'Several killed' as Afghans protest Taliban rule on Independence Day

19 August 2021, 19:47

Several people have reportedly been killed amid disturbances in Afghanistan
Several people have reportedly been killed amid disturbances in Afghanistan. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

Several people were reportedly killed as Afghan protesters waved their national flag in a symbol of defiance against the Taliban on the country's Independence Day.

Lines of cars drove through the capital Kabul with banners of red, green and black attached, while demonstrations also took place in Nangarhar, Khost and Kunar province.

The Taliban quickly and violently suppressed the protests and in the city of Asadabad, according to reports, and several people were said to have been killed after waving the tricolour flag.

It comes amid the group's efforts to consolidate their hold on power in the central Asian nation.

Afghanistan’s Independence Day comes just days after the militant organisation assumed power and commemorates the 1919 treaty that ended British rule there.

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The Taliban said: "Fortunately, today we are celebrating the anniversary of independence from Britain".

"We at the same time as a result of our jihadi resistance forced another arrogant of power of the world, the United States, to fail and retreat from our holy territory of Afghanistan."

The Taliban made lightning advances over just a few days last week, resulting in them controlling almost the whole of the country except for Kabul airport by 15 August. On the same day, the Taliban declared victory and a new "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan".

The group has so far given no insight into the government it plans to lead, other than to say it will be guided by Sharia, or Islamic, law. They claim that they are a different group to the one of 2001 and that women’s rights will be respected within Islamic law.

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However, the violent response to the protests calls this into question, and reports are already surfacing of women being forced to leave their jobs, and Taliban militants marking the doors of outspoken women. 

As the world waits for the Taliban to clarify their plans for the country, small pockets of resistance were already emerging prior to Independence Day.

Political opposition figures have fled to Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley and are now talking of launching an armed resistance under the banner of the Northern Alliance, which allied with the US during the 2001 invasion which ultimately saw the toppling of the Taliban regime.

The Panjshir Valley is now the only province that has not fallen to the group.

Those gathering include members of the deposed government - vice president Amrullah Saleh, who has written on Twitter that he is the country's rightful president, and defence minister General Bismillah Mohammadi - as well as Ahmad Massoud, the son of the killed Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud.

There were also reports of resistance elsewhere, including a protest by several women who stood with anti-Taliban signs in the country’s capital, Kabul. They were soon surrounded by Taliban militants with guns, the video of which went viral on social media. 

Even more ominous was the Taliban’s violent suppression of a protest on 18 August in the eastern city of Jalalabad, which saw demonstrations lower the Taliban's flag and replace it with Afghanistan's tricolour.

During the violence in Jalalabad, at least one person was killed and seven injured after the Taliban opened fire upon the crowd.

Images on social media show Afghan citizens around the country holding the tricolour flag in resistance to Taliban forces.

The Taliban have also opened fire upon crowds at Kabul Airport who are desperate to leave the country to escape Taliban rule, despite saying that they didn't "want to hurt anybody". Since 15 August, at least 12 people have been killed there.

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Although the former government of Afghanistan has collapsed, countries around the world are yet to decide on their stance towards the Taliban, and the speed of the transition of power has left the country’s government frozen.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s 38 million people face not only fear of the future under Taliban rule, but also food crises and a lack of cash, as ATMs stop giving out money.

Afghanistan's Central Bank has warned that they have "close to zero" physical US dollars, which is likely to cause inflation.
Against the backdrop of a serious drought that has seen more than 40% of the country's crop lost, Afghanistan is facing major problems.

The head of the World Food Programme in Afghanistan, Mary Ellen McGroaty, warns: "A humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes." 

"This is really Afghanistan's hour of greatest need, and we urge the international community to stand by the Afghan people at this time".

One grocery shop owner in western Kabul described Taliban fighters seizing government cars and setting up checkpoints to search vehicles, as well as searching properties and shops.