1 Power neither comprehensive nor representative
The withdrawal of American and Western troops on August 15, 2021, followed by two weeks of chaotic evacuations marked the return of the Taliban, who ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 before being overthrown by the post-9/11 United States offensive Attacks. A year later, the country is ruled from Kandahar by a supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, who is as powerful as he is discreet, surrounded by the most rigorous Taliban faction.
Despite vague promises, the government he heads is based on the circle of the historic Taliban and the majority Pashtun ethnic group. So there is no place for representatives of ethnic minorities, Tajiks or Hazaras, nor for women. The new power can boast of having restored order after twenty years of civil war and foreign occupation. But it comes at the price of a sectarianism symbolized by the actions of the moral police on behalf of the “Ministry for the Suppression of Vice and the Propagation of Virtue”.
2 Sad fate of women and girls
Gender segregation, the backbone of Taliban ideology, emerged as a top priority. Since May, wearing the burqa in public places has become the norm again. And beware of those who would risk wearing a simple veil or leaving their homes unaccompanied by a man of their family. On Saturday, August 13, a small demonstration of about forty women demanding their rights, as many of them wanted to do in the weeks following the Taliban’s return, was brutally broken up.
Encouraged to stay at home, barred from most public jobs, discouraged from even the smallest jobs, Afghan women are going through a major and painful setback. Primary school remains open to girls, but promises to keep secondary schools and colleges open to them have not been kept. And if universities continue to take girls on same-sex courses, their recruitment will dry up as current students leave the benches. In the face of this educational apartheid, the only way out is to organize secret schools struggling to survive.
3 Economic and financial crisis
According to estimates by international organizations, more than half of the 38 million Afghans live in food insecurity, not to say starvation. And the restrictions affect 95% of the population. The US freeze on the Afghan central bank’s assets was not lifted, causing the banking system to collapse. And international aid, which has accounted for 45% of the country’s wealth, is limited to emergency humanitarian aid, which is grossly inadequate.
The Taliban leaders minimize the difficulties and the exploitation of natural resources, mainly coal, allows them to collect some revenues and taxes. But unemployment has exploded, forcing families to survive by sometimes horrific means like selling children or trafficking in organs. And within the Taliban echelons, grassroots discontent and high-level rivalry pose risks for the future.