After ex-President Ashraf Ghani fled the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban* occupied the abandoned presidential palace and declared victory. By the end of the day, the Afghan insurgents had gained full control of the city. What’s it like to live under the Taliban?
On Monday, Kabul woke up under Taliban* control: the insurgents have been deployed in different parts of the city. Having seized state television, the militants called upon Afghan civilians on air to stay calm.
Kabul Trying to Return to Normal
“Today is the first day that the Taliban rule the country”, says a Kabul resident named Walid**. “At first, people could not understand what was happening, everyone was shocked”.
The man noted that the Taliban had promised on air and on social networks to ensure the safety of people and protect banks and other institutions. After meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, the insurgents announced that doctors, teachers, and other employees could return to their work, the Kabul resident notes.
”Now people are returning to work, cars are running in the streets”, says Walid. “People are trying to live a normal life. So far, [the Taliban] have fulfilled everything that they promised”.
At the same time, however, 95 percent of small shops and supermarkets remain closed, complains another Kabul resident, Fahim**. Schools, banks, government agencies are generally closed, according to him. He also highlights that women, children, and youth stay at home.
“We were advised to stay at home for 2-3 days”, notes Fatima**, a Russian citizen who lives in Kabul. “The husband doesn’t go anywhere. Everyone is afraid. Markets, most shops [are] closed. Institutes, schools – everything is closed. I’m afraid to go to the city. The Internet works, but they say that they want to turn it off. Light works intermittently”.
Earlier, Abdullah Abdullah, the former head of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), advised Kabul residents to stay at home for two or three days, according to Fatima.
په کابل ښار کې د تېرې ورځې په پرتله امنیت ډاډمن دی.
د سوق اداره فعاله شوې او د حوزو تر منځ د رابطې تر تامینېدو وروسته امنیتي ننګونو ته چټک غبرګون ښودل کېږي.
د تېرې ورځې په پرتله ښار کې ګڼه ګوڼه زیاته ده؛ خو ځیني حوزو کې لا هم امنیتي ننګونې شته. pic.twitter.com/vdVElCsAh6
— nunn.asia (@nunnasia) August 16, 2021
All over the country, people are scrambling to withdraw money from their bank accounts, forming queues near local banks. Afghan Film CEO Sahra Karimi posted a tweet yesterday saying that she was also unable to receive money. According to Kabul residents, Da Afghanistan Bank is due to start working again tomorrow.
Most television channels have moderated their broadcasting.
Most channels have taken their female anchors off the screen.
No music has been played in most channels since this morning.
Media is going toward Talibanization.
— Mustafa 47 (@CombatJourno) August 16, 2021
Meanwhile, Afghan journalists report on Twitter that following the Taliban takeover, most television channels changed their agenda and removed women journalists from their screens. Afghan 24-hour television channel Tolo broadcasts its usual programmes and series, but fewer news reports, while the state channel Melli airs readings of the Koran, according to Kabul residents.
‘People Are Afraid’
Although the situation remains relatively calm and security seems to be provided across the city, there have been instances when some Taliban fighters hit people and broke into their houses, notes Walid.
“While the Taliban say that these people aren’t their members, they go with them”, the Kabul citizen remarks. “This behaviour worries the people. The Taliban treats people differently in every district”.
An Afghan scientist, who previously defended his dissertation in Turkey, and currently works in Kabul, is also anxious about the unfolding developments.
”Now we are sitting at home and cannot go out into the street, because there are Taliban fighters everywhere”, he says. “We’ve learned that they are raiding the homes of those who used to work in the civil service. Therefore, we are alarmed. I’ve heard that militants are now conducting searches in homes of generals and officers of the Afghan Army. Those who are found are taken to prison. People say that after that [the Taliban] will go after journalists and scientists”.
On Sunday, thousands of Afghans, including those who aided the US military and human rights activists, rushed to Kabul Airport trying to flee the Taliban advance. The situation escalated on the morning of 16 August, when the US military reportedly fired shots as Afghans were hindering the evacuation.
Shocking footage of panic at Kabul Airport is being circulated on social media networks. Some videos allegedly show desperate Afghans clinging to landing gear of US Air Force aircraft and then falling and crashing to death as the jet takes off. According to some estimates, the unfolding havoc has claimed the lives of at least five people.
”There was a lot of fake news [on Sunday], and people ran to the [Kabul] airport”, recalls Walid. “We heard that planes would carry 20,000 passengers to Canada. People left their families and rushed to the airport without luggage and documents. It’s still a mess there”.
According to Fahim, there are roughly 2,000 people, including men, women, and children, at the Karzai Airport.
“They want to leave”, he says. “Nobody took them away, several people were killed. Canada previously stated that it would evacuate 20,000 Afghans, so [the people] went to the airport hoping that they would be taken away”.
The Afghan scientist is also seeking the opportunity to leave the country. He highlights that time is running out and he and his two counterparts will not be able to hide in the house for long.
“[Taliban] militants stop people in the streets and ask for their IDs”, the academic notes. “They are looking for civil servants; they have a list of officials who have worked for the Afghan authorities. They are well aware of this information”.
The scientist calls upon Turkey to follow the US and UK’s suit and evacuate those who got education in their countries or aided them in Afghanistan: “We ask Turkey to ensure our safety and take us out [of here]. After this chaos subsides, we want to return to our country again”, he says.
US President Joe Biden has yet to comment on the chaotic evacuation of the US Embassy staff from Kabul and the Taliban takeover. The White House spokesperson remains silent too. It was reported on Monday that emails from Fox News to Jen Psaki were returned with an automatic reply, stating that she would not be available for the next week. “I will be out of the office from August 15th-August 22nd”, the autoreply said.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.
**Names are changed for security reasons.