Afghanistan marks a tumultuous year in which the economy collapsed, women’s rights were crushed and a humanitarian crisis worsened.
The Taliban have marked the first anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan as their members celebrated a ‘Victory Day’, chanting slogans outside the former US embassy in the capital, Kabul.
Exactly a year ago, the group captured Kabul after a nationwide blitzkrieg offensive against government forces, just as US-led troops ended two decades of intervention in a conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives
“We fulfilled the obligation of jihad and liberated our country,” said Niamatullah Hekmat, a Taliban fighter who entered the capital on August 15 last year just hours after then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
“It is the day of victory and happiness for Muslims and the Afghan people. It is the day of conquest and the victory of the white flag,” government spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter.
The chaotic withdrawal of foreign forces continued until August 31, with tens of thousands of people rushing to Kabul airport in the hope of being evacuated on any flight out of Afghanistan.
Since the takeover, Afghanistan’s economy has collapsed, women have been disenfranchised, and millions of people don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Many restrictions have been placed on women. Tens of thousands of girls have been excluded from secondary schools, while women have been barred from many government jobs.
According to Save the Children, more than 45 percent of girls said they do not go to school, compared to 20 percent of boys, citing economic challenges.
In May, women were ordered to cover themselves completely in public, including the face, ideally with an all-encompassing burqa.
“From the day they arrived, life has lost its meaning,” said Ogai Amail, a Kabul resident. “They have taken everything from us, they have even entered our personal space,” he added.
While Afghans acknowledge a decline in violence since the Taliban took power, the humanitarian crisis has left many helpless.
A report by Save the Children, entitled Breaking point: Life for children one year since the Taliban took power, showed that 97% of Afghan families were struggling to provide enough food for their children and that almost 80% of children said they had gone to bed hungry in the past 30 days.
“People who come to our shops complain so much about the high prices that we shopkeepers have started to hate ourselves,” said Noor Mohammad, a shopkeeper in Kandahar, the Taliban’s de facto center of power.
The country is in economic crisis, with its overseas assets frozen by Washington and aid cut to keep funds out of the hands of the Taliban.
UNICEF’s representative in Afghanistan, Mohamed Ag Ayoya, told Al Jazeera that the past year has been “tough” for Afghans in general and for humanitarians trying to support the country.
Reporting from Kabul, Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid said the Afghan people have witnessed many broken promises.
“The broken promises are not only about women’s rights and the economy, but about providing Afghans with a future they can look forward to,” he said.
“If you talk to the Taliban, they say they have achieved a lot, but if you walk the streets, the situation is very desperate,” he added.
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