Protests against Taliban’s takeover spread across Afghanistan
Protests against the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan have spread to more cities, including capital Kabul, while the militant group has called on the country’s imams to urge unity at Friday prayers, the first since they seized control.
Several people were killed when the militants fired on a crowd in Asadabad in the eastern province of Kunar, a witness said. Another witness reported gunshots near a rally in Kabul, but they appeared to be Taliban firing into the air.
At some protests elsewhere, media have reported people tearing down the white flag of the Taliban.
Some demonstrations were small but represented a remarkable display of defiance, coming just one day after violence broke out at protests in two other cities, with Taliban members shooting into crowds and beating demonstrators.
It was also further evidence that while tens of thousands are now seeking escape, there were many more left behind and determined to have a voice in the kind of country they want to live in.
“Our flag, our identity,” a crowd of men and women waving black, red and green national flags shouted in Kabul, a video posted on social media showed, on the day Afghanistan celebrates independence from British control in 1919.
That anniversary was also the occasion for the street protests, with many calling for independence from Taliban rule.
In the 20th century, there have been at least 19 iterations of the flag.
Afghanistan — a nation with a brutal history, but also home to natural wonders and a quilt of cultures — is now the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The Taliban reasserted its new regime in a tweet on Thursday, commemorating the anniversary of independence from British rule.
After sweeping so quickly into power, the reality of governing a changed nation is proving as difficult for the Taliban as their military blitz across the nation’s provinces was fast.
Many critical workers are hiding in their homes, fearful of retribution despite promises of amnesty. And services like electricity, sanitation and clean water could soon be affected, aid agencies say.
While the Taliban, for now, have a monopoly on the use of force, there is no functioning police service in any traditional sense. Instead, former fighters are patrolling checkpoints and — in many cases, according to witness accounts — administering the law as they see fit.
The Taliban leadership’s suggestion this week that the brutality that defined their rule two decades ago was a thing of the past has not always been matched by the actions of the foot soldiers on the street.
The Taliban urged unity ahead of Friday prayers and called on all imams in Kabul and the provinces to persuade people not to try to leave the country.
In Asadabad, several people were killed during a rally, but it was unclear if the casualties resulted from Taliban firing or from a stampede.
“Hundreds of people came out on the streets,” witness Mohammed Salim said. “At first I was scared and didn’t want to go but when I saw one of my neighbours join in, I took out the flag I have at home.
“Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and firing by the Taliban.”
Kabul has been generally calm, but 12 people have been killed in and around the airport amid chaotic scenes, a Nato and a Taliban official said. The deaths were caused either by gun shots or stampedes, according to the Taliban official.
In one incident captured on social media, a small girl was hoisted over the airport’s high perimeter wall and handed to a US soldier, showing the desperation of people trying to get out.
An Afghan national team footballer died in a fall from a US plane at Kabul airport on Monday, when crowds of people were seen trying to board a moving aircraft, Afghanistan’s Ariana News reported.
Protests flared in the city of Jalalabad and a district of Paktia province, both in the east.
On Wednesday, Taliban fighters fired at protesters waving flags in Jalalabad, killing three, witnesses and media reported.
“Salute those who carry the national flag and thus stand for dignity of the nation,” first vice-president Amrullah Saleh, who is trying to rally opposition to the Taliban, said on Twitter.
از حرکت شجاعانه و میهن دوستانه مردم با عزت کشورم در نقاط مختلف بخاطر برافراشتن پرچم ملی برضد گروه نیابتی طالب ابراز حرمت ، حمایت و قدردانی می نمایم. شماری درین راه با عزت شهید شدند— Amrullah Saleh (@AmrullahSaleh2) August 19, 2021
Salute those who carry the national flag & thus stand for dignity of the nation & the country.
Saleh said on Tuesday he was the “legitimate caretaker President” in Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani had fled.
Other former Afghan leaders, including ex-President Hamid Karzai, have held talks with the Taliban.