Sporadic protests broke out in Afghanistan as the country marked its 102nd independence day on Thursday, August 19. Many of these protests saw people waving the country’s national flag which may soon be replaced by the Taliban’s standard.
After taking control of Kabul, the Taliban’s white flag, which has the Quranic inscription Shahada — “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger,” has come up in many places. The Taliban had said on Wednesday that the new government would take a final decision on the flag for the country.
In a protest at Asadabad, capital of the eastern province of Kunar, at least two people were killed when Taliban forces opened fire after a protester tried to stab one of the fighters, Al-Jazeera reported. In the capital Kabul and several other places, people took to the streets with the Afghan national flag shouting slogans such as “our flag, our pride.” A substantial number of protesters were women.
Independence day protest in #kabul. Women and girls, men and boys screaming LONG LIVE #Afghanistan OUR NATIONAL FLAG IS OUR IDENTITY! They marched past #Taliban with some Talibs screaming back at protestors, waving their guns at them but finally the protestors passed. pic.twitter.com/yutJcmstAP
— Jordan Bryon (@jordan_bryon) August 19, 2021
Afghanistan’s independence day was also celebrated by the Taliban. On August 19, 1919, the British recognized the independence of Afghanistan, which ended the third Anglo-Afghan war.
Reuters reported that on Wednesday, Taliban fighters fired on a similar protest in Jalalabad, killing at least three and injuring another 12. The Jalalabad protesters had tried to put the national flag at the center of the market, replacing the Taliban’s flag.
People carry Afghan flags during an anti-Taliban protest in Jalalabad. Witnesses said Taliban fighters opened fire when residents tried to install the national flag at a square, killing three. More photos from Afghanistan: https://t.co/qGv5wYW8Kd 📷 Pajhwok Afghan News pic.twitter.com/W8aP2qY1xE
— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) August 18, 2021
There were reports of similar protests in southeastern Khost city as well. The Taliban imposed a curfew in the city to prevent further demonstrations. At several places, the protesters tore down the Taliban’s white flag.
IMF blocks Afghanistan’s access to its resources
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) blocked Afghanistan’s access to its resources, including the USD 440 million in new monetary reserves citing a lack of clarity over the country’s government after the Taliban took control on August 15.
The IMF’s suspension and the earlier freezing of the country’s assets by the US comes at a time when the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that at least 14 million out of 38 million in the country are at the risk of severe hunger due to the war, prolonged drought, and COVID-19 outbreak. In a video message, WFP chief Mary-Ellen MacGroarty said that “a humanitarian crisis today of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes.”
“The conflict has combined with drought and the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 to push an already dire situation closer to a catastrophe.”
— WFP Media (@WFP_Media) August 19, 2021
She also said that WFP needs at least USD 200 million to get food into Afghanistan before winter.
Meanwhile, the political process to form a new government in Kabul continued on Wednesday, with local media reporting a meeting between Taliban representatives and former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the High Council for National Reconciliation. Anas Haqqani led the Taliban’s delegation. Tolo News reported that the main topic of discussion was forming an inclusive government in the country.