Hunger, unemployment and inequality: Afghanistan is slipping down fast

In late August, the last plane with U.S. troops left Afghanistan. The image of desperate people clinging in vain to planes taking off is alive in the minds of many people, as is the bloody bombing of the airport on August 26, which left at least 183 dead and hundreds injured.

The Taliban were never deposed

The chaotic withdrawal ended the war in Afghanistan after twenty years. America had launched it after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Although many fighters from the terrorist group al-Qaeda, as well as the leader Osama bin Laden were killed in the conflict, the Taliban could never be completely deposed. The ultra-conservative Islamist movement regained power before the US departure.

Since then, it has gradually become clear which way the Taliban wants to go with Afghanistan: to lead a strict Islamic regime as in the past. Although the group promised improvement and a more modern society in the period around the Western withdrawal, in practice very little has come out of this.

Burka light and no training

There are serious concerns about the future of women in the country. On Saturday, the top Taliban leader announced that women should wear the burqa in public. The Taliban also demand that women from now on be allowed to leave the house only if necessary, and always in the company of a male family member. In recent months, girls have already been excluded from secondary education.

It throws Afghan women back to the years of the Taliban’s oppressive first rule, in the late 1990s. “The Taliban are violating women’s rights,” said Afghan Muzghan Mehr, who until recently worked at the Dutch embassy but was eventually able to flee to the Netherlands. “Through these actions, the Taliban are turning Afghanistan back into a conservative country. They want to subordinate themselves and socially ignore women.”

‘Taliban never change’

According to Mehr, the Taliban consists of the same people with the same mentality as before. “The Taliban never change. Dress and girls and women banned from school, study and work. We are back in the past.” According to her, it is difficult for women to leave the country because it is difficult for them to get a passport.

All this is happening against the background of malnutrition and poverty. Afghanistan’s economy, based on agriculture and livestock, has collapsed due to extreme drought and soaring grain and fuel prices. Many countries, including the Netherlands, provide emergency aid to the population but do not want to do business with the Taliban.

Sanctions vs. human rights

“What you are seeing now is that under the guise of human rights, we are sticking to sanctions against the current regime,” said Afghanistan supporter Jorrit Kamminga, affiliated with the Clingendael Institute. “While the Afghan people as a result are denied other important human rights, such as the right to food. That right should in itself force the Netherlands to continue to support Afghanistan in the years to come.”

Kamminga, who is critical of Afghanistan’s development in the Western presence, fears that no progress will be possible in the country without this international support. “If the current protests do not lead to a revolution or a civil war, it will probably be long years before many Afghans will have to adapt to the current regime.”

He sees only one solution. “To promote human rights in Afghanistan, we need to talk to the Taliban regime. It feels uncomfortable, but there is no alternative. Ignoring the Taliban and isolating the Taliban economically will not lead to a change in the regime’s behavior, while the Afghan people is seriously affected. “

What is Holland doing?

The ministry calls the violation of women’s rights “deeply disappointing” and a “next step in the wrong direction” for Afghanistan, but continues to talk to the regime. “It is important that the international community continues to address the human rights situation in its dialogue with the Taliban so that the Afghan people feel supported. Without dialogue, we have no chance of influencing those in power,” a ministry spokesman said. of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs.

The Dutch embassy team left Kabul in a hurry in mid-August. They now work from Qatar and maintain ‘official, operational contacts’ with the Taliban regime from there. The Netherlands will provide an emergency aid budget of 512 million euros in 2022. Some will go to Afghanistan through aid organizations. In addition, the Netherlands will donate more than 25 million directly to the country this year, compared to 20 million euros last year.

“These humanitarian contributions will be spent on life-saving relief to the Afghan people,” the ministry said. Aid organizations point out that the humanitarian aid provided by the international community last winter appears to have averted a severe famine, but at the same time warns that emergency aid remains necessary and the government will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation.

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