Afghanistan is trying to stand on its own two feet after the victory of the Taliban. The many citizens who want to flee and so far have not been able to do so must continue to get up every morning and try to survive in a time of total uncertainty.
This is the case of Z. Safi, who defines the last few days as “stress and depression”. “Imagine that your whole family loses its job in one night and a government with completely different rules arrives; it is very difficult”, says to elDiario.es this Afghan from the province of Daikondi (whose capital fell under Taliban rule on August 15), who prefers not to reveal her name.
Safi sends a message to the Western world to ask them not to abandon the organizations or companies installed in recent years in the country. Otherwise, “people will starve to death,” 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 US government because the radical Islamist group is on the US Treasury’s sanctions blacklist.
The country was already extremely poor before the Taliban victory, as Jonathan Schroden, operations coordinator of the CNA (Center for Naval Analyses), a non-profit research and analysis organization, recalls, who defines its economic situation in recent years as “quite horrible”.
Afghanistan has routinely ranked at the bottom of global indices of economic activity. With a GDP per capita 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 below the poverty line even 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), points out living in Kabul, Afghanistan’s “poverty line is rising year by year” and many households do not have enough income to support a family. “The situation has worsened for the poorest,” says Nasir Ahmar, administrator of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Afghanistan’s economy is extremely weak and highly dependent on foreign aid, which could now disappear and has financed around 75% of the country’s public spending in recent years, according to World Bank data. The multilateral organization based in Washington details in its analysis that the Afghan private sector depends almost entirely on agriculture. With data from March 2021, 44% of workers belonged to this sector and 60% of households received some income from working the land. The development and diversification of the economy is constrained by, among other factors, “insecurity, political instability and widespread corruption,” it said.
This insecurity has increased even more in recent weeks. L. O., an Afghan who prefers not to reveal his name, describes his last days in the country as follows: “Near our house there was fighting and terrible sounds of guns. “I asked the children to stay in their rooms and not to go near the windows, as they were very scared”. He stayed up all night terrified for his family’s safety: “I was afraid that mortar shells might suddenly hit our area,” he tells this newspaper.
“Nothing is guaranteed.
Schroden, the CNA’s 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 says the Taliban are acting softly now to “get the support of the international community. But he fears that if they gain absolute power and the recognition of the major powers, they will be “the same Taliban as in 1996.
For the time being, the Afghans must get by day by day. As a small businessman living in Kabul said these days, “the banks are closed and will remain so until the end of the week, the ATMs have run out of cash and the big companies have run out of money”. keep the shutters down.” “Nothing is guaranteed.”
Abdul Shkoor is the coordinator of Talay Sorkh Afghan, a Herat-based company that markets Afghan-grown products such as saffron, raisins and dried figs. They sell within the country and export to other territories. Shkoor is disappointed by the West’s response to the Taliban and is highly critical of the overthrown government: the economy “collapsed” because of the civil war and after the arrival of COVID-19. Looking to the future, he believes that attention should be paid to agriculture: “There is enough manpower and capacity,” he assures this newspaper.
This week images of chaos at Kabul airport went viral on social networks, with a desperate crowd in front of the planes trying to flee. And with one notable absence: that of women. A professor of sociology 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 this crowd and leave the country alone, although they can do it”.
According to her, the few who have been able to escape have done so through international migration programs, only if their families have allowed them to do so and if there were possibilities to apply for asylum as refugees. This inequality is just a small sample of the “traditional codes” which, in the words of this sociologist, continue to mark the destiny of the Afghan population, and which the Taliban now seek to convert into “an imposition” based on their religious beliefs.
The best example of these prohibitions is detailed by his wife, who works for an international organization that will soon close. She knows that she will be forced to wear the hijab, something she is not willing to put up with. Both of them are preparing these days to flee the country in search of “a safer future”.
One of the social workers consulted for this report, who asked not to be named, said that the women in his family live in terror. In recent days, while he has been working, they have been afraid to do everyday tasks such as going to the shops in town for fear of being punished for walking alone in the street. He believes that women “will hardly be employed by the Taliban government”.
An NGO worker in Afghanistan, also requesting anonymity, laments that after “twenty years of sacrifice”, an expenditure “of billions of dollars” and after the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and military personnel, the country is now going to “replace the Taliban with other Taliban”. “It’s just a dream aterrator,” he exclaims.