During anti-Taliban protests in Afghanistan, there were brutal attacks on participants and journalists. The ex-government official Djawad * spontaneously joined the demonstration – when he suddenly heard gunfire. Here he tells what he experienced.
Thousands of people protested against the Taliban in several cities in Afghanistan on Tuesday. They followed a call from Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the armed resistance in the Punjir Valley, who called for a national revolt after the advance of the Islamists. Hundreds of people marched in front of the presidential palace and the Pakistani embassy in downtown Kabul, chanting “Freedom”, “Solidarity with Punjir” and “Down with Pakistan “. They accuse the Pakistani government of having given the Taliban massive support in their campaign of conquest.
The protest ended violently. Videos and pictures of demonstrators can be seen as Taliban aim their weapons threateningly at the crowd and shoot in the air.
“It felt like we were unstoppable”
One of the demo participants was Djawad *. He spontaneously joined the protest march and filmed the action with his smartphone. “The energy was unique. Courageous women and men everywhere fighting for their freedom. It felt like we were unstoppable,” he says.
A short time later the mood changed. On one of the videos that Djawad filmed with his smartphone, one suddenly hears him screaming: “Guns, guns!” Then everything happened very quickly, he says:
“The Taliban pointed their rifles at us, beat demonstrators and fired in the air. It smelled of smoking gun barrels and tear gas. Everyone was running hectically. Panic spread because we thought the Taliban would send a suicide bomber into the crowd I was barefoot because I had previously given my shoes to a woman who no longer had any, so I ran barefoot through the crowd, heard cartridges flying over my head, and every few yards I was hit in the back with the butt of the rifle. It was hell. “
“They are barbarians”
Djawad is actually called differently, but wants to keep his identity a secret for security reasons. As a high-ranking ex-government official and close associate of ex-Vice-President Amrullah Saleh, who joined the armed resistance in the Pandjir Valley, he fears that he will become a target for extremists. t-online knows its real identity.
He first had to process yesterday’s experiences, says Djawad. His injuries – wounds on his head, back and knees, as he says – he downplayed, instead talking about friends who got it worse. “I saw a Taliban fighter beat a woman because she tried to stop bleeding on her head and briefly took off her headscarf. They are barbarians,” he says.
Djawad: The former Afghan government employee reports on demonstrations against the Taliban. (Source: private)
The regime hardly seems to be able to survive without development aid
Djawad’s report and the pictures of yesterday’s protest contrast with the official statements made by the Taliban. Ever since they came to power, the extremists have tried to paint a less brutal image. Girls should go to school and women should be allowed to work, so far the new rulers have said. They also want to respect freedom of the press and no longer give terrorists shelter. The idea is evidently to avoid international isolation and to establish a minimum of foreign policy ties with the West. Without the millions of sums in Western development aid, the regime hardly appears to be able to survive.
Djawad, however, does not believe that the Taliban have changed. “For years they warred us with car bombs and suicide bombings. Now they want to regulate the traffic and ‘secure’ a demonstration? These are terrorists who now have a state. They showed their true colors yesterday.”
Reports of war crimes
The protests in Kabul , Herat and Faizabad in the northeast continued on Wednesday. International pressure is also growing: the EU has just published a statement in which it describes the new Taliban government as not “inclusive and representative”. The Islamists have broken their promise of a cabinet that reflects the ethnic and religious diversity of Afghanistan. According to a list published on Tuesday, all future members of the government are Taliban. Not a single woman is one of them.
It is doubtful whether such statements will have a moderating effect on the Taliban. Reports of alleged war crimes by the Taliban in the Pandjir Valley have been circulating on social networks for days: Tanks are driving over rebels who are wounded on the ground, civilians have been murdered and their bodies have been thrown into the river, write users close to the Afghan resistance. The hashtag #PanjshirGenocide is making the rounds on Twitter.
Such information is difficult to verify independently. Telephone and Internet connections in the Pandjir Valley are currently de facto cut. Even Afghans who have relatives there report that they can only contact them sporadically and by satellite phone.
“If you come to my house, it will be over”
Djawad also reports targeted killings of civilians in the Omarz district in Pandjir. Two of his cousins were murdered and two others were abducted. There were a total of 30 civilians dead in his village yesterday. He is aware that his turn could be next, he says. His family begged him years ago to quit his former job with the government and delete his social media profiles – for fear that the Taliban might target him.
Why does he go to demonstrate anyway as a close confidante of one of the two top rebel leaders? “Not doing anything is a slow death,” says Djawad.
In the meantime, his accounts on Twitter and Facebook can no longer be accessed. He also says that he does not want to take part in the protests that continued in Kabul on Wednesday for the time being. “I prefer to take a few days off. The Taliban filmed yesterday’s demo, so they know my face and certainly my address as well. When they come to my house, it will be over anyway.”