Afghanistan: who still opposes the Taliban in the country?

They do not want to resolve to a victory for the Taliban. Since the government fled and the fighters of the fundamentalist Islamist movement entered Kabul on Sunday August 15, several protest movements have been active in Afghanistan. In the east, the Panchir valley is still resisting. The country’s major cities have also seen opponents from all walks of life, including women, protesting at the risk of their lives.

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The Panchir valley, the last rebel stronghold

It is less than 300 kilometers northeast of Kabul, the Afghan capital that fell easily into the hands of the Taliban, that the country’s last pocket of military resistance is located. The Panchir Valley, difficult to access, never fell into Taliban hands during the civil war of the 1990s, nor a decade earlier during the Soviet occupation of the country.

It is in this mountainous region that two great figures of the opposition to the Taliban are entrenched: the former Afghan vice-president, Amrullah Saleh, as well as Ahmad Massoud, the son of the famous commander Massoud, leader of the resistance against the Soviets and then against the Taliban, assassinated by Al-Qaeda in an attack two days before the attacks terrorists of September 11, 2001.

On Monday, images circulating on social networks showed Amrullah Saleh alongside Ahmad Massoud, appearing to lay the foundation stone of a resistance movement.

The “valley of the five lions”, historic stronghold of the Massoud clan, now welcomes supporters of a political alternative to the Taliban. In a message posted on his Twitter account, Tuesday, August 17, Amrullah Saleh has also proclaimed himself interim president, specifying that he was seeking to join “all leaders” country to ensure their support. “Unlike the United States and NATO, we have not lost our minds and we see great opportunities coming”, he said in another post the same day.

Ahmad Massoud, the other face of this coalition, also called for national resistance in an article published Monday, August 16 by the French review Rules of the Game. My comrades and I are going to donate blood “, he said in particular, calling “all free Afghans who refuse servitude” to join him in Panshir, “last free region” of the country, in his words. In another column published Wednesday by the Washington PostAhmad Massoud called for American support in arms and ammunition.

For researcher Gilles Dorronsoro, specialist in Afghanistan, this resistance is “mainly verbal” and does not particularly threaten the Taliban. “If we talk about armed resistance, it seems almost impossible in Panchir, because the north of Afghanistan, the provinces which connect Panchir to Tajikistan, are occupied by the local Taliban, who know the terrain”, detailed the professor of political science at the University of Paris 1 during our chat with the readers of franceinfo.

Demonstrations of women in the middle of the street

Worried about their rights, Afghan women took to the streets in Kabul on Tuesday, August 17, holding out against the cautious Taliban to say the least. “There are also women in Afghanistan”, could one read in particular, written in English, on one of the signs held up by the demonstrators. Several sporadic actions took place in the capital, according to a correspondent for the Al Jazeera channel, who was able to film one of them.

Afghan women are risking a lot in the face of the country’s new masters. During their previous reign, between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban had indeed imposed extremely strict rules, those of sharia, Islamic law. School prohibited for girls, outing prohibited without a male guard, inability to work … Women’s rights had been reduced to a shambles under the yoke of fundamentalists. Not to mention the corporal punishments practiced, such as lashes or stoning to death for women in cases of adultery. However, twenty years later, the situation seems to be exactly the same for women in areas subject to the Taliban, as the documentary shows. Afghanistan, living in Taliban country, recently broadcast on Arte.

Barely conquered Kabul, the Taliban nevertheless promised that women could “work, study and (…) be actively involved in daily life”. But the spokesperson for the armed group clarified that these rights will be conditional on “principles of Islam” that he defends. Contradictory statements which are far from reassuring the country’s women journalists, officials or politicians, many of whom fear for their lives.

“I’m waiting for them to come (…), they’re looking for people like me and they’re going to kill me”, Zarifa Ghafari, mayor of Maidan Shar told UK site iNews (article in English). At 27, the one who became the country’s youngest mayor in 2018 has been living holed up in her home for nearly a month. “I can’t leave my family. And where would I go, anyway?” she said in a testimony as short as it was chilling.

The Afghan flag, symbol of resistance, brandished

Braving the ban, many Afghans waved the national flag in major cities in protest. A black, red and green emblem that the Taliban seek to replace with their own banner, not hesitating to use force. Three people were killed by Islamist fighters on Wednesday in Jalalabad, in the east of the country, as a compact crowd attempted to plant the national flag in a town square, Reuters reported.

Tensions around the flag were heightened on Thursday August 19, the Afghan National Day, as scooters, cars and pedestrians bearing the national banner were seen across the country. In Kabul, demonstrators notably managed to hoist their tricolor flag smoothly in a square. But in other cities, such as Asadabad, similar actions have been bloodily suppressed, reports the Guardian (link in English).

But these demonstrations, as courageous as they are, will have little effect, believes researcher Gilles Dorronsoro. “It is very unlikely that we can overthrow the Taliban with urban demonstrations, which involve only a few hundred people”, judge the expert. The specialist also warns countries that would be tempted to support these opponents: “We must remain cautious, because this would have the effect of discrediting these demonstrations, which would appear to be manipulations from the outside”. There is no question of closing our eyes, however, notes the researcher: “Without encouraging the demonstrators, Western countries can at least take note of these demonstrations and react to their repression. ”

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