Taliban takeover: the basics
The 17th of August marks the day that the Taliban took over Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, and eclipsed the previously established government as President Afhraf Ghani fled to an unknown destination with four cars and a helicopter full of cash.
With the US’s recent moves to withdraw their effort of supporting Afghanistan, the Taliban has used the opportunity to take control of the major cities in a series of fast takeovers, the last being Kabul. Their first attack in this series was the 6th of August, and in under 10 days, they had reached the capital.
Australia has sent in military craft and men to rescue news reporters, allies, and even Australian families from Kabul airport amid the chaos.
So, what does this mean? Let’s get the facts.
Who are the Taliban?
From 1996 to 2001, they were the governing faction of Afghanistan before being beaten back by US-led forces. In their prime, the Taliban outlawed television, music, cinema, and girls over 10 attending a school for education. They also destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues, an unpopular move. These statues were giant carvings from the 5th century and represented the historical and cultural heritage of Afghanistan. It’s an archeological crime on a large scale and destroyed tourist revenue for the locals.
The Taliban refer to themselves as students in the Pashto language, and follow a strict Islamic religion; their goal is to administer their view on Sharia from a ruling position.
Sharia is Islamic law. It’s derived from the Quran, a religious text that conveys messages from Allah, God, through a prophet, and dictates daily life for Muslims. While Sharia is about ethics and spirituality, it also depicts punishments for certain crimes. Under Sharia, theft ends with decapitation of one or both of the offender’s hands, other crimes can be answered with public lashings and even public death sentences.
Over the last several years, the Taliban’s strategy has changed from elaborately attacking cities, to attacking targeted people.
Judges, activists, journalists, and women in power are victims of these political moves.
How does this affect the civilians of Afghanistan?
Citizens have been stripped of their weapons upon Taliban entry to Kabul, in what they say is an interest in creating and maintaining peace.
Several Afghanistan citizens have fallen to their deaths at Kabul airport since the Taliban has regained control as they clung to evacuating US military aircraft as they themselves are unable to flee. Mass hysteria in Kabul broke out immediately after the change in leadership, refugees are fleeing the country, and many countries are doing their best to retrieve all their citizens and allies with visas.
Every person in our generation has heard of Malala Yousafzai, the famous rights activist that pushed for girls to have the right to an education, and in 2012 survived a gunshot to the head by a Taliban gunman as she attended school and fought for her rights and those of her female classmates.
These are examples of past and present behaviour exhibited by the Taliban, that provide insight into how they operate, and how this might affect Afghanistan citizens. Especially women of all ages.
During their first period of ruling, the Taliban prohibited females in the workplace or receiving an education. Women were not allowed to use makeup and were forced into wearing Burkas, a veil that covers the face and body. Additionally, they were not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied for any reason. Any trip to the shops was to be under the supervision of a male family member.
There are rumours that this behaviour is beginning to repeat, women are being forced to change clothing and are being encouraged heavily not to return to universities or workplaces.
However, the Taliban’s speaking representative, Zabihullah Mujahid, answered some questions on the matter in a recent press conference; “We are going to allow women to work and study within our frameworks. Women are going to be very active within our society.” The world holds its breath to see how this statement pans out.
The topic of appropriate clothes under the new law was left unclear, and the framework is yet to be identified.
Due to the recent ban on COVID-19 vaccines enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan, experts are also worried about an increase of COVID-19 cases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated in a newsroom update on the 17th of August that they are “extremely concerned over the unfolding safety and humanitarian needs in the country, including the risk of disease outbreaks and rise in COVID-19 transmission.”
As someone who has taken the time to educate myself on the context of this new turn in Afghanistan’s history, I am deeply worried about the citizens of Afghanistan, particularly females. My heart goes out to the people trapped inside the country with a governing faction with total control, and those that managed to flee and now have to start again in a new country.
I’ll be the first to encourage you not to take my word or opinion as gospel. If you are interested in learning more, please feel encouraged to have a look at the following links. These are the articles I used to form my understanding, and I recommend them when looking to learn about these matters.
BBC News. (18th August, 2021). Afghanistan: How could Taliban rule affect women, girls and education? Retrieved (24/8/21): https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/58231537
Devraj, R. (20th August, 2021). Taliban ban on jabs may trigger COVID-19 spike. Sci Dev Net. Retrieved (24/8/21): https://www.scidev.net/global/news/taliban-ban-on-jabs-may-trigger-covid-19-spike/
Greene, A. Hitch, G. (18th August, 2021). Afghanistan rescue flight carrying Australians lands in UAE, with more Kabul evacuation missions planned. ABC News. Retrieved (24/8/21): https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-18/afghanistan-kabul-rescue-mission-carrying-australians-lands/100386652
Krauss, J. (2021). Taliban take over Afghanistan: What we know and what’s next. AP News. Retrieved (24/8/21): https://apnews.com/article/taliban-takeover-afghanistan-what-to-know-1a74c9cd866866f196c478aba21b60b6
WHO. (17th August, 2021). Health situation in Afghanistan. World Health Organisation. Retrieved (24/8/21): https://www.who.int/news-room/news-updates
BBC News. (19th August, 2021). Who are the Taliban? Retrieved (24/8/21): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11451718
BBC News. (20th August, 2021). What is Sharia law? Retrieved (24/8/21): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-27307249
Wikipedia. (Last edited: 21st August, 2021). Hudud. Retrieved (24/8/21): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudud
AFP. (9th March, 2021). Afghans recall Taliban’s destruction of famed Buddha statues. Bangkok Post. Retrieved (25/8/21): https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/2080691/afghans-recall-talibans-destruction-of-famed-buddha-statues