Taliban advance worries: “Dont let Afghan women down”

The Taliban‘s advance in Afghanistan increases the concerns of the international community. UN top man António Guterres has called on the Taliban to immediately stop the offensive and negotiate in good faith in the interests of Afghanistan and its people. At the same time, many Afghans live in fear.

Guterres’s message was clear: To seize power through military violence is a holy path. That only leads to a prolonged civil war or a totally isolated Afghanistan.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, shares Guterres‘ concerns and stressed yesterday that the Afghan government and its security forces will be supported as much as possible.

What’s it like when the Taliban attacks your city? Watch Nieuwsuur‘s video:

Yet the Taliban is gaining an increasing share of Afghanistan in their hands. The Taliban would have captured Logar Province, south of capital Kabul. Yesterday, local government officials reported that Kandahar had been captured. Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand, and Qala-e-Now, the capital of Badghis in the northwest of the country, are also owned by the Taliban.

Taliban in provincial capitals

In Lashkar Gah, the Afghan army still has control of three bases outside the city, while the Taliban flag is now waving on government buildings. Chaghcharan in the central province of Ghowr, would have also been captured. The same goes for Qalat in the southern province of Zabul, with 16 of the 34 provincial capitals under Taliban control.

Capital Kabul is not yet in the hands of the Taliban. Patoni Isaaqzai Teichmann, a women’s rights activist living in the Afghan capital, now outlines the situation there. It‘s a very different Kabul than usual, very chaotic. There’s a lot of people in the streets. I went to a park in the city yesterday where refugees from other cities are now bivouac. It‘s disastrous. Far too many people without food or anything with them.

The activist persuaded the government to not accommodate the refugees in schools, but to offer them a place in mosques. At least mosques will be respected if it comes to street battles here. How many refugees are, she can’t say. There are some 600 refugees in the park alone, and 400 more in a mosque down the street, and there should be a lot of people in the whole of Kabul.

Arrange Visa

Teichmann is in the centre of Kabul with her relief organization. Today, with my colleagues, I collected as much stuff and food as possible and brought them to those people, especially for the women with babies. Two babies of a few months old died yesterday. Mothers don‘t produce milk anymore because they have so much stress. We’re trying to help those women.

The rise of the Taliban increases fear, including Teichmann. We are very scared, frankly, especially us women. I get calls every day from women in my network asking what to do, where to go to stay safe. Because I have a lot of contacts with foreign embassies, they think I can arrange a visa for them. If they can get a visa to study or research abroad, they should try to do so right now. But the embassies can‘t help everyone.

Yesterday, demissionary minister Bijleveld van Defense said that the Dutch Embassy in Kabul will remain open as long as possible. Among other things, the embassy staff is needed to handle asylum applications from Afghan interpreters and other local staff. We do our best to bring them here with every flight we can find. It’s still a few dozen, the minister said.

The United States sent 3,000 soldiers to the Kabul to organise the evacuation of embassy personnel and Afghan allies. Teichmann doesn‘t want to leave yet. I’ll stay here as long as I can. I can‘t abandon these women. They’re terrified. In Kunduz, the Taliban entered the city with a list of women sitting there working in activist organizations; anti-Taliban movements. That happened in other places that the Taliban has captured over the past few days. It‘s very dangerous when they get caught.

To leave Afghanistan’s women to their destiny now, according to Teichmann would not be fair. The world has encouraged these women to stand up for twenty years. That was good. It would be a disaster to turn their backs on them now. The women here are so vulnerable. They‘ve been able to smell freedom. They just started to find out who they are. Don’t let them down.