The banner, adorned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban interim government, in a low-key ceremony, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, head of the multimedia branch of the cultural committee of Taliban.
The raising of the flag marked the official start of the work of the new government, he said. The composition of the all-male, all-Taliban government was announced earlier this week and was met with disappointment by the international community who had hoped the Taliban would keep their earlier promise of an inclusive composition.
Two decades ago, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with a heavy hand. Television was banned, and on September 11, 2001, the day of the horrific attacks on America, news spread by crackling radios through the dark streets of the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The city rarely had electricity and barely a million people lived in Kabul at the time. It took only two months for the US-led coalition to drive the Taliban out of the capital and on December 7, 2001, they were defeated, driven from their last stronghold in southern Kandahar, their spiritual heart.
Twenty years later, the Taliban are back in Kabul. America is gone, ending its “eternal war” two weeks before the 20th anniversary of September 11 and two weeks after the Taliban returned to the Afghan capital on August 15.
Some things have changed since the first period of the Taliban regime in the 1990s.
This time, the armed fighters do not roam the streets of the city in their vans. Instead, they slowly move through the chaotic and congested traffic of the city of over 5 million people. In the 1990s, in Kabul, controlled by the Taliban, barber shops were banned. Now, Taliban fighters are getting the latest haircuts, even though their beards remain intact in accordance with their religious beliefs.
But the Taliban have started issuing harsh changes that have affected women the most, such as banning women’s sports. They also used violence to prevent women demanding equal rights from demonstrating.
At an upscale women’s store in the city’s Karte Se district on Saturday, Marzia Hamidi, a taekwondo competitor who aspires to become a national champion, said the return of the Taliban had shattered her dreams.
She was among the women attacked by the Taliban and labeled “agents of the West” in one of the recent protests. She said she was not surprised at America’s withdrawal.
“This year or next year, they finally had to leave,” she said. “They came for their own sake and they left for their sake.”
Hamidi hopes the Taliban will give in and ease their restrictions, but glancing at store owner Faisal Naziri, she said “most men in Afghanistan agree with what the Taliban are saying about the women and their periods against them “.
Naziri nodded, saying that preserving women’s rights is not a cause that will bring Afghan men to the streets.
On Saturday, the Taliban even orchestrated their own women’s march. This one involved dozens of women masked from head to toe, hidden behind layers of black veils. They filled an auditorium at Kabul University’s education center in a well-choreographed snub to the past 20 years of Western efforts to empower women.
Speakers read written speeches celebrating the Taliban’s victory over a West they accused of being anti-Islam. Women marched briefly outside the park in the center, holding up signs saying “the women who left do not represent us”, referring to the thousands who fled for fear of a Taliban crackdown on rights. women. “We don’t want diversity,” read another banner.
Outside the room, the director of higher education of the Taliban, Maulvi Mohammad Daoud Haqqani, said that September 11 was the day when “the world started its propaganda against us by calling us terrorists and calling us terrorists. blaming ”for the attacks in the United States.
In a dusty bookstore in Kabul’s Karte Sangi neighborhood, Atta Zakiri, a self-proclaimed civil society activist, said America was wrong to attack Afghanistan after 9/11.
He blamed the invasion that followed the 9/11 attacks for creating another generation of extremist Taliban fighters.
“The Taliban should have been allowed to stay. Why haven’t we worked with them? Instead, they went to fight, ”he said. “And now we’re back to where we were 20 years ago. “