The past week marked a series of bombings, clashes, civilian persecutions and anti-Taliban resistance attacks. On the security front, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s killing was the week’s highlight. President Joe Biden confirmed that the U.S. had killed the leader of al-Qaeda in a counter-terrorism operation carried out by the CIA in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday. It was a big blow to the Taliban’s false promise of not harboring terrorists like Al-Qaeda. Taliban, after deliberate thinking, came up with a response to say that they weren’t aware al-Zawahiri was in Kabul.
An explosion at the Kabul Cricket Stadium reportedly killed 19 people – a figure denied by the Taliban – drew global condemnation as António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said, “Attacks on civilians and civilian facilities violate international humanitarian law.” Meanwhile, two civilians were killed in Kabul and 30 wounded in a bomb blast in Kabul’s Pul-e-Sokhta locality of P.D. 6 on Saturday afternoon. Relatively closer to that blast, another bomb implanted in a wheel cart left eight civilians dead and 18 others wounded in the Sar-e-Kariz area of P.D. 6 in Kabul city on Friday. Daesh or so-called Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) claimed responsibility for this blast.
In a recent instance of the raging anti-Taliban attacks, at least four Taliban fighters were killed. The National Resistance Forces (NRF) stormed a Taliban security post in Taloqan city, the provincial capital of Takhar province, on Friday night, the NRF claimed. However, APW sources are yet to confirm the exact casualties in the firefighting.
Moreover, on Sunday evening, three Taliban fighters were killed, and two others were wounded after rockets shot from an unknown location landed at a Taliban military post on the outskirts of Faizabad city, the provincial capital of Badakhshan province, sources told APW.
Similarly, on Thursday, three Taliban fighters were killed and two others were wounded in an IS-K attack in the Mazardara area of Noorgal district in Kunar province. Sources told APW the Taliban corpses and injured were transferred to Asadabad city. However, the Taliban remained tightlipped and gave no information about the killing of their fighters.
Further to the trend of assassinations, an individual was axed to death by unknown men in the Poti Kalacha area of the Dehrawood district of Uruzgan province on Friday. Moreover, a tribal elder named Malik Jameel was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the Momandara district of Nangarhar the same night.
On the other hand, Fateh Jan Pashteen, a cultural activist, was detained by the Taliban intelligence on charges of possessing a tri-color Afghan flag and playing the national anthem during a cricket match in Paktika’s Barmal district on Friday. This comes as several activists had earlier been detained and tortured in the neighboring Khost province as well, according to APW reports.
In a recent instance of the Taliban’s persecution of civilians, five individuals, including two women, were flogged 40 whips each publicly in Zabul province on Sunday. The two women and one man were accused of illicit relations and two others were charged with robbery by the Taliban. This is the first time the Taliban whipped suspects in public, in front of around 6,000 people.
Moreover, a widow woman was severely beaten by the Taliban, who broke her arm in the Dara district of Panjsher province on Monday. The incident occurred when she refused to marry a Taliban fighter, according to APW sources.
Furthermore, residents of Baghlan province have expressed concern over drones hovering for the past two days in districts where the National Resistance Forces (NRF) are active. They told APW the drones mostly appeared during the night. Khost district residents of the province shared similar reports of worries over drones.
There were key developments in regards to Afghan women during the past week. The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the launch of a new mechanism – U.S.-Afghan Consultative Mechanism (USACM) – in support of Afghan women in Afghanistan. Comprised of a diverse set of representatives from various Afghan women’s coalitions, as well as civil society leaders, journalists, academics and religious scholars from inside and outside Afghanistan, the USACM will facilitate regular engagement with the U.S. government on issues ranging from human rights documentation to women in Islam.
Meanwhile, women in Kabul on Sunday protested that the former First Lady Rola Ghani’s representation of Afghan women in the United States. ‘Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women’ expressed objection to Rola Ghani’s recent speech on the empowerment of Afghan women, saying she didn’t represent Afghan women and was the most hated woman in history.
