Taliban mark year since return to power with Afghanistan national holiday

Hardline group took over as foreign forces made a hurried withdrawal 20 years after US-led invasion

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The Taliban marked one year of their return to power in Afghanistan on Monday by staging celebrations near the site of the former US embassy in Kabul and on the streets of Kandahar, the southern city where their leader lives.

Although the day, designated a public holiday, got off to a slow start, by noon hundreds of Taliban and their supporters had gathered at a roundabout across from what was once Washington’s embassy.

The crowd of men, and some young children, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and danced the traditional Attan dance at the roundabout that until last year was dedicated to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military commander who led the resistance against the Taliban’s five-year rule after the civil war of the 1990s.

Not all are so jubilant in the capital or the rest of the nation of 40 million.

Afghanistan is facing escalating poverty, malnutrition and drought, leaving more than half of the population dependent on aid. But many organisations have pulled assistance out in fear of being seen to condone the regime and its stance against women's rights.

The celebrations took a turn to match the mood of many in the nation later in the day, as a bomb in a wheelbarrow exploded and injured two people in West Kabul, according to city police officials.

The blast happened as the Taliban held a press event to mark the anniversary.

Among those in attendance was acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi, who addressed the issue of official recognition of their government.

“The international community should co-operate with Afghanistan and the new government in order to prevent the misery that occurred during the past 40 years,” Mr Muttaqi said.

Second Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi spoke about corruption, an issue that plagued the former western-backed Islamic Republic throughout its 20 years in power.

“Corruption in all its forms, including moral and administrative corruption, has been eradicated. There is no corruption anywhere in any province or in any government agency,” Mr Hanafi said at the event to try to set the Taliban regime apart from the republic.

The celebrations mark one year since former president Ashraf Ghani fled the capital and the Taliban walked in hours later.

The group’s arrival capped an 11-day campaign where they took province after province, until, on August 15, they captured Nangarhar, Balkh and Parwan before arriving in Kabul city in the evening.

“I’m happy the flood of blood has come to an end in Afghanistan,” said Akrama, 26, from the province of Kabul, who spoke to The National before heading to the celebrations.

Akrama, who gave his first name only, was holding a white-on-black Islamic emirate flag outside an ice cream shop in central Kabul favoured by more well-to-do young people and families.

At a nearby restaurant, dozens of Taliban fighters and civilians, along with families, were dining on their day off.

He said he first started to “preach the world of jihad” when he was a school pupil in a northern district of Kabul.

“I fought for 15 years and finally, last year, we freed our people,” Akrama said gleefully.

Photos and videos circulating online showed similar celebrations in Kandahar.

In Logar, a province immediately south of Kabul, signs that read “Death to America” and “Joe Biden lied” were still hanging from the gates of a park in provincial capital.

They were leftover from last week’s protests against the American president’s claim that the US had assassinated Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri in a residential area of central Kabul.

Although were no government announcements apart from the declaration of a national holiday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid posted a tweet late in the morning to mark occasion, in which he called the group's takeover a “day of salvation” for Afghanistan.

“I congratulate the Mujahid people who have stood and done their best on the occasion of the conquest of Kabul. This day is the victory of truth over falsehood and the day of salvation and freedom of the Afghan nation,” he said.

The nation’s private TV channels reported the occasion in their morning news broadcasts. On Tolo News, the largest independent news station, a female presenter wearing all black, including her coronavirus face mask, seemed to best depict the country's current situation a year into the Taliban's rule.

Over the past 12 months, hundreds of thousands of teenage girls have been unable to return to school in 32 of the 34 provinces. And aside from three ministries, tens of thousands of female government employees are unable to return to work.

As a Ford Ranger carrying cheering militant fighters passed by, Zahra, a Kabul resident in her 20s, said she hoped God “smites” the Taliban.

“They destroyed us, they ruined everything,” she said.

The university student, who said she has not been able to find work, was especially angry about the economic downturn because no other nation has officially recognised the Taliban government, so Afghanistan has been cut off from the global financial system, she said.

“We have nothing, there’s no money or work for anybody,” she said. “May God take them away.”

Zahra was wearing a black niqab, which is one of the Taliban’s preferred modes of dress for women.

The garment has come to be worn by some women in Kabul and other provinces only over the past two decades, but is considered a foreign influence from the Arabian Gulf, because it has no history in Afghanistan.

Still, the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Virtue, has placed signs all over the cities and provinces encouraging women to don the niqab or the blue burqa.

Like Zahra, millions of Afghans are also still bearing the brunt of international sanctions and aid cutbacks imposed on the Taliban, a government that features several men on international terrorist lists, including some with multimillion-dollar bounties on their head.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 6:22 PM