Unease, fear, uncertainty, violation of fundamental rights and arbitrary arrests are some of the issues that are the protagonists of the chronicles that, in the last six months, have been published by the journalist Shikib Ahmad from Kabul. The journalist recalls August 15, 2021 with emotion, six months after the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. “Since the first day I witnessed the fear in everyone’s eyes”, reminds RTVE.es.
Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the Asian country has experienced more than 40 years of conflict and suffering. The population already knew the Islamist group that was ousted from power in 2001, after a military incursion led by the United States, but little by little it returned to gain strength throughout the territory. Six months ago the Taliban regime declared victory after the former Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, will leave the country and his government, sponsored by the international community, will collapse. Six months later, with voices inside and outside the country, we take stock of the deterioration in terms of rights and freedoms.
“For the regime, everyone who reports is a spy”
Thousands of desperate people flocked to the Kabul airport in mid-August to flee the regime. Ahmad decided to stay to tell and, six months later, he sees how his life hangs in the balance. He was one of nine journalists arrested on December 29 while covering a demonstration. “For the regime, everyone who reports is a spy”, clarifies. Reporters Without Borders estimates that, since August 15, 2021, at least 50 journalists and media workers have been detained by the police or the IstikhbaratTaliban intelligence.
On September 19, the regime broke down, in a meeting with the media, 11 rules of journalism that prohibit broadcasting or publishing stories that are “contrary to Islam”, “insult national figures” and determine the return to control of the news and prior censorship. Since then, Afghanistan has become an informational black hole in which the print media have become extinct and 70% of reporters have stopped working.
“We no longer have feelings, we are trapped in the narrative of fear, Every day I receive information about arrests of journalists.”, explains the 27-year-old. He wants to influence there are information professionals unaccounted for and that many work in secret. “The situation of the media and their professionals is catastrophic and it has worsened in the last two months, ”says Ahmad. The press faces new restrictions from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Repression of Vicein charge of ensuring respect for Sharia law in the public sphere and of enforcing the Koranic doctrine of “order the good and forbid the evil”. And women and journalists are evil”, interrupts Parvin Darwin.
Try to talk to RTVE.es in Spanish. He is in Valencia, he is 20 years old and just before completing his last year of journalism, the Taliban arrived and he had to leave. He belongs to the minority Hazara and studied at Kabul University. Everything Ahmad exposes confirms to him that he did the right thing by leaving his country. “My father passed away and it saddens me that I have not been able to take any memories of him with me. The memory of him and all the things that made me feel close to him stayed there. He now remembers the difficulties of an unplanned march: “It was all very rushed.”
On his mobile he shows photographs with her classmates from the faculty who now barely leave the house. Her university, for now, is not visited by women. She is very concerned about whether she will be able to fulfill her dream of becoming a journalist: “I wanted to be a great journalist in my country, but now I don’t know what will happen,” she says when trying to consider the future, while she assures that she is very focused on studying Spanish.
“I wanted to be a great journalist in my country, but now I don’t know what will happen“
In the Afghan scenario, Darwin’s dream is not contemplated. The arrests, according to RSF, usually occur when journalists cover women’s street demonstrations in the capital. Women in the media are required to wear the hijab. According to him Center for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists, 80% of women journalists have been unemployed since the Taliban came to power.
“Sometimes I wonder if I should have stayed,” Darwin wonders. “But they hate us women. The Taliban are not human,” he asserts. He hopes that the international community will not forget his people. Ahmad agrees and says that as a freelancer for international media he has noticed that the demand for information about his country has been gradually falling in recent months. “Every day I have more clear that there will be no future for someone like me and that I have to leave everything I studied and start as a day laborer,” he says with a serious voice. The two share the inability to imagine the future of their country.
If education is in danger, so is the future
The Taliban Ministry of Education announced the reopening of all colleges and high schools in March. “They have said that they will be able to study boys and girls in institutes and universities in the Afghan New Year,” he explains. Rahim A. She is 37 years old and was director of an institute until the return of the Islamist regime. She answers the call from RTVE.es from her house: “I have a lot of free time”he says in a weary voice, he’s been wanting to go back to his job all these months.
“We had doubts about whether the Taliban were going to allow girls to study, then they only left the little ones until primary school,” says Rahim. Now they announce that they are going to let women enter the classrooms imposing segregation by sex. “We are taking many steps back, they require female students to wear dark clothing that covers their entire body and they will have a different schedule than men.” Even so, she insists that it is a first step to guarantee the rights of girls.
“We are taking many steps back, they require students to wear dark clothing that covers their entire body“
Rahim goes every week to the Directorate of Education to ask about her job and complains that she is not allowed to enter because she is a woman. The Taliban want women to always be accompanied by a male relative.
“I feel guilt and sadness seeing that I can’t do anything. I see my people mistreated and humiliated”, assures the pioneer activist Palwasha Hassan, to RTVE.es, from the United States. She is the director of the Center Afghan Women’s Educational and laid the foundations for Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), a visionary women’s movement that has played a pivotal role in the fight for women’s rights for the last 20 years to date. The center had been operating for more than two decades and was built with the hands of many women and several generations: “They were going to kill me” he says justifying his departure.
From exile he is aware of all the steps they are taking in Afghanistan. “The setback and regression in education worries me a lot”, the Mint. She argues that without the right to education for women their future will be poorer and they will have to depend on men. “I believe that the most sacred rights for women are education, work and mobility,” she recalls. In addition, she denounces that the Taliban threaten taxi drivers transporting women who are not family members.
“We are not going to remain silent and we have to claim our rights”, Rahim says firmly. The demonstrations of women have been during these six months the symbol of resistance and opposition to the Taliban regime. “We have not hidden ourselves and we have defended our rights every day”repeats the teacher.
Segregated healthcare needs women
A drop count, but hope for women is making its way. Last Thursday the doctor malalai faizi She was appointed by the Taliban as the first woman to head a public institution: the maternity hospital in Kabul. A gesture that serves as encouragement to think about relaxation of the labor restrictions to which women are subjected.
In the field of health they are allowed to work due to their traditional patterns and female patients have to be cared for by female health personnel. The problem is that the demand is high and there are not that many nurses or doctors. Farid Ahmed DarwishHe is a doctor, he works for the World Health Organization to eradicate polio. He attends RTVE.es from Herat, celebrates Faizi’s appointment and explains that the health sector is facing “major problems due to the shortage of drugs and medical supplies”.
The Islamic Emirate has not covered the needs of health centers and international aid has decreased. In addition, he points out that the staff is not receiving their salary. There are organizations on the ground that distribute medicine kits, but it is still “insufficient compared to the number of people who need to be served.”
At the end of December, a UN resolution was voted on granting a humanitarian exemption that should facilitate an increased humanitarian response. Doctors Without Borders are very concerned about the famine: they testify that in places like Herat, malnutrition figures are excessively high.
“It is the lucky ones who reach us” assures the doctor Muhammad,who is in an MSF hospital in lashkar gah , where hundreds of mothers and children arrive after long journeys to receive care. Many suffer from worrying complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal problems.“During the conflict and the change of government, many people were unable to communicate with us because the journey was too dangerous,” explains Mohammed. “We work hard to be flexible, but we can only admit the sickest.” This is, he says, critical current reality.
“We work hard to be flexible, but we can only admit the sickest“
Javid J. is a doctor, he is in Germany right now and what he regrets the most is the flight of young talent that has taken place. “There is no trained staff and many of us have left,” he assures RTVE.es. He is a surgeon and is still connected to his land, he tries to maintain the breast cancer cure project from a distance. “Preventing cancer will no longer be a priority,” he adds.
“The conflict has not started now, we have spent many decades of uncertainties and being the scene of exchange of world powers ”, he denounces. They know who the Taliban are, but the Taliban don’t know that in the last 20 years the population has changed.
“We are not only afraid of the Taliban, but also of hunger,” says Ahmad. The United Nations estimates that more than 22 million people, that is, more than half of the population, need humanitarian aidto survive. In these six months the humanitarian catastrophe has been intensifying. The banking system is broken, cash availability remains a problem, especially when it comes to Afghan currency, and food and fuel prices have skyrocketed.
“No income, no freedom of expression, no security, no health or support”. With these words, the journalist Ahmed summarizes the current situation in Afghanistan that prevents his life from improving. Right now he only aspires to “live like a human being and feed my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter,” he confesses. Those who have stayed will continue to navigate between fear and uncertainty, while those who have left will have to be “speakers against oblivion”, says Darwin. Meanwhile, everyone is asking: “Why us?”