The Taliban began exercising further draconian measures to force women to wear Hijab in Pul-e-Khumri city, the provincial capital of Baghlan, by pulling women out of cars at checkpoints who don’t wear their so-called proper Islamic Hijab. On the other hand, calls were raised for reopening girls’ schools beyond the sixth grade across the country. During a gathering organized to support education in the Salang district of Parwan province, participating officials said the government should facilitate women’s education. “Women and men are required to acquire knowledge based on the teachings of Islam,” said the justice of Parwan Appellate Court, Mohammad Qasam Mohammadi, adding a society wouldn’t be developed unless the girls’ education was heeded.
Meanwhile, Soraya, an Afghan student of 11th grade, speaking to APW, said, “Deprived of school, I have lost all my plans for the future. Whenever I see my school books and bag, tears roll out my eyes as we Afghan girls don’t even have access to our fundamental right to education under this regime.”
On political front this week, the Taliban threatened journalists in Takhar, and decreed gender segregation among doctors in Helmand, while countrywide anti-US protests erupted following the killing of al-Zawahiri and the civil society in Kandahar complained about Taliban restrictions.
Further to the crackdown on journalists, the Taliban, in a recent instance, humiliated and intimidated journalists in northern Takhar province. The spokesman for the Takhar police headquarters has warned reporters that if news against the Taliban were leaked, they would be prosecuted and investigated.
Moreover, the de facto administration recently decreed segregation of male and female doctors in Helmand hospitals. Taliban have warned doctors at Jamhoriat and Children’s hospitals that female doctors shouldn’t mingle, talk or sit in the same department as male counterparts. The decree also imposed that male doctors couldn’t see female patients and vice versa.
On the other hand, Afghans across the country took to the streets protesting the U.S. drone attack in Kabul that killed Al Qaeda’s chief Al-Zawahiri last Tuesday. Kabul residents protested in Arzan Qemat, Pul Charkhi, Karte Parwan, Saraye Shamali and many other localities of Kabul on Friday, condemning the attack. The protests in Kabul were coupled with other anti-US rallies across Afghanistan, including Uruzgan, Kandahar, Zabul, and some north and northeastern provinces. It is said they were engineered and funded by the Taliban officials to hide Al- Zawahiri’s killing allegations and links of the Taliban with the Al- Qaeda chief.
In addition, the Taliban restrictions have led to decreased civil society activity in Kandahar province since the group came into power last year, while Kandahar residents have no way to voice their concerns as civil activists have lost the opportunities to function freely under the Taliban. Kandahar civil society grumbled about their situation under the Taliban. Wali Muhammad, the head of Hodman Civil Organization, emphasized the civil society activists’ role in Kandahar, saying they used to work with the government in the field of public awareness and as a body to provide oversight over the government, particularly in development projects.
On the humanitarian front, Afghans are still suffering. After the collapse of the Republic last year, among the many hardships that befell Afghans unable to make ends meet, the unemployment crisis hurt the Afghan nation most. Mahmood was one of the thousands of Afghans who, following the collapse, lost his job and had to spend three months in isolation at home. A former military officer who served in the 209th Shaheen Army Corps until August 15 last year, Mahmood has now opened a juice shop in one of the northern cities to support his seven family members. He urges the Taliban to facilitate employment opportunities for the people in order to enable them to earn a living.
Meanwhile, starvation, unemployment, and humanitarian crises have intensified across Afghanistan amid a corrupt system wherein the actual eligible beneficiaries don’t receive any aid. A source told Afghan Peace Watch (APW) that people, including women and children who need the aid most, are deprived of the assistance recently distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) through local NGOs in Ghazni. He said people are starving and lack proper shelter due to the acute poverty in the capital city and districts of Ghazni province.
Meanwhile, one instance of deteriorating hunger is the story of an eight-year-old shoeshiner. Tamim polishes visitors’ shoes at Hazrat Ali’s Shrine in Mazar-i-Sharif city to feed his family but he is a girl in reality, disguised as a boy. Talking with APW, she reluctantly opened up to say her real name was Forozan. “I adopted this new identity and appearance after I lost my father two and a half years ago when he used to serve in the Afghan army against the Taliban.”