Monday, August 15

Afghans terrified of poverty and loss of rights: “Imagine your whole family is out of work overnight”

Afghanistan tries to stay on its feet after the victory of the Taliban. The many citizens who want to flee and have not been able to do so for now must continue to get up every morning and try to survive in a moment of total uncertainty.

This is the case of Z. Safi, who defines the last days as “stress and depression.” “Imagine that your whole family loses their job in one night and a government arrives with completely different rules; it is very difficult,” this Afghan woman from the province of Daikondi (whose capital fell under Taliban rule on August 15) told , who prefers not to reveal his name.

Safi sends a message to the Western world to ask them not to abandon the organizations or companies that have been established in the country in recent years. Otherwise, “people will starve,” he says.

Afghanistan now faces the threat of bankruptcy, with the new regime unable to access reserves and more than 8 billion euros in Bank of Afghanistan assets abroad frozen by order of the United States government because the radical Islamist group is listed in from the US Treasury’s black list of sanctions.

The country was already extremely poor before the Taliban victory, as Jonathan Schroden, operations coordinator of the CNA (Center for Naval Analyzes), a non-profit research and analysis organization, recalls, which defines its economic situation in recent years. as “pretty awful”.

Afghanistan has consistently topped the global indices of economic activity. With a per capita GDP of $ 508 per year, the lowest in the region and one of the lowest in the world, 72% of the Afghan population (the country has 38 million inhabitants) lived under the poverty line already before the Taliban assault on power. 6.8 million people are at risk of acute food insecurity, according to a Fewsnet report.

As Raz Mohammad Dalili, a member of the NGO DHSA (Development & Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan) who lives in Kabul, points out, in Afghanistan “the poverty line increases year after year” and in many households there is not enough income to support a family. “The situation has worsened for the poorest,” confirms Nasir Ahmar, administrator of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The Afghan economy is extremely weak and highly dependent on foreign aid, which could now disappear and has come to finance around 75% of public spending in the country in recent years, according to World Bank data. The multilateral organization based in Washington details in its analyzes that the Afghan private sector is practically dependent on agriculture. With data from March 2021, 44% of the workers belonged to this sector and 60% of the households received some income from working the land. The development and diversification of the economy are limited by, among other factors, “insecurity, political instability and widespread corruption,” according to that entity.

An insecurity that has grown even more in recent weeks. LO, an Afghan who prefers not to reveal his name, defines his last days in the country as follows: “Near our house there were fights and terrible noises of weapons.” “I asked the children to stay in the rooms and stay away from the windows as they were so scared.” He spent the night awake, terrified for the safety of his family: “I was afraid that the mortar rounds could suddenly hit our area,” he tells this medium.

“Nothing is guaranteed”

Schroden, the CNA operations coordinator, predicts that if 20 years after being overthrown by the US invasion, the Taliban now rule, on their return to power, with the harshness of yesteryear, “many countries will stop providing economic aid to Afghanistan. “.

Educator Raz Mohammad Dalili, a member of the NGO DHSA, is pessimistic about this. He claims that the Taliban are now acting softly to “get the support of the international community.” But he fears that, if they achieve absolute power and the recognition of the main powers, they will be “the same Taliban as in 1996.”

For now, the Afghans have to overcome the day to day. As a small Kabul-resident businessman recounted these days, “banks are closed and will remain that way until the weekend, ATMs have run out of cash and large companies are keeping the blind down.” “Nothing is guaranteed.”

Abdul Shkoor is the coordinator of Talay Sorkh Afghan, a Herat-based company that markets Afghanistan-grown products such as saffron, raisins and dried figs. They sell within the country and export to other territories. Shkoor is disappointed in the West’s response to the Taliban and is highly critical of the overthrown government: the economy “collapsed” due to the civil war and after the arrival of COVID-19. Looking ahead, he believes that attention should be paid to agriculture: “There is enough manpower and capacity,” he assures this medium.

Images of chaos at the Kabul airport went viral on social media this week, with a desperate crowd at the planes trying to flee. And with a notable absence: that of women. A Sociology professor at the University of Herat, who prefers to remain anonymous and is still in Kabul, attributes this to the fact that “young women are not allowed by their families and their culture to participate in that crowd and leave the country alone, although they can do it. ”

As detailed, the few who have been able to escape have done so through international migration programs, only if their families have allowed it and if there were possibilities of requesting asylum as refugees. This inequality is only a small sample of the “traditional codes” that, in the expression of this sociologist, continue to mark the destiny of the Afghan population, and that the Taliban now seek to turn into “an imposition” based on their religious beliefs.

The best example of these prohibitions is detailed by his wife, a worker for an international organization that will close soon. She knows that she will be forced to wear the hijab, something she is unwilling to endure. Both are preparing these days their flight from the country to seek “a more secure future.”

One of the social workers consulted for this report who asked not to reveal his name points out that the women in his family live in terror. In recent days, while he was working, they have been afraid of doing such everyday tasks as going to the shops in the city for fear of being punished for walking alone on the street. He believes that women “will hardly be employed by the Taliban government.”

An NGO worker from Afghanistan, who also requests anonymity, laments that after “twenty years of sacrifice”, an expense “of billions of dollars” and after the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and military, now the country is going to “replace the Taliban with other Taliban.” “It’s just a scary dream,” he exclaims.