Kabul residents describe mounting terror as Taliban seize power

Nearly 4.5 million residents of the city fear a return to the draconian rule of the militant group

Afghans flee Kabul as the Taliban enters Afghanistan's capital. Getty
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Sunday began with fear and trepidation for Kabul residents, giving way to scenes of panic as the Taliban entered the city, and then feelings of dread as night fell on the Afghan capital.

Even though the Taliban asked their fighters to stand down and not enter or attack Kabul, many Taliban members did come in to the city, locals told The National.

They were joined by criminal groups allied to them, who were already present in Kabul and have terrorised the public.

“We started the day like any other day. I went to the office in the morning, when suddenly we started hearing gunfire and within an hour the city went into a chaos,” Mohammad, 23, an NGO worker, told The National.

The Taliban have been saying that they won’t harm the locals but they can’t be trusted and history has proven that what they say is not what they do
Mohammad, Kabul resident

“We were asked to leave right away, but since we couldn't, our manager assigned us the task of destroying all documents that showed our work with foreigners.

“We were tearing up any material with US and UK government or agency logos,” he said.

When Mohammad finally left his office, he was shocked by the extent of panic and chaos on the streets.

“Kabul looked like a jungle. Everyone was running and trying to get to their home. I saw many women in the office panicking who were obviously scared for their lives,” he added.

The Taliban’s surge into Kabul, which happened after nine days of relentless advances in other cities, has created immense fear among Afghan women – particularly those who have been active in public life.

The militant group is notorious for restricting women’s rights and freedoms.

“We took down the board of our restaurant this morning,” Zahra, an Afghan restaurateur, told The National. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.

In recent years, many Afghan women ventured in entrepreneurship, particularly in Kabul’s booming restaurant industry.

Now they all face an uncertain future, Zahra said.

“I have been hiding in my home since yesterday. All my female employees are in hiding – and men too,” she said, adding that she had never spent as much time indoors as she had done in the past two days.

“We have already become prisoners.”

Other women The National spoke to did not feel safe even in their homes.

A female journalist reported that armed men had entered her apartment building and were knocking on doors, questioning people.

She sent an appeal to this reporter begging for help.

“Please help me and show me a way or a solution," she said in an audio message.

“They are knocking on my door. Who should I call for help; the police or the Taliban?”

Outside, Mohammad reported similar fear and confusion. Most shops had closed and streets were crowded with people trying to get to their families.

There was a surprisingly large number of women wearing the chaderi – the traditional Afghan burqa, he said.

“I went to the bank to withdraw money but the bank wasn't giving me more than 5000 Afghan afghani ($63).

“I went to the ATM, and there was a very long line. After a few minutes the ATM ran out of money. I went to three other ATMs and they were all out of money,” he said.

Many Afghans told The National that a sense of gloom and betrayal has gripped the country.

An Afghan businessman in Kabul, who did not wish to reveal his name, said that he saw many Afghan soldiers in his neighbourhood crying.

“They were weeping. When I asked them why, they told me they felt betrayed by their leaders.

“One of them said: ‘In the army, we were told giving up is not an option, but today we were asked to surrender. We were ready to fight for this country if they had let us.'

“The Taliban have been saying that they won’t harm the locals but they can’t be trusted and history has proven that what they say is not what they do,” said the businessman.

“We are very scared. More so now, when we learnt that the president has left the country,” he added, referring to Ashraf Ghani’s departure.

“He has left us in so much emotional and mental chaos. We are being pushed back to 20 years ago.

“Sure I have an iPhone 12 today, but the women in my family have no rights, and are losing their identities.”

Updated: August 16, 2021, 4:23 AM