At the end of August, the last plane with American soldiers on board left Afghanistan. The image of stunned people clinging in vain to planes taking off alive is in many people’s minds, as in the bloody bomb attack on the airport on August 26, which left at least 183 dead and hundreds injured.
The Taliban was never overthrown
The chaotic withdrawal ended the war in Afghanistan twenty years later. It was started by America after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Although many al-Qaeda terrorist fighters as well as leader Osama bin Laden have been killed in the conflict, the Taliban cannot be completely overthrown. The ultra-conservative Islamist movement once again seized power before the American departure.
Since then, it has gradually become clear which way the Taliban wants to go with Afghanistan: to run a strict Islamic regime, just as in the past. Although the group promised improvement and a more modern society in the period around the Western withdrawal, very little came of this in practice.
Burqa and no education
There are serious concerns about the future of women in the country. And the Taliban leader announced, Saturday, that women must wear the burqa in public places. The Taliban also demand that from now on a woman can leave the house only if necessary, and always accompanied by a male family member. In recent months, girls have already been banned from secondary education.
It takes Afghan women back to the years of the first oppressive Taliban regime, in the late 1990s. “The Taliban are violating women’s rights,” says Afghan Muzghan Mehr, who until recently worked at the Dutch embassy. to flee. to the Netherlands. “Through these actions, the Taliban are bringing Afghanistan back into a conservative state. They want to subjugate and socially ignore women.”
The Taliban never changes
According to Mehr, the Taliban are made up of the same people and have the same mentality as before. “The Taliban never changes. The dress code and women and girls are banned from school, study and work. We’re back in the past.” According to her, leaving the country is difficult for women, because it is difficult for them to obtain a passport.
All this takes place against a background of malnutrition and poverty. Afghanistan’s economy, based on agriculture and livestock, collapsed due to severe drought and high prices for grain and fuel. Many countries, including the Netherlands, provide emergency aid to the population, but they do not want to deal with the Taliban.
Penalties vs. human rights
“What you see now is that, under the guise of human rights, we are sticking to sanctions against the current regime,” says Afghan follower Jurit Kaminga, affiliated with the Clingendael Institute. “While as a result, the Afghan population is being denied other important human rights, such as the right to food. This right in itself should compel the Netherlands to continue supporting Afghanistan in the coming years.”
Kamminga, who is critical of development in Afghanistan during the Western presence, fears that no progress is possible in the country without this international support. “If the current protests do not lead to revolution or civil war, it will likely be many years in which many Afghans will have to readjust to the current system.”
He sees only one solution. “To promote human rights in Afghanistan, we will have to talk to the Taliban regime. This 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 population is seriously affected.”
What is the Netherlands doing?
The ministry called the violation of women’s rights “deeply disappointing” and a “next step in the wrong direction” for Afghanistan, but it 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 will have no opportunity to influence those in power,” a ministry spokesman said. Foreign .. Foreign Affairs.
The Dutch embassy team hastily left Kabul in mid-August. They are now operating from Qatar and establishing “official and operational contacts” with the Taliban regime from there. The Netherlands will provide an emergency aid budget of 512 million euros in 2022. Some go to Afghanistan through aid organizations. In addition, the Netherlands will donate more than 25 million directly for this year, compared to 20 million euros last year.
“These humanitarian contributions will be spent on emergency life-saving aid for the Afghan population,” the ministry said. Relief organizations point out that the humanitarian aid provided by the international community last winter appears to have prevented a serious famine, but at the same time they warn that emergency aid is still necessary, and the Council of Ministers will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation.