Do Not Forget the People Living in Taliban-Occupied Areas

Exact information about the lives of people in the areas occupied by the Taliban is not available. What the government and the Taliban are reporting is contradictory. Independent and impartial institutions have so far failed to report on the people in these areas. Therefore, it is not clear exactly how people live in Taliban-occupied areas these days.

On social media, however, there are many videotapes of people living in the Taliban-occupied areas. Social media users also share news that indicates the hardships of life in these areas. However, it is very difficult to verify the accuracy of these tapes and news.

The government and the Taliban are engaged in a propaganda war in addition to a face-to-face war. Both sides seek to manage public opinion through propaganda in their favor. In a propaganda war, it is clear that information is being manipulated, censored and distorted.

Government media outlets try to publish videotapes in which a surrendered soldier is shot and looted, homes set on fire and market looted, or a woman wrapped in a veil is flogged. The Taliban’s media outlets publish and disseminate different videos on social media. In these videos, the Taliban show gentleness towards the prisoners and people, and portray the compassion and kindness of this group.

For impartial observers, where field observations are not possible and information from war-torn areas is manipulated, the search for facts has become difficult. They have lost their way in the midst of a pile of contradictory information and lost the thread of distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore, what is the reality of people’s lives in areas under Taliban control is hidden.

Public opinion is currently involved in various rumors. The Taliban are said to be violent and inhumane in their treatment of women in areas under its control. Local Taliban commanders reportedly asked women to wear chadari (veils covering head to toe) and not to leave the house without a make family member. Families have also been instructed to marry their unmarried daughters to the group’s fighters. Some people have been forced to emigrate simply because of their ethnicity. Other similar stories also exist. The origin of these stories is still unclear.

The Taliban have recently claimed to have occupied 184 out of 387 districts since May. Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar recently acknowledged that only 80 districts had fallen to the Taliban. Other government agencies have not yet released the exact number of Taliban-occupied districts.

The history of the Taliban’s treatment of women is not good. Hijab was mandatory for women under the group’s regime. Listening to music and watching TV was forbidden. Unmarried women were not allowed to leave the house.

For the past 20 years, the Taliban have persecuted women through desert trials. The group’s commanders flogged the man and stoned the woman to dead simply on suspicion of intercourse. Independent sources have also confirmed these events.

The fact is that there is no accurate information about the lives of people in the Taliban-occupied areas. Relying solely on government information, which is engaged in a fierce propaganda war with the Taliban, does not solve the problem. This situation, however, becomes more complicated when the Taliban does not confirm any of the above in its official position. In such a case, there is a need for independent and impartial national and international institutions to investigate.

Transparent research is the only way to properly understand the realities of people’s lives in areas under Taliban control. This research is currently only available to independent and impartial national and international institutions. The credibility of news published on social networks is weak. Hence, it is difficult to judge how the Taliban treat the people under its control.

In the end, it must be emphasized that “the oppressor will not win” and the people cannot be ruled by oppression. If the Taliban wants to be part of Afghan society, it must cope with the changes in the country over the last twenty years. No citizen of the country is ready to return to the dark days of the nineties. Popular resistance forces have also been formed against the Taliban for this reason. The group should not try to get Afghanistan back into the house-to-house war.