AP: One of the founders of the Taliban and the chief enforcer of its harsh interpretation of Islamic law when they last ruled Afghanistan said the hard-line movement will once again carry out executions and amputations of hands, though perhaps not in public. Click here to read more (external link).
#BREAKING: Hazara leader, Mohammad Mohaqiq says, Taliban had forced Hazaras to leave their home in Daikundi. "I was informed that the Taliban had deployed their forces into the Kandir area, ousted Hazaras from their fertile lands & then distributed the lands to their supporters.
— Tajuden Soroush (@TajudenSoroush) September 23, 2021
A letter from the so-called Taliban governor of Daikundi has ordered more than 800 Hazara families to leave their villages & move elsewhere. The Taliban are using a page from the Nazi playbook to exterminate a major ethnic group in Afg. We stand w/ our Hazara sisters & brothers. https://t.co/NvxhdZfrlp
— Ali Maisam Nazary (@alinazary) September 23, 2021
NBC News: “They were beating me by the whip, electric rod and whatever they had in their hand,” Taqi Daryabi said… in the weeks since the Taliban once again took control, growing evidence points to a broad and sometimes brutal crackdown as they settle old scores, stamp out opposition and try to force many Afghans to adhere to their strict interpretation of Islam. Click here to read more (external link).
NDTV: Zarghunna Noori has always been a fighter, but the 22-year-old taekwondo champion — who dreamt of representing Afghanistan at the Olympics — says she has finally met her match. “In sports when we lose we are left feeling terrible,” she told AFP at her home in the western city of Herat. “And now we have been defeated by the Taliban.” Click here to read more (external link).
Other Sports News
Deccan Herald: … what this financial crisis will mean is that the Taliban may turn to drugs to fund their activities. While there can be no justification for drug peddling, it should not be forgotten that Afghanistan produces nearly 90% of the world’s illicit opium. Click here to read more (external link).
Ariana: Afghanistan is now faced with medicine shortage due to disrupted border crossings and limited operation of banks. Almost all medicine in Afghanistan is imported from neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey. Click here to read more (external link).
8am: Many families in Mazar-e-Sharif are selling their household items to fight starvation as poverty rises in the province. Balkh residents, say they provide food for their children by selling home appliances. According to Mazar-e-Sharif residents, there are currently no more heavy clashes and explosions, but unemployment has made life difficult for them. They call on the Taliban to save the Afghan people from starvation… Click here to read more (external link).
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
September 23, 2021
It has been more than a month since the international community was confronted with the fact that the Taliban had seized control over almost all of Afghanistan.
Some countries are still cautious or vague about their positions on the Taliban-led government. But Uzbekistan, which shares a 160-kilometer border with Afghanistan, has shown it is ready to talk and do business with the Taliban.
Some view Uzbekistan’s willingness to engage with the Taliban as simply pragmatic. After all, there are security issues to consider.
There are citizens of Uzbekistan in Afghanistan who are members of various extremist groups, some allied with the Taliban, some not.
The Uzbek government would prefer these people never return to Uzbekistan. The Taliban has given its guarantee that they will not allow anyone to use Afghan territory to plot attacks on neighboring countries.
But the same security concerns exist for Tajikistan, and the Tajik government has not shown any inclination to talk with the Taliban.
In Uzbekistan’s case, it would be costly to sever relations with Afghanistan — no matter who is in control. In fact, the ties that bind the two countries are much stronger than they were 20 years ago. And it is not only Uzbekistan and Afghanistan that benefit.
On September 20, the Uzbek president’s special representative on Afghanistan, Ismatulla Irgashev, said his government wants road and railway connections with Afghanistan to resume operation in order to help ship “food and medical supplies.”
Irgashev could have mentioned many other goods the Uzbek government would like to see crossing in and out of Afghanistan through Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan’s road and railway connections with Afghanistan have improved since late 2001 when the previous Taliban regime was driven from power.
Projects such the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) or China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have improved existing links between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. They’ve also created new transit routes that extend to China and Europe.
The Uzbek link was used as part of NATO’s Northern Distribution Network — the route the alliance used to bring supplies from Europe into Afghanistan and return equipment back to Europe.
