations human rights experts said many people were in hiding as “the Taliban continues to search homes door to door” and property seizures and reprisals were being reported, said Reuters

Signs of normality

Amid the often violent chaos, there have been “signs of the hum of daily life” in Afghanistan, reported The New York Times at the weekend. Somewhat incongruously, the Afghan national cricket team have continued training for a three-match series against Pakistan that is scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka next month.

According to The Times of India on Friday, Hamid Shinwari, the chief executive of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, is still planning to send the team to Sri Lanka “once the flight operations are resumed”. He added that the atmosphere in the camp was “very spirited”.

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