By Anab Khan
As the 2021 Taliban takeover of Kabul reaches its 1-year anniversary, complete media silence on Afghanistan reigns, even though the situation on the ground continues to worsen. Since their coup d’etat on August 15th, the Taliban have repeatedly violated the assurances they initially gave the international community regarding the preservation of safety and freedoms for the Afghan people. The March 23rd issuance of Taliban instruction to close all girls’ high schools is one such example of these violations, the blatancy of which has caused the UN to express deep concern. Women's rights as a whole have suffered significant rollbacks in the last 6 months under Taliban rule, contrary to prior promises that they would be upheld and that “there is a huge difference between us [the Taliban] now and us 20 years ago.”
This tight control that the Taliban have exerted over all aspects of civilian life have not necessarily translated into a more secure society either. Over the past year there has been an uptick in bombings and terrorism in the country, which include the October 8 and April 29 attacks on mosques that collectively killed over 100 people.
This threat to their safety is not the only issue that the Afghani people are facing either, as a May 9th IPC report found that 19.7 million people, which constitutes over 47% of the population, are facing acute food insecurity. The 2021 fiscal year also exhibited a 34% decline in per capita income in Afghanistan, and a $500M federal budget deficit. These challenges have only been exacerbated by the earthquake last month that killed over 1100 and impacted hundreds of thousands more via destroyed homes, hospitals, and water networks.
Despite the seemingly-apocalyptic conditions that are becoming normalized in the daily lives of Afghans, media coverage and international aid seem to be inexplicably dwindling. Only half of the $4.4B requested by the UN Secretary General to provide “life-saving” assistance for Afghanistan in 2022 was ultimately pledged by donor countries. Furthermore, the U.S continues to withhold the $7B in Afghan Central Bank assets that they have currently frozen, on account of the treatment of women and human rights violations occurring in Afghanistan. It is crucial that U.S officials accelerate the process of determining how best to return the owed funds in a way that will benefit the people without also aiding the Taliban, as now more than ever, the Afghan people are in crisis.
Simultaneously, there must be a paradigm shift in the empathy and popular sentiment for Afghanistan, as there was for Ukraine, and it falls on the media to renew their efforts in achieving this. An incredibly important distinction between the Taliban and the suffering civilians of Afghanistan seems yet to be made by the international community. Until it is, it will remain impossible to come up with the necessary funding that the people desperately need.