Troops loyal to vice president Amrullah Saleh today paraded the flag of the ‘northern alliance’ – an anti-Taliban league of warlords and politicians – through the Panjshir Valley, an area just 80 miles north of Kabul that the jihadists have never conquered.
Meanwhile protesters marched through the cities of Jalalabad and Khost, which sit a similar distance from the Afghan capital, waving the national flag in defiance of the Taliban which replaced it with their own white emblem.
Images that appeared to have been taken in Khost showed students – abandoned by the Afghan army but unwilling to submit to the Taliban – removing the group’s flag from the main square and replacing it with the national colours.
More video then appeared to show Taliban gunmen opening fire on crowds in both locations, though there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The Taliban has tried hard to present itself as the legitimate government of Afghanistan after security forces largely melted away as American and NATO troops withdrew, handing them back control of the country.
At a press conference on Tuesday, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid laid out their vision for the country – promising to guarantee women’s rights and stop all reprisal attacks in remarks that raised eyebrows and solicited scepticism.
Pictured: Protesters marched through the cities of Jalalabad and Khost on Wednesday, which sit around 80 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul. Pictured: Scenes from Jalalabad
Pictured: Protesters march through the city of Khost on Wednesday, which sit around 80 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul. Taliban are reported to have fired shots at the protest, but there was no immediate reports of casualties in the city
Meanwhile, the Taliban blew up the statue of a Shiite militia leader who fought against them during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, according to photos circulating on Wednesday, sowing further doubt about their claims to have become more moderate.
The insurgents’ every action in their sudden sweep to power is being watched closely. They insist they have changed and won’t impose the same draconian restrictions they did when they last ruled Afghanistan, all but eliminating women’s rights, carrying out public executions and banning television and music.
But despite the Taliban’s assurances, many in Afghanistan have made desperate attempts to escape. Some who can’t are taking a stand.
Multiple videos from the newly conquered country showed a growing resistance against the Taliban, in what could be the early makings of another civil war.
The video from the Panjshir Valley showed a convoy of vehicles parading the green and white flag of the ‘northern alliance’ – an anti-Taliban league of warlords and politicians who have previously fought against the militant islamic group.
People driving cars and riding motorbikes and mopeds are shown in the video driving down a rural road waving the flags. The video lasts over two minutes, during which a constant stream of hundreds of vehicles are shown passing through.
Separate footage from Jalalabad – that lies roughly 80 miles to the east of Kabul – showed protesters marching through the streets of the city waving the black, green and red flag of Afghanistan.
As they marched through a market distrike, some people who were walking on the pavement were seen joining the protesters’ demonstration.
Another Jalalabad demonstration caught on video saw people driving down the street in yellow Tuk Tuks while others walked and ran alongside, many carrying Afghan flags.
Khost – found to the south of Kabul and Jalalabad – also played host to some resistance to the Taliban on Wednesday.
Images appeared to show young residents taking down the flag of the Taliban in a town square, replacing it with Afghanistan’s, and in another video from the city, people could be seen waving Afghanistan flags from an overpass.
Other footage appeared to show the Taliban firing near protesters in Khost, but no casualties were immediately reported, raising the suggestion that the shots were fired in an attempt to control the crowd.
Pictured: People on an overpass wave Afghan national flags in defiance of the Taliban on Wednesday in Khost.
Pictured: Protesters walk through a busy road-way in Jalalabad waving an Afghan flag
Troops loyal to vice president Amrullah Saleh today paraded the flag of the ‘northern alliance’ – an anti-Taliban league of warlords and politicians – through the Panjshir Valley, an area just 80 miles north of Kabul
Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of his former mentor and famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud, are putting together a guerilla movement in the Panjshir Valley – the only region not controlled by the Taliban.
Saleh said on Tuesday he was in Afghanistan and the ‘legitimate caretaker president’ after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as it emerged he was massing troops and planning a counter offensive against the Taliban.
Amrullah Saleh made the comment on Twitter on Tuesday. He cited the Afghan constitution was empowering him to declare this. He wrote that he was “reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus.”
As of now, Afghan leaders, including former President Hamid Karzai and peace council chief Abdullah Abdullah, have been negotiating with the Taliban since the fall of Kabul.
Footage that emerged on Tuesday showed Massoud, accompanied by a heavily armed entourage, boarding an Afghan air force Mi-17, a Soviet designed military helicopter.
At least 15 people boarded the flight and were seen helping each other climb on to the military helicopter, thought to be taking off from within the Panjshir region.
Several of the group sported military uniforms, while others were seen in pakols – traditional round-topped woolen hats favoured by Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Saleh, who is from the northern Panjshir valley, fled to his hometown on Sunday. The region is known as a mountainous redoubt tucked into the Hindu Kush that never fell to the Taliban during the civil war of the 1990s or was conquered by the Soviets a decade earlier.
He has vowed not to surrender to the extremist group, writing on Twitter on Sunday: ‘I won’t dis-appoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with Taliban. NEVER’.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Saleh said that it was ‘futile’ to argue with US President Joe Biden, who has decided to pull out US forces.
He called on Afghans to show that Afghanistan ‘isn’t Vietnam & the Talibs aren’t even remotely like Vietcong’.
