Taliban militants in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, are reportedly intensifying their hunt for Afghans who helped US, UK and NATO forces, threatening to harm their families unless they reveal themselves.
In a press conference earlier this week, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the group sought no “revenge” against its opponents and all of them would be “forgiven”.
“We assure you that nobody will go to their doors to ask why they helped,” he said.
Needless to say that assurance was met with scepticism, particularly as there were already reports of the Taliban hunting down Afghans who helped the western powers.
Now an internal United Nations document which directly contradicts the Taliban’s rhetoric has been leaked to The New York Times.
The document in question, dated August 18, was prepared by the Norwegian Centre for Global Awareness, which provides intelligence information to UN agencies.
It says the Taliban has been going door-to-door and “arresting and/or threatening to kill or arrest family members of target individuals unless they surrender themselves”.
The “target individuals” tend to be people who aided the US, UK and NATO, or who worked for the Afghan government.
According to The Times, the document says members of the Afghan military and police are “particularly at risk”, as well as those who worked in the Afghan government’s investigative units.
As an example, the report contains a letter dated August 16 from the Taliban to a counter-terrorism official who had worked with both US and UK officials. The unnamed individual has gone into hiding.
The letter told this person to report to the Military and Intelligence Commission in Kabul, warning their family members would be “treated based on sharia law”.
Meanwhile, the UK Telegraph reports that Taliban militants have also been searching the crowds outside Kabul International Airport, where thousands of people are still trying to flee the country.
The newspaper spoke to one former counterrorism official who is in hiding with his nine-month-old child. His house has been searched repeatedly.
Another high ranking member of the fallen Afghan government, also in hiding, said his home had been searched 15 times in the past 72 hours.
The UN’s Human Rights Council is set to hold a special session in Geneva, Switzerland next week to address “serious human rights concerns” in the wake of the Taliban’s conquest.
At the group’s press conference in Kabul, Mujahed claimed “security and peace” was its top priority and it wanted the world to “trust us”.
“We hold no grudges against anyone,” Mujahed said.
He also insisted women would be respected under Taliban rule, but used vague language, saying they would be expected to comply with “Islamic law”.
“It is their basic right to have access to education and access to work, that is maintained, they can have those rights,” he said.
“Our women are Muslim and will be happy to live within the framework of our law.
“Afghans have the right to live under their own laws.”
He said women would be required to wear hijabs “for their security”.
When the Taliban was last in power, it banned women from working in most settings, with a handful of exceptions for healthcare and humanitarian workers. Workplaces were segregated between men and women.
Girls above the age of eight were banned from receiving education.
Nothing Mujahed said at the press conference ruled out the possibility of similar restrictions being imposed under Taliban rule now.
Hence the reaction of the BBC Afghan Service’s Sana Safi, who said the Taliban had made “good promises” but she worried its words were too “vague”.
“I think we’re being fooled by this. People listening might think, ‘What was all the fuss about? These are great guys,” Safi said.
“I was born in Afghanistan, I was seven-years-old when they took power. They did not allow me to go to school so I missed on education for five years.
“There will be one rule for the international community but there will be another rule for the Afghans.”
There are already reports of restrictions on women’s clothing, education and movement in Taliban-controlled provinces throughout the country. In some areas, girls older than 15 are being forced into marriage with Taliban fighters.
Further fuelling scepticism about the Taliban’s intentions, Afghan-born Australian journalist Yalda Hakim last night revealed a shocking conversation she’d had with a Taliban commander.
Hakim, a BBC anchor, appeared on Q&A to talk about the situation in Afghanistan.
Asked about the Taliban’s press conference, she said it was “very similar” to what she’d heard from the group before.
“They’ve said it to me on-air, they’ve said it to me face-to-face when I travelled to Doha, that women would have their rights, there wouldn’t be any revenge attacks or reprisals,” she said.
But the 38-year-old journalist, who just a few weeks ago spent almost one month reporting from her native country, claimed the Taliban commander had told her otherwise.
“I asked him a series of questions and he said to me we want to return to the kind of rule we had to in the 1990s,” Hakim explained.
“So, when I asked about for example, if a woman was accused of adultery, now adultery based on whose judgments, he said, ‘Of course we would have stonings, we would have public executions and would use soccer stadiums to do that kind of thing’.
“‘There would be amputations on hands and feet, if someone were to commit the crime of theft.’
“He said this is all laid out in the Koran. This is all part of sharia law and if you want to live within it, great, if not you’ll face the kind of reprisals you’ll need to.”