In this episode of Worldview, we discuss where Afghanistan stands , and where the rest of the world including India stand on Taliban rule
2 years after the Taliban took control of Kabul- is the international community and India simply enabling their regime but abandoning the Afghan people?
While New Delhi. supplies food and medical aid, and sent diplomats for a technical mission – why is it so hard for India to issue visas for students, businesses, activists and even Afghan spouses of Indian citizens?
We will be speaking to former Afghan member of parliament and presidential contendor Fawzia Koofi about her expectations from India and the World.
2years ago, the scenes in Kabul were chaotic- as the days that followed the exit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his cabinet and the Taliban takeover of Kabul, saw the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan- suicide bombings at the airports, people crushed as they tried to scramble out on planes, and men women and children fleeing any way they can.
2 years later, Kabul looks calm, but desolate- the most educated and wealthy Afghans have left, starvation stalks many parts of the country, and international aid is drying up, estimated to be $1bn less this year than last year. The Taliban marked 2 years in power in Afghanistan more or less the way it has run the country- with a show of brute force, flurry of Islamic Emirate flags, and no women in sight.
What has changed in the past two years?
1. There is more stability in government- as the Taliban, that was previously the insurgent force around the country is in power in most of the country other than the Panjshir province
2. Terror attacks and deaths have also decreased for the same reason by 75% and 58% respectively according one studyAlthough deadly bombings by the Islamic State still take hundreds of lives.
3. The economy remains in a tailspin- with a 20.7 % contraction, severe drought, has increased the number of people living in poverty from 19 mn in 2020 to 34 million in 2022
4. 15.5 million Afghans are hungry- or facing food insecurity, while about 2.7 mn are in danger of starvation- restrictions on women working have further depleted household incomes
5. A ban on poppy cultivation- meant for opium has meant a downturn in Afghan incomes as well
In these 2 years- what hasn’t changed is the Taliban’s broken promises – especially from the Doha Accord in 2020
1. No talks for an inclusive government
The Taliban this week also banned all political parties as unislamic, indicating that it plans to rule unchallenged
2. No change in policy for women- increasing restrictions now mean
-Girls can study only until 6th grade in most places
-Women can’t work, except in some areas like health, education, NGOs
-Women can’t go to parks, public places, gyms, and beauty salons have been shut down. Those who protest, are beaten and jailed.
-Women have to cover their faces and wear a full burkha or chador
-Women cannot travel without a male escort
3. Minorities are unsafe within the country- most if not all Hindus and Sikhs have already fled Afghanistan, Shi’a minorities like the 4mn strong community of Hazaras are constantly under threat- incl from IS-K terror groups Despite all these brutal repression, and broken promises- taking Afghanistan by force, ending democracy, attempted to deface women and make them disappear from public life,
The Taliban appears to be getting what it wants-
1. Quasi recognition
-Taliban officials now engage most of the world including India
-Taliban ministers travel to various capitals, host delegations
-About 15 countries now run missions in Kabul, including India
2. Humanitarian aid tranches continue to be delivered by various countries including US and UK- catch 22 since if they don’t give funds, more Afghans would suffer
3. As the world has refused to help the Afghan opposition within, exiles and the NRF, Taliban faces virtually no challenge to its forcible control of Afghanistan
Where does India stand
1. No recognition to Taliban regime
2. India has set up a technical mission in Kabul- looks at aid distribution, maintenance of technical projects and liaising with the Taliban government
3. India has allowed flights between Delhi and Kabul
4. Despite no recognition- India trains Taliban officials in online programmes
5. In partnership with the World Food Programme, India has sent a total of 47,500 MTs of wheat to Afghanistan, 200 tonnes of medical medicine and equipment, and clothes and blankets
6. India continues to speak at international fora including the UN about the needs of the Afghan people
Where India has failed
1. Visas- despite pleas from Afghans in need, the government hasn’t lifted restrictions on visas for Afghan people. More than 60,000 Afghans had applied under the Misc-X-Emergency visa, a few hundred have been granted. This includes:
-Students, even those who have won Indian scholarship, and those trying to complete their degrees
– Professionals who want to work here, or find a livelihood
– Former Afghan security officials fearing for their lives, or those who have assisted Indian security agencies in the past.
– Afghans married to Indians
In one case we covered this week, even an Indian citizen stuck in Herat has been unable to get visas for her daughter and husband
2. Another complaint is that in its statements, India doesn’t highlight the condition of women, and apart from a few statements, has not referred to their problems
3. Compared to the previous Taliban regime, India has not supported Afghans in exile for political campaigns, nor does it support the NRF as it once did the Northern Alliance under Ahmed Shah Massoud
4. Does not provide a Platform for Afghans to regroup- compared to the past, very few Afghan leaders have moved to India, most in UK, UAE, Turkey etc.
Joining me now is Fawzia Koofi- one of those politicians in exile, who has been a member of parliament, stood for President during elections once, has survived assassination attempts by the Taliban.
