Sunday, May 28, 2023

Anti-Taliban support gains international momentum

By Ali Ahmad

Vienna: Four demonstrators held a large black and white banner during a protest in Vienna that read, “The international community should not recognize the Taliban as a government.”  

On the 14th of November, hundreds of Afghan diaspora activists staged demonstrations in many cities across the world to demand that the international community denies the recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The protesters also expressed their support for the newly established anti-Taliban movement, the National Resistance Front (NRF). The global protests took place in Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Vancouver, Brussels, Frankfurt, Hamburg, London, Munich and Vienna.

Ahmad Massoud founded the NRF in the northern Panjshir province after the Taliban came into power on the 15th of August. He is the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the former warlord and revered commander of the resistance force during the Taliban’s first rule in the 1990s. Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated in northern Afghanistan by Al-Qaeda affiliates two days before the 9/11 attacks. Several members of the former administration joined the resistance including the first former Vice President, Amrullah Saleh, before he reportedly fled to Tajikistan when the Taliban took power over the last stronghold of the anti-Taliban group on the 6th of September.

In Vienna, more than 100 members of the Afghan diaspora community, mainly supporters of Ahmad Massoud, gathered in front of the United Nations Headquarters to protest against the ruling of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The demonstrators demanded that the UN to put pressure on the Taliban to form an inclusive government based on general elections and the respect for women and minority rights. They also requested European countries to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people for the upcoming winter without engaging with the Taliban.  

Two wings of a bird

A senior member of the NRF, Saleh Registani, who is believed to be in Panjshir, sent an audio message to activists in Vienna. Registani is leading an armed resistance against the Taliban. He applauded the Afghan diaspora for demonstrating and warning the western countries not to recognize the Taliban. “Recognizing the Taliban means recognizing Daesh (Arabic name for Islamic State), Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations,” Registani emphasized.   

Registani compared the armed resistance in Afghanistan and the civic activism by the Afghan diaspora in Europe to two wings of a flying bird. “Our military activities inside Afghanistan and your political and civic engagement outside Afghanistan are like the two wings of a flying bird that without one, it is impossible for the bird to fly,” Registani addressed the protesters through an audio message.   

The Taliban is unwilling to respond to the calls of the Afghan diaspora activists or any pressure from the international community since they announced their “Islamic Emirate” weeks after Afghanistan collapsed on the 15th of August. In early September, the group announced a Pashtun-dominated cabinet, but they have refused to include women in their newly formed government. All members of the Taliban interim government are male and form part of hardcore fundamentalist Taliban leadership. One of the founders of the Taliban movement, Mullah Hassan Akhund leads the interim government as prime minister and is on the UN blacklist.  

Bounty on Taliban minister’s head  

The eye-catching figure in the Taliban “Islamic Emirate” is their interior minister, Sarajuddin Haqqani, who has cherished a close relationship with Al-Qaeda and the Pakistan’s secret agency known as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over the years. He is also the leader of Haqqani Network that has been behind some of the most violent attacks on civilians, the former Afghan government and the US/NATO troops in Afghanistan. As acting interior minister, Haqqani has not shown his face to media for the fear of attacks by the U.S. because the network he leads has been declared as a foreign terrorist organization and has a bounty of five million dollars on his head.  

During the protest in Vienna, Abdullah Hedayat who is a member of Resalat diaspora organization in Austria presented several suggestions. He argued that the world should not engage with the Taliban bilaterally nor multi-laterally. He also said that the world should not recognize the Taliban until they accept the full inclusion of women in society and politics.

Sayed Reza Sadat, the founder of Afghan Global Civil Society Organization (AGCSO), a Vienna-based diaspora organization, was standing in the middle of the large circle of demonstrators in Mohammad-Asad-Platz of Vienna, and criticized the European Union and the U.S. administration for making deals with the Taliban that eventually led to the takeover. Sadat viewed the Taliban as a common enemy of the Afghan people and of the West. He stated that the western countries’ economic burden in Afghanistan forced the U.S. government to abandon his country of origin and the Afghan people.

“They (U.S.) thought of their own economic burden that cost them millions and billions of USD. They wanted to get rid of the financial costs. They left our people all by themselves,” Sadat said.

It is believed that the Taliban have brought some peace and order after they took over more than three months ago. Robbery and other forms of criminal activities have reduced or even disappeared. Sadat, however, challenged this claim during his talk at the demonstration. “Stealing a phone or other items is not as big as what the Taliban have stolen from us. They have stolen 100 years of our history. They have stolen our values and culture. The Taliban have stolen the identity of Afghan girls and women,” Sadat reminded the protesters. “Stealing material items is not as big as what the Taliban have stolen from us.”

Adhering to the principles of human rights, the empowerment of women, justice, equality, the freedom of expression and equal access to education for girls and women at all levels were the other demands of the protesters. The Afghan diaspora in Vienna requested that the international community avoid engaging with the Taliban politically and economically.

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