Uzbekistan’s land link with Afghanistan is the Dustlik (Friendship) Bridge, built in 1982 across the river that divides Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, the Amu-Darya. It was the “gateway” for the Soviet military to enter or exit Afghanistan. It is now a gateway for much of Europe and Asia to trade with Afghanistan.
The railway track runs down the middle of the Dustlik Bridge. But until 10 years ago, it stopped just inside Afghanistan at Hairaton.
Work started in 2010 to extend the line another 75 kilometers to Mazar-e Sharif, the biggest city in northern Afghanistan with decent road connections east, west and south.
Operation of the new railway started in 2011. The project cost some $170 million, of which the ADB covered $165 million. It was meant to increase the monthly volume of cargo from about 4,000 tons before the line was opened to 25,000-40,000 tons. But it has not reached those figures so far.
China’s BRI uses this railway line, and it remains the only line connecting China directly to Afghanistan. The first train carrying Chinese goods into Afghanistan arrived in September 2016. China has pledged to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Some of those shipments will probably be sent by rail through Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan also has been exporting wheat to Afghanistan through Uzbekistan. According to one report, up to two-thirds of the flour Kazakhstan exported in 2020 went to Afghanistan.
The rapid changes in Afghanistan and subsequent moves to freeze Afghan central bank reserves has left Kazakh grain producers scrambling to find new buyers for about 3 million tons of wheat.
Nevertheless, Kazakh Agriculture Minister Yerbol Karashukeev said on September 21 that Kazakhstan would continue exporting wheat and flour to Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan receives transit fees for such shipments into Afghanistan from China, Kazakhstan, and other places.
At the moment, Uzbekistan is the only country with such links.
Turkmenistan has two railways connecting it to towns not far from the border in Afghanistan. Both connect to the Lapis Lazuli Transport Corridor that links Turkey to Afghanistan through the Caucasus. But this route is new, having just opened in 2018. The Turkmen section is underdeveloped and unlikely to be developed further in the near future.
Tajikistan has only roads to Afghanistan through the mountains. Thus, Uzbekistan’s road and railway links are a much better option for trade with Afghanistan. And the traffic of goods through Uzbekistan could soon become even more active.
Uzbekistan signed a deal with Pakistan in February 2021 to construct a 573-kilometer railway extension that would run from Mazar-e Sharif to Kabul and on to Peshawar. It would connect Uzbekistan, and the rest of Central Asia — not to mention China — to ports on the Arabian Sea.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Tashkent in July to attend the Central Asia-South Asia connectivity forum. He arrived early to meet with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and discuss construction of the railway connecting their two countries via Afghanistan.
Khan brought up the proposed railway line again when he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe on September 17.
Given Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban, and Uzbekistan’s amicable engagement with the militant group, the Mazar-e Sharif-Peshawar railway might be more possible now than it had been in July when Khan visited Tashkent.
In 2016, Uzbekistan opened the Termez Cargo Center about 2 kilometers from the Afghan border. That complex covers about 40 square hectares. It was intended to service what Uzbek officials hoped would be an increased transit of trade with Afghanistan through Uzbekistan’s land routes. Operations at the sprawling center have reportedly slowed to a crawl since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.
The Uzbek government has offered use of the cargo center to countries and organizations wishing to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. That should at least keep operations running until the resumption of normal trade across the border.
The United Nations’ World Food Program is already establishing a logistics hub at the Termez center.
Since 2001, when the previous Taliban regime was ousted from power, electricity has been exported to Afghanistan from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. But Uzbekistan’s energy exports have been the most by far.
An ADB report said Afghanistan imports 73 percent of its electricity. Of that, Uzbekistan supplies 57 percent, Iran 22 percent, Turkmenistan 17 percent, and Tajikistan 4 percent.
When a 500-kV transmission line from Uzbekistan to Kabul started operation in 2009, the ADB noted it was the first time there was “a steady supply of electricity” reaching the Afghan capital.
It cost about $93 million to construct the Guzor-Surkhon power line that Uzbekistan built to send its electricity to Afghanistan. Some of that cost was covered by loans from the Islamic Development Bank. Uzbek electricity is now essential to Afghanistan.
In 2018, construction began on a 260-kilometer section of a 500-kV power line from Surkhon in Uzbekistan to Pul-e Khumri, north of Kabul. With an estimated cost of about $150 million, Uzbekistan was to pay $32 million while the Afghan side funded the remainder using a $110 million loan from the ADB.