Two years since you left what is the difference you see
Well, the difference I see is, from the world’s perspective, I think, you know, for reasons that the Ukrainian war happened, also, for political reasons, the image the world try to portray for themselves is that, you know, it’s a normal situation, now, people have accepted it, as long as we provide humanitarian aid. And as long as you know, there is some level of security in Afghanistan, the rest is not our problem. Inside of ANISONG, despite the fact that people have stalled, you know, there were many civilian protests, the woman still continue to resist the suppress of measures by Taliban, we see that, you know, people have also been very disappointed, because they see no results out of all of the efforts for two years. On the other hand, the poverty level is to the to the extent that people actually eventually are, you know, brought to a position where they only think about you’re feeding their children. Obviously, when you have to choose between, you know, feeding your children and your rights, you want immediate support for your children, as a mother, I can understand that. And that’s why they are they don’t have that Liberty anymore, to think long term and see, you know, without changing the politics, things will not change. So it’s a it’s a blurred picture, it’s very disappointing. We have also tried at the international level to keep the world’s attention. Sometimes we also get disappointed, because, you know, after all these engagement, speaking to the UN speaking to the EU, speaking to the policymakers also in the region, we see that there is that kind of sense of ignorance, like, it’s okay, you have to deal with it. Afghanistan has always been like that, which is not true. Actually, the one thing that is clear that the Pakistan has transformed, and two years of Taliban rule the most that people will not accept, whatever, you know, the rules try to impose to them.
For women, it has been the worst- but we cant even see or speak to them. what do women you speak to say
Yeah, you know, as far as any in terms of my contacts, practically, not only me, I think most women and men who left Afghanistan, or who were forced to leave their home. They literally live physically abroad, I think, I guess I do. Otherwise, most of our timing contacts, you know, what we do is stay concentrated on Afghanistan. But we I try to keep, you know, my consultations and weekly basis with woman but also on daily basis with people across Afghanistan? Yes, you’re right, many of those who actually could speak English, to express what they feel or what they undergo, they have left Afghanistan, those who are there, either they don’t speak English, or they are, you know, not allowed by their family members, or they’re scared to share their stories with journalists and media. And so what you hear is basically those who actually protest in the streets or arrested by Taliban, and then that’s when you hear about it. Otherwise, the regular stories of suffering is not something that gets to the media. I talked to them. It’s, you know, basically, they have no laboratory left for them. You know, from education to work that was actually banned many, many months ago, when Taliban first came literally eventually they tried to, to impose this corrections, every month, they have issued more than 50 edits. Now, the last one was banning woman from having a beauty salon, which for me Beauty Salons were not a place where you could get make yourself beautiful which every woman deserves that. Because for for your mental health, it is important. But also it was a place where a woman could go socially get together and talk about issues that they want to, you know, beside politics or the separation, they have abolish the Department of kindergartens. So there was a department of kindergarten at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. They were teachers, they were like they were providing services for working parents to keep to take care of their children, they have abolished that because their perception is that why would actually a woman that’s the woman’s responsibility and every family to take care of their children, and they shouldn’t actually let their children go to kindergarten, because that is what they are supposed to do. So basically, they limit the low rule of woman to kitchen, home, taking care of the children, which traditionally is something that women have. And so I think women across the globe, are doing multitasking, right, we while we do actually take care of our career, and the important work we do we also take care of our kitchen and our children. But when when that is imposed by a government or a de facto power, because they want to undermine your ability, that degrade that degrades your you know, your your sense of being, I think, your dignity. And then that the sense will be controlled. So when they want to go out, they told me that they thought about asking, I need to see your phone, what is in your phone. So usually they if they have a mobile phone with a camera or with you know, WhatsApp, or internet connection delivered at home, they don’t take it when they leave home. And then they tell them you’re not allowed to go to university or school, why are you out. So that feeling is not really a good feeling.
Expectations from India
We for very long, and even until now, we still see Indian people as our best friends, probably, we are being hugely influenced by Indian culture. You know, when, at least, not very long ago, there were like three, four flights per day between Delhi, Kabul, you know, we historic ties, etc. And all of that actually raised our expectation, it’s our expectation that India will be, you know, still one of the countries that we can rely and trust. However, I think their performance over the last two years has not really been to the expectation of anybody from Afghanistan. They have not really granted any kind of evacuation support to those who closely work with them, to those who need to the family members of those who needed except I think few second Hindu families that really needed that support. And it’s, it’s something we appreciate. But otherwise, in terms of your question, there was no so we hope that India will continue to provide visa for people who want to visit India, not only from inside Afghanistan, but from outside Afghanistan as well, because we want to keep that cultural tie in terms of the political, I think India should continue to stay engaged with all sides. I know there is a technical mission in Kabul, but has impure really been engaged with political opposition, has India really been engaged with woman groups? I mean, as a biggest democracy in the world, we expect India to give the same space and the same level of engagement that they do with Taliban with the rest of political community. It has not actually done that. And, you know, as somebody who believe in pluralism and democracy, they should give that space. And also I think India, I don’t know what their strategy towards Afghanistan beyond humanitarian aid, while we do appreciate that humanitarian aid, but what is their political strategy? What kind of future they want to see in Afghanistan? Are they really putting any efforts towards that future with, you know, the people of Afghanistan, those are the expectations from the Indian government. We are forever grateful of the Indian people for their kindness. But I think this these were like difficult times where we needed their solidarity and support more than ever.
WV Take: Given global turmoil, the economic downturn and the war in Ukraine, it is no surprise that there is international fatigue on helping Afghanistan. Even so, the international community cannot lose interest and shirk responsibility for the injustices the Taliban carries out – if it continues to claim its values and commitment to international law and human rights. For India, the visa denials will be a blot on its record of helping neighbours in need for some time to come- these are not refugees, but Afghans who have a legitimate reason to be in India, which at present they are being denied.