Taliban meet protesters in Afghanistan with force

The Taliban faced the first street protests against their takeover of Afghanistan on Wednesday, with protests in at least two cities, ev...


The Taliban faced the first street protests against their takeover of Afghanistan on Wednesday, with protests in at least two cities, even as they moved to form a new government.

A public demonstration of dissent in the northeastern city of Jalalabad was forcibly repelled. Taliban soldiers shot at the crowd and beat protesters and journalists.

The Taliban had taken control of the city, a trade hub east of Kabul near the main border post with Pakistan, four days earlier without much fighting after a deal was negotiated with local leaders. This week, the Taliban came out in large numbers, patrolling the city in vans seized by police forces now missing.

Despite the risks, hundreds of protesters marched down the main shopping street, whistling, shouting and carrying large Afghan Republic flags. Taliban fighters fired in the air to disperse the crowd, but the protesters did not disperse, a video released by local media showed.

When this failed, the fighters resorted to violence. At least two people were killed and a dozen injured, according to Al Jazeera.

For the new Taliban government, the shocking images of violence during the protest – as well as images of chaos and people beaten as they tried to approach Kabul airport in an attempt to flee the country – undermined their efforts to present themselves as responsible stewards of government.

In Khost, in the southeast of the country, there were also protests, with dramatic photos and videos showing hundreds of people taking to the streets.

The explosion of public anger came as the Taliban prepared to provide details on the form of their government, appointing ministers and occupying key positions.

“We no longer want Afghanistan to be a battleground,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson, told a press conference on Tuesday. “From today the war is over.”

While many were skeptical of these assurances, in Kabul the rhythms of everyday life began to return, but they were in many ways limited.

There were significantly fewer women in the streets. Some of those who ventured outside did not cover themselves with the traditional burqa, the full face shroud that was required the last time the Taliban ruled. In homes and businesses, a knock on the door could create fear.

It remains to be seen whether the pragmatic needs of a nation of 38 million people will continue to temper the ideological fanaticism that defined the group’s rule from 1996 to 2001. But the country that the Taliban now control has changed significantly from two decades ago.

The advancement of women – women in key roles in civil society and millions of girls in school – is the most visible example. But years of Western investment in the country also helped rebuild a nation that was in ruins when the Taliban first emerged.

The protests offered warning signs that many Afghans will not simply accept the Taliban rule.

The failure of the Afghan government to meet the basic needs of the population has helped fuel support for the Taliban. This allowed them to quickly sweep the country – often not by military force, but through negotiations with frustrated local leaders.

On Wednesday, at a riverside market in Kabul, Jawed was selling apples. Born in the year the Taliban were ousted from power, he was not old enough to remember their brutal rule.

His concern this week was to source fruit from Pakistan. It was easier now, he said.

“The roads are clear now – they are quiet,” said Jawed, who bears a name. So far, the Taliban meant more order in traffic, and wholesale prices had fallen. But business was no better.

“People are scared right now – they’re not buying,” he said. “But at least it’s better than yesterday. Things will slowly improve. The mullahs have arrived.

The arrival of the Taliban mullahs – a reference to the group’s religious leaders – also sparked widespread fear.

Tens of thousands are still trying to escape. People lined up at banks early, fearing there would be no money to feed their families. And the deployment of troops to checkpoints across Kabul made it clear that the Taliban have a monopoly on the use of force and would decide how and when to use it.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Taliban meet protesters in Afghanistan with force
Taliban meet protesters in Afghanistan with force
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