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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Afghanistan: UN condemns Taliban’s brutal crackdown on protests


The UN has condemned the Taliban for their “increasingly violent response” to dissent, weeks after the group’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan.

According to the UN, Taliban fighters killed four people during recent protests.

Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, protests have taken place across Afghanistan, demanding respect for women’s rights and greater freedoms.

According to the UN report, Taliban fighters used batons, whips, and live ammunition against protesters.

“We call on the Taliban to immediately cease the use of force towards, and the arbitrary detention of, those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the journalists covering the protests,” a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a press statement.

In August, Taliban fighters swept across Afghanistan, seizing provincial capitals and, eventually, Kabul itself in less than two weeks.

The United States then led an airlift from the capital’s international airport, evacuating over 120,000 people before withdrawing its own forces on August 31.

The Taliban takeover comes after two decades of US military operations in Afghanistan, after American and allied forces deposed the Taliban in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The US will mark the 20th anniversary of those attacks on Saturday.


A violent response to peaceful protests

In a press conference on Friday, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani criticised the Taliban’s crackdown on protests.

Demonstrations have grown in number since the 15th of August, she claims. However, the Taliban banned unauthorised gatherings on Wednesday and ordered telecommunications companies to turn off mobile internet in Kabul on Thursday.

She stressed the importance of the group listening to Afghan women and men on the streets “during this time of great uncertainty.”

The press release also mentioned the recent deaths of at least four people, including a boy, and the violent dispersal of demonstrators.

It also criticised violence against journalists. Reporters told the BBC this week they had been beaten, detained and flogged by the Taliban when they tried to cover the protests.

The UN report comes as concerns about Afghanistan grow in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover.

The UN World Food Programme reported on Friday that 93 percent of households in the country were not eating enough food. Drought has exacerbated supply issues, resulting in the loss of approximately 40% of the wheat crop.

The Wall Street Journal reports that aid workers fear the entire population could fall into poverty within months.

And UN body Unesco warns that the country faces a “generational catastrophe” in education, after two decades of progress for children – especially girls.


US to commemorate 9/11 attacks

Unconfirmed reports suggest the Taliban plan to hold a ceremony to inaugurate their new government on Saturday, after announcing its leadership this week.

It is the day the US will hold events to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

On that day, nearly 3,000 people were killed. The attack was masterminded by the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, which was led by Osama Bin Laden, who was at the time in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

Ken McCallum, director general of the UK intelligence agency MI5, has told the BBC that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has likely “emboldened” UK terrorists.

President Joe Biden had initially set 11 September as the deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, before the Taliban takeover forced the US to speed up its withdrawal.

On Thursday the first foreigners flew out of Kabul since the US pull-out. Around 100 people – among them UK, US, Canadian and Dutch nationals – took a Qatar Airways charter flight to Doha.

A second Qatar Airways flight from the Afghan capital landed in Doha on Friday, reportedly carrying some 150 people. France has confirmed that 49 of its nationals were on board.

According to the White House, the plane was carrying 19 US citizens. It went on to say that with Washington’s help, two more American nationals and 11 permanent residents left Afghanistan overland for a third country on Friday.

However, according to press secretary Jen Psaki, the US has temporarily halted flights of Afghan refugees into the country following the discovery of four cases of measles among those who have recently arrived.

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