Six street scenes that show how Afghanistan has changed under the Taliban

As the extremist group marks six months in control of the country, even the look of the streets is changing

Six months of Taliban rule has taken back years of gains in women's rights. Photos: AFP
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Tuesday marks six months since the Taliban group swept through Afghanistan, emboldened by a chaotic US troop withdrawal.

Almost immediately, Kabul and other areas began to change. Some painted over images of women in anticipation of a return to the last time the group controlled Afghanistan, while others were forced to take down flags or other items.

Slide the tabs in the middle of the photos below to see how some areas have changed in the six months since the Taliban took over.

A change in flag and old heroes erased

Memorials to those who died fighting the group and murals of national heroes are now painted over or removed. Some have been daubed over with slogans of the Taliban.

"With the help of God, our nation defeated the Americans," reads one.

Portraits of revered late Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, whose portrait adorned the homes and businesses across Afghanistan, have been removed.

Massoud was called the Lion of Panjshir, and his son led resistance forces in the last part of Afghanistan to fall to the Taliban.

In the photos below, observe how Massoud Square in Kabul has changed since August 2021.

In January, the Lion's son Ahmad Massoud met the Taliban in Iran. The group said it had offered him the option to return to Afghanistan, but the offer was not confirmed by Mr Massoud.

If he accepted the offer, he would notice the lack of his father's face in Kabul and elsewhere, like here on the facade of a workshop selling clay ovens in Kabul.

It was first photographed on June 30, 2021, and the second picture was taken in January.

Womens' rights curtailed

Women have perhaps fared the worst in the six months since the Taliban swept into Kabul.

The news of Taliban gains sent families rushing to airports to escape the incoming regime, which when it first ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 became notorious for human rights abuses.

In 2021, beauty salons showing off the results of their work were vandalised, or chose to cover up the smiling faces of Afghan women in their windows.

It was a reflection of the lessened presence of women and girls on the streets. Many salons have closed completely, ending a boom in trade still on the rise before August 15.

One Kabul salon, shown below, first had the faces of women inexpertly painted over, then covered with black boards. Another tried to keep the store attractive, choosing branded pink hoardings.

In practice, women are effectively barred from employment apart from specialised sectors such as health care and education.

Women's protests against Taliban rule have caught international attention, but resulted in brutal crackdowns. A number of women are still missing after Taliban raids in January.

Poverty in overdrive

The takeover has had a material impact on almost every Afghan.

The UN has warned that more than one million children are at risk of starving as aid agencies and the international community tackle how to help ordinary Afghans without lining the pockets of a dangerous and deeply unpopular group.

On Monday, AP reported that Pakistan would allow India to deliver tonnes of wheat to Afghans struggling through food shortages.

Dozens of lorries from Afghanistan will be allowed to collect wheat from India by way of Pakistan’s Wagha border near the city of Lahore, starting next week.

The lorries filled with wheat will then head back to Afghanistan’s Jalalabad city through Pakistan’s Torkham border the next day.

The UN is working on a mechanism to allow financial assistance to ordinary Afghans while avoiding international sanctions.

The Humanitarian Exchange Facility would allow the UN, which is seeking $4.4 billion for humanitarian assistance this year, and aid groups access to large amounts of the national currency, the afghani, held in the country by private businesses.

In exchange, the UN would use aid dollars, possibly tens of millions, to pay the businesses' foreign creditors, bolstering the flagging private sector and critical imports.

Updated: February 15, 2022, 3:20 AM
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