At a press conference on Tuesday, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (pictured) laid out the Taliban’s vision for the country – promising to guarantee women’s rights and stop all reprisal attacks in remarks that raised eyebrows
The Taliban’s war on female Afghans: Islamic group’s brutal oppression of women and girls during 1990s tyranny
A woman wearing a blue-coloured burqa walks next to the construction site of a building in Kabul on June 21, 2021
Under the hardline version of Sharia – Islamic law – that the Taliban imposed the last time they controlled the capital, women and girls were mostly denied education or employment.
Burqas – full body and face coverings – became mandatory in public, women could not leave home without a male companion, and public floggings and executions, including stoning for adultery, were carried out in city squares and stadiums.
Under threat of execution, girls were banned from mainstream education after the age of eight – forcing those who wanted to learn to do so in secret schools.
From the age of eight, girls were not allowed to be in direct contact with males other than a close ‘blood relative’, husband, or in-law.
Punishments were often carried out publicly, either as formal spectacles held in sports stadiums or town squares or spontaneous street beatings. Many punishments were meted out by individual militias without the sanction of Taliban authorities.
In October 1996, for instance, a woman had the tip of her thumb cut off for wearing nail varnish – while in 1999, a mother-of-seven was executed in front of 30,000 spectators in Kabul’s Ghazi Sport stadium for murdering her husband. She had been jailed for three years and tortured prior to the execution, but had refused to plead her innocence in a bid to protect her daughter.
Even after the Taliban’s ousting in 2001, women often remained marginalised, especially in rural areas.
The United Nations chief called for an immediate end to violence in Afghanistan and urging the international community to unite to ensure that the human rights of all people are respected.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the Security Council at an emergency meeting on Monday ‘and the international community as a whole to stand together, work together and act together.’
He said he is ‘particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days’ in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls for getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women.
Mr Guterres said ‘the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead’ and with the country’s future and the hopes and dreams of a generation of young Afghans in the balance, the coming days ‘will be pivotal.’
At this ‘grave hour,’ the secretary-general urged all parties, especially the Taliban, ‘to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.’
Mr Guterres said the UN continues to have staff and offices in areas now under Taliban control, and which so far have been respected. ‘Above all, we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.’
‘We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan,’ he said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, claimed on Tuesday ‘there is a huge difference between us and the Taliban of 20 years ago’, when female Afghans were beaten in the street or publicly executed, denied work, healthcare and an education, and barred from leaving home without a male chaperone.
During their press conference in the capital city, the Taliban insisted girls will receive an education and women will be allowed to study at university – both of which were forbidden under Taliban rule in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 before the US-led invasion.
The terror group also claimed they want women to be part of the new government after female Afghans staged a protest outside a local Taliban HQ in Khair Khana district, a suburb of north-west Kabul, while chanting ‘honour and lives are safe’ and ‘join voices with us’.
However, women and girls remain the most at risk under the new regime, with gangs in conquered areas allegedly hunting children as young as 12 and unmarried or widowed women they regard as spoils of war – ‘qhanimat’ – being forced into marriage or sex slavery.
The Taliban has also said women will have to wear hijabs but not burkas. During the press conference on Tuesday, Mujahid did not detail what restrictions would be imposed on women, although he did say it would be a government with ‘strong Islamic values’.
Mujahid claimed: ‘We are committed to the rights of women under the system of Sharia. They are going to be working shoulder to shoulder with us. We would like to assure the international community that there will be no discrimination.’
The Taliban denied it was enforcing sex slavery, and claims that such actions are against Islam. During the 1990s, the regime established religious police for the suppression of ‘vice’, and courts handed out extreme punishments including stoning to death women accused of adultery.
When asked by a reporter whether the Taliban would renounce terrorist group Al-Qaeda, Mujahid answered evasively, saying the group would not permit foreign fighters to use Afghanistan ‘against anybody’.
‘I would like to assure the international community that nobody will be harmed,’ Mujahid said from the former government’s media information centre in Kabul, speaking into a row of microphones.
‘We do not want to have any problems with the international community,’ he added, before defending the Taliban’s right to ‘act according to our religious principles.’
‘Other countries have different approaches, rules and regulations… the Afghans have the right to have their own rules and regulations in accordance with our values.’
The spokesman suggested that the Taliban intended to put the last 20 years behind them, claiming that the group is ‘not going to revenge anybody, we do not have grudges against anybody’.
‘We want to make sure Afghanistan is not the battlefield of conflict anymore. We want to grant amnesty to those who have fought against us,’ he said.
He described the Taliban’s ’20 year struggle for freedom, emancipating the country form occupation,’ and said of the recent incursion: ‘This was our right, we have achieved our right, I would like to thank God for bringing us to this stage.’
There have also been concerns that the Taliban would restrict media and journalists within the country. Mujahid also attempted to allay those fears in Tuesdays conference.
‘I would like to assure the media that we are committed to the media within our cultural frameworks’, Mujahid said. ‘Private media can continue to be free and independent.
‘Islam is very important in our country… Therefore Islamic values should be taken into account when it comes to the media, to developing your programmes.
‘Impartiality of the media is very important, they can critique our work so that we can improve. But the media should not work against us’, he added.