The Taliban on Monday marked a year since they seized the Afghan capital of Kabul, a swift takeover that sparked a hasty escape from the country’s Western-backed leaders, sent the economy into a tailspin and fundamentally transformed the country.
Bearded Taliban fighters, some brandishing rifles or their movement’s white banners, staged small victory parades on foot, bicycle and motorbike through the streets of the capital. A small group marched past the former US Embassy chanting “Long Live Islam” and “Death to America.”
A year after that dramatic day, a lot has changed in Afghanistan. Former insurgents struggle to govern and remain internationally isolated. The economic downturn has plunged millions more Afghans into poverty and even hunger, as the flow of foreign aid has dwindled to a trickle.
Meanwhile, hardliners appear to dominate the Taliban-led government, which has imposed severe restrictions on access to education and jobs for girls and women, despite initial promises from the government. opposite. A year later, teenage girls are still banned from school and women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public, only their eyes visible.
Some are trying to find ways to prevent education from stagnating for a generation of young women and underground schools in homes have sprung up.
Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, said in a statement that Afghan women should not be forgotten.
“As the world faces multiple and overlapping crises, we must not forget the women and girls of Afghanistan. When the human rights of women and girls are violated, we are all diminished,” she said.
A year ago, thousands of Afghans rushed to Kabul International Airport to flee the Taliban amid the US military’s chaotic withdrawal from Kabul after 20 years of war – America’s longest conflict.
Aerial footage shows crowds of people gathering near Kabul airport, where bottles of water are said to sell for $40 apiece.
Some flights resumed relatively quickly after those chaotic days. On Monday, a handful of commercial flights were due to land and take off from a runway which last summer saw Afghan men clinging to the wheels of planes taking off, some falling to their deaths.
Schoolyards were empty on Monday as the Taliban announced a public holiday to mark the day, which they call “the proud day of August 15” and the “one year anniversary of the return to power”.
“Trust in God and the support of the people have brought this great victory and freedom to the country,” wrote Abdul Wahid Rayan, head of the Taliban Bakhtar news agency. “Today, August 15, marks the victory of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan against the US and allied occupation of Afghanistan.”
At a rally to mark the anniversary, Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi sent congratulations to “the entire nation on the day of the conquest of Kabul, which marked the beginning of the complete end of the ‘occupation”.
In remarks broadcast live by state radio and television, he boasted of what he called “great achievements” under the Taliban, such as the alleged end to corruption, the improvement of security and the prohibition of poppy cultivation.
On the eve of the anniversary, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani defended what he said was a split-second decision to flee, saying he wanted to avoid the humiliation of surrendering to insurgents. He told CNN that on the morning of August 15, 2021, with the Taliban at the gates of Kabul, he was the last in the presidential palace after his guards disappeared.
Tomas Niklasson, the European Union’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said the bloc of nations remained committed to the Afghan people and to “stability, prosperity and lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region”.
“This will require an inclusive political process with full, equal and meaningful participation of all Afghan men and women and respect for human rights,” Niklasson wrote.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said an international responsibility for Afghanistan remains after NATO’s withdrawal.
“A regime that flouts human rights cannot be recognized under any circumstances,” she said in a statement. “But we must not forget the Afghan people, even a year after the Taliban took power.”
Faiez reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed.