Taliban raise flag across Afghanistan as national tricolour becomes resistance symbol

The white banner of the militants is now a common sight in the country

A child waves the Afghan flag during an anti-Taliban protest held in front of Pakistan's embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: AFP
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After two decades out of power, the Taliban are moving quickly to stamp their authority on Afghanistan and have been using every tool at their disposal, including flags.

Since seizing control of Kabul about a week ago, the white banner of the militants has become a common sight across the country.

It has replaced the national tricolour flag of Afghanistan on government buildings, police stations and military sites.

There have been scattered reports of people being castigated or even punished for waving the Afghan flag, but the Taliban have not yet made any official announcement about the issue.

At the side of a road in Kabul on Sunday, people sold Taliban flags — a white banner bearing the Muslim proclamation of faith, as well as the name the militants used when they ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s: “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

“Our goal is to spread the flag of the Islamic Emirate throughout Afghanistan, instead of the tricolour flag,” said one of the sellers, Ahmad Shakib, who studies economics at university.

The sight of Taliban fighters in vehicles bearing the flag frightened people across the country as the militants captured all major cities, including Kabul.

They were quick to replace the Afghan national flag wherever it could.

But amid the despair and fear sparked by the Taliban takeover, the Afghan flag has become a symbol of defiance for many and has featured prominently in small protests in recent days.

'My heart is here'

Social media has been awash with images and emojis of the Afghan flag, a black, red and green vertical tricolour with the national emblem overlaid in white.

The flag has featured in posts by public figures, sports stars and many ordinary Afghans in recent weeks.

On Afghanistan's independence day last week, groups of people waved the national flag in Kabul and a handful of suburbs to celebrate — sometimes while Taliban patrols passed by.

At one rally in the capital, people in a convoy of cars waved national flags. In another area, men and women held the tricolour banner as they stood by a road.

A day earlier, Taliban fighters were reported to have fired their guns to disperse dozens of people in the eastern city of Jalalabad during a protest against the removal of the national flag.

“My heart is here for this flag. I will never leave this flag,” one Jalalabad resident said.

“Kill us, fire at us, we will never leave this flag.”

Updated: August 23, 2021, 9:31 AM