Afghanistan: What’s changed a year after Taliban return

By Shruti Menon
BBC Reality Check

Kabul protests near the Ministry of Education in March 2022image source, AFP
image captions,

Protests took place in the capital last spring, demanding that high schools be reopened to girls.

A year ago, the Taliban overran the Afghan capital, Kabul, as foreign forces rushed to complete their withdrawal.

Speaking to the Taliban at the time, Zabihullah Mujahid made several commitments to the new government.

So has the regime lived up to its promises?

“We will allow women to work and study….women will be very active, but within the framework of Islam.”

The previous Taliban regime, in the 1990s, severely curtailed women’s freedoms – and since the Taliban took over power last year, a series of restrictions have been re-imposed on women. in Afghanistan.

Dress codes and laws prohibiting access to public areas without a male guardian have been enforced.

In March, schools reopened for a new school year, but the Taliban reversed their earlier promise and girls are now not allowed to attend secondary school.

The Taliban have blamed the lack of female teachers and the need to arrange separate facilities.

This has affected an estimated 1.1 million students, according to the UN and has caused widespread international criticism.

Primary education for girls has been authorized.

image source, AFP
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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks to journalists last year in Kabul

Some public universities reopened to both men and women in February.

But women’s participation in the workforce has declined since the Taliban took over last summer, according to the World Bank.

The female labor force participation rate increased from 15% to 22% in just over a decade, between 1998 and 2019.

However, with the Taliban imposing more restrictions on women’s movement outside the family since they returned to power, the percentage of working women in Afghanistan down to 15% in 2021.

One July amnesty report said that the Taliban had “undermined the rights of women and children” in Afghanistan. It highlights abuse and torture perpetuated by some of the women who have joined protests against the new restrictions imposed on them.

‘We will work … to revive our economy, for our reconstruction, for our prosperity.’

In June, the United Nations Security Council reported that the Afghan economy had shrunk by 30%-40% since the Taliban took over last August.

A review by the official agency that oversees US-funded reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan concluded that although some international aid continues to pour into the country, economic conditions remain “worse.” .

image source, AFP
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Taliban guards at the border crossing with Uzbekistan

The suspension of most international aid and the freezing of Afghanistan’s access to foreign exchange reserves has had serious economic consequences for the country.

To compensate, the Taliban have sought to increase tax revenue, as well as increase coal exports to take advantage of higher global prices.

A three-month budget released in January of this year shows the Taliban raked in nearly $400 million in domestic revenue between September and December 2021. But experts have raised concerns about a lack of transparency. in comparing these data.

Loss of international support, security challenges, climate-related issues and global food inflation are all contributing to a rapidly deteriorating economic situation.

‘There will be no drug production in Afghanistan … we will bring opium production to zero again.’

The Taliban’s commitment to tackling opium cultivation reflects their policy with some success when they last took power more than two decades ago.

Opium is used to make heroin – and Afghanistan has been by far the world’s largest source of opium for many years.

In April this year, the Taliban announced a ban on growing poppies.

There is no firm data on how the crackdown has progressed, although reports from some poppy growing areas in the southern province of Helmand suggest The Taliban have forced farmers to destroy poppy fields.

image source, beautiful pictures
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Opium production increases in main harvest 2021

An official US report in July noted that although the Taliban risked losing support from farmers and others involved in the drug trade, they remained “committed to the drug ban”.

However, Dr David Mansfield, an expert on Afghanistan’s drug economy, points out that the main poppy was already harvested by the time the ban was introduced.

“Second letter [annual] Dr. Mansfield says the crop in southwestern Afghanistan is a small crop…so destroying it…will not have a significant impact.

It should also be noted that the production and preparation of other drugs, such as methamphetamine, have been increasingly developed, although the Taliban have banned a wild plant (ephedra) from being used to make it.

‘We [the Taliban] commitment to security. ‘

Although the conflict that brought the Taliban to power has largely ended, there are still more than 2,000 civilian casualties (700 dead and over 1,400 injured) reported between last August and mid-June this year, according to United Nations data.

However, these numbers are also down from the years before the conflict peaked.

About 50% of the casualties since August 2021 have been attributed to the actions of the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) group, an offshoot of the Islamic State group still active in Afghanistan.

In recent months, several IS-K attacks have taken place against civilians, especially in urban areas inhabited by Shia Muslims or other ethnic minorities.

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A man mourns after the attack on a Shia mosque in Kandahar last October

The presence of other anti-Taliban forces, such as the National Resistance Front (NRF) and the Afghan Freedom Front (AFF), is also growing.

“The overall security environment is becoming increasingly unpredictable,” the UN said in June, citing the presence of at least a dozen separate militant groups opposed to the Taliban present in the country.

According to the UN, human rights abuses have also increased significantly, including extrajudicial killings, detention and torture by the Taliban.

Between August 2021 and June 2022, it recorded at least 160 extrajudicial killings of former government and security forces officials.

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