When finished, the power line from Surkhon to Pul-e-Khumri would boost Uzbek electricity exports to Afghanistan by about 70 percent. It is not clear how close the project is to being completed.
There are various estimates about how much Afghanistan has been paying for its electricity imports. But it appears to have been around $300 million per year — with more than half of the payments going to Uzbekistan.
In August 2020, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan signed a new 10-year deal for electricity supplies. How the Taliban-led government would pay for all of this is a big question. It is not surprising that at September’s SCO meeting in Dushanbe, Mirziyoev called for the unfreezing of Afghan central bank assets in foreign banks.
Were Uzbekistan to severe ties with the Taliban and stop or drastically decrease trade with Afghanistan, it would be a huge loss of time and money invested during the last 20 years — funds meant to improve connectivity not only between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan but also as part of a much broader trade network for Asian countries.
While Uzbekistan would incur its own financial losses by suspending electricity exports to Afghanistan, other countries also would lose out from not being able to trade with Afghanistan through Uzbekistan.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
September 23, 2021
Human rights defenders say the Taliban is committing “widespread and serious” rights violations against women and girls in the western Afghan city of Herat, which they say raises serious concerns about the ability or willingness of the group’s leadership in Kabul to control the actions of its members across Afghanistan.
Since taking over Herat on August 12, members of the hard-line Islamist group “have instilled fear among women and girls by searching out high-profile women; denying women freedom of movement outside their homes; imposing compulsory dress codes; severely curtailing access to employment and education; and restricting the right to peaceful assembly,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the San Jose State University (SJSU) Human Rights Institute said in a statement on September 23.
The two organizations say they have interviewed seven women in Herat by telephone, including activists, educators, and university students, about their experiences since the Taliban took control of the city. The women spoke under condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety, they said.
The women told HRW and the SJSU Human Rights Institute that their lives had been “completely upended” the day the Taliban seized Herat, finding themselves trapped indoors, “afraid to leave their house without a male family member or because of dress restrictions, with their access to education and employment fundamentally changed or ended entirely.”
They said they faced “economic anxieties due to lost income and their inability to work,” as well as “distress and other mental health consequences as they contemplated an abrupt end to the dreams they had worked toward for many years.”
“For the women in Herat we interviewed, life as they knew it had vanished overnight, and they were left hiding indoors, waiting in fear to see whether the Taliban would come for them,” said Afghanistan scholar Halima Kazem-Stojanovic of SJSU’s Human Rights Institute.
“For these women, the best-case scenario is to be unharmed but forced to live a drastically diminished existence. The worst-case scenario is to be arrested or attacked for their past achievements or for their fight to keep their hard-earned rights.”
When the Taliban imposed its brutal rule on Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, girls were not allowed to attend school and women were banned from work, education, and sports.
After the Taliban captured most of Afghanistan and toppled the internationally recognized government in Kabul on August 15, the Taliban suggested that it is now more moderate, but the Taliban-led, all-male government has rolled back the rights of girls and women in recent days.
On September 2 in Herat, the Taliban did not intervene when up to 80 women took to the streets calling for the Taliban to respect their rights.
However, two men were killed and at least eight other people were wounded when fighters fired indiscriminately to disperse a similar rally held five days later.
The militants subsequently banned protests that did not have prior approval from the Taliban-led government in Kabul.
HRW and the SJSU Human Rights Institute say the women they interviewed expressed particular concern that the Taliban would again require them to have a mahram — a male family member as a chaperone — with them in order to leave their homes, as the militants did during their first stint in power 20 years ago.
This requirement “barred women from most public life, cut them off from education, employment, and social life, and made getting health care difficult,” they say.
It also made women “completely dependent on male family members, blocking them from escaping if they experienced abuse at home.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on September 7 that being accompanied by a mahram would only be required for travels longer than three days, but some of the women interviewed claimed they had been stopped on the streets, at universities, and other public places, and barred from going about their business if they were not accompanied by a mahram.
Kazem-Stojanovic urged the Taliban leadership in Kabul to “ensure that their statements upholding rights are respected in practice in all Afghan provinces.”
“Claims by Taliban leaders to respect women’s rights will be meaningless if women and girls have to live in constant fear of abuse by the Taliban on their street.”