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‘Day of Conquest’: Taliban mark turbulent first year in power

#Day #Conquest #Taliban #mark #turbulent #year #power

Taliban militants chanted victory slogans next to the US embassy in Kabul on Monday as they marked the first anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan after a tumultuous year that eroded women’s rights and deepened a humanitarian crisis.

Exactly one year ago, hardline Islamists seized Kabul after a nationwide lightning offensive against government forces, just as US-led forces were ending two decades of intervention in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

“We have fulfilled the obligation of jihad and liberated our country,” said Niamatullah Hekmat, a militant who invaded the capital on August 15 last year, just hours after then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“It is the day of victory and happiness for Afghan Muslims and the people. It is the day of conquest and victory of the white flag,” government spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter.

The chaotic retreat of foreign forces continued until August 31, when tens of thousands of people rushed to Kabul airport hoping to be evacuated from Afghanistan on every flight.

Images of crowds storming the airport, climbing onto planes – and some clinging to a departing US military cargo plane as it taxied down the runway – were broadcast on news programs around the world.

Authorities have not yet announced any official celebrations to mark the anniversary, but state television said it would air special programs.

Many Taliban fighters gathered in Kabul’s Massoud Square, next to the now-closed US embassy, ​​where they displayed the regime’s white banners.

“Long live the Islamic Emirate… long live independence,” they chanted, some holding guns while others took pictures with their cellphones.

Taliban flags fluttered from lampposts along the road to the airport.

Taliban fighters expressed happiness that their movement is now in power – even as aid organizations say half of the country’s 38 million people live in extreme poverty.

“The time when we invaded Kabul and when the Americans left, those were moments of joy,” said Hekmat, who is now a member of the special forces guarding the presidential palace.

– ‘Life has lost its meaning’ –

For many ordinary Afghans, however, the return of the Taliban has only increased the misery – especially for women.

Initially, the Taliban promised a softer version of the harsh Islamist rule that marked their first term from 1996 to 2001.

But many restrictions were placed on women to conform to the movement’s strict vision of Islam.

Tens of thousands of girls have been barred from secondary schools, while women have been barred from returning to many government jobs.

And in May they were ordered to cover themselves fully in public, ideally with an all-encompassing burqa.

“From the day they came, life lost its meaning,” said Ogai Amail, a Kabul resident.

“Everything was snatched from us, they even entered our personal space,” she added.

On Saturday, Taliban fighters beat women protesters and fired guns in the air to disperse a rally in Kabul.

While Afghans acknowledge a decrease in violence since the Taliban took power, the humanitarian crisis has left many helpless.

“People who come to our shops complain so much about the high prices that we shopkeepers have started hating ourselves,” said Noor Mohammad, a shopkeeper from Kandahar, the Taliban’s de facto powerhouse.

The country is in economic crisis, its foreign assets have been frozen by Washington and aid has been cut to keep funds out of the Taliban’s hands.

No nation recognized the new government.

For the Taliban fighters, however, the joy of victory overshadows the current economic crisis.

“We may be poor, we may be in need, but the white flag of Islam will forever fly high in Afghanistan now,” said a militant guarding a public park in Kabul.

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#Day #Conquest #Taliban #mark #turbulent #year #power

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