Taliban 'beat and whip' crowds as regime tightens grip on Afghanistan

18 August 2021, 15:35 | Updated: 19 August 2021, 00:41

The Taliban have been accused of carrying out beatings and acts against women despite their publicity drive
The Taliban have been accused of carrying out beatings and acts against women despite their publicity drive. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Reports of Taliban abuses, including beatings, whippings and the treatment of women, have emerged from Afghanistan despite the group's publicity drive.

Fears that the new regime, which swept to power after the Afghan army crumbled, would impose a strict form of sharia law and launch reprisals against people who helped the international and government forces have grown since the fall of Kabul.

The group has launched a PR blitz, including a press conference in which officials took questions, and it claimed it would not take revenge and women's rights would be respected under Islamic law.

But reports have emerged of people being beaten at Kabul airport and women having to leave their jobs. Footage shows girls screaming for them to be saved from the Taliban.

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Al Jazeera reports at least three people have been killed and a dozen more were wounded in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Footage purportedly from the city appears to show gunshots as a crowd carries a large flag of the former Afghan government.

It came after a number of residents there resisted the replacement of the Afghan republic flag with the Taliban's banner.

The Associated Press said journalists covering the incident were beaten.

Members of the Taliban had reportedly fired their weapons at crowds around Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, where a major evacuation of foreigners and Afghan refugees is under way.

The LA Times' reporter Marcus Yam said half a dozen were wounded after the Taliban used "gunfire, whips, stick and sharp objects" on the crowd of people trying to flee their rule.

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US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said: "There have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten.

"We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days."

Johnny Mercer, Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View and a former British Army officer, tweeted that the Taliban were going door to door looking for Afghan special forces from the previous government's security units.

Meanwhile, CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward said she saw a Taliban member near the airport with a makeshift whip made from a bicycle lock, using it against people in his way.

Previously, in July, the Taliban reportedly forced women out of their jobs at a bank when they captured the key southern city of Kandahar.

The Taliban has insisted it is not the same group as two decades ago but that has been treated with scepticism in many quarters.

Under their regime – deposed in 2001, when the US and Afghan militias overthrew them for sheltering Al Qaeda in the wake of the September 11 attacks – women could reportedly be beaten for showing even a small amount of skin.

"Women and girls continued to face gender-based discrimination and violence throughout Afghanistan, especially in areas under Taliban control, where their rights were violated with impunity and violent "punishments" were meted out for perceived transgressions of the armed group's interpretation of Islamic law," Amnesty International said in a look at the country's human rights situation in 2020.

In the UK, the head of the British military, General Sir Nick Carter, said the Taliban needed space to "demonstrate" if they would carry out the "inclusive" government the group had pledged.

He said they had been generalised as "bad guys" but said the situation was not as straight forward as that.