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Kabul began a new era on Monday as the country’s falls to the Taliban, with its citizens trying to get on with their lives under the new regime as insurgents patrolled a city with no women in sight.
Despite the Taliban’s capture of the Afghan capital, the country’s largest national flag, a symbol of pride for the nation that was raised over the past two decades, continues to be raised on the Wazir Akbar Khan crest, just like any other day.
Unlike yesterday, when Kabul witnessed constant gunfire, some looting and pockets of violence, today the city is silent as Taliban fighters patrol the city in military vehicles or remain at checkpoints.
The Afghan flag
“Today morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was to go up to the roof to check if the national tricolor flag is still flying or if it had been taken down by the Taliban,” Sabir Malik told EFE.
The Afghan tricolor flag is important to Afghans, after in much of the country the Taliban lowered it to raise in its place the white flag inscribed with the Shahada, which has represented the Taliban and its Islamic Emirate.
“The flag has been the symbol of identity for Afghans for the past two decades, I hope the Taliban will not change it and lower this flag, millions of Afghans love it from their hearts,” he said movingly.
Hundreds of Afghan flags, which the government hung on street poles to celebrate Flag Day weeks ago, are still hanging in the city, with no word on what the Taliban will do in the coming days.
Uncertainty in the streets of Kabul
Although most shops and businesses remain closed, small store owners began to open on Monday in the hope that perhaps the worst is over.
The Taliban took control of Kabul yesterday afternoon after their fighters entered the capital without meeting resistance, with almost all provinces under their control, and the flight of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
In a video message released today, Mullah Baradar Akhund, head of the insurgents’ political office in Qatar, declared the end of the Afghan war, and with them the beginning of the “time of test” to prove they can serve the country well.
The big difference from the Taliban’s Kabul was that today the city was almost empty of women, particularly office workers and university students who stayed home for fear of the return of the Taliban regime, remembered for the brutality of its punishments and oppression of women.
The Taliban have repeatedly assured the citizens of Kabul that their fighters will not harm anyone, that they will not take revenge, and that all have been “forgiven.”
They have also assured that they will maintain the rights achieved by women in the last two decades, the loss of which would represent one of the worst setbacks for this country. But many women, including Afghan artists, politicians and activists, are wary.
“I still can’t believe this has happened (…) Please pray for us. I ask you again: people of this great world, please don’t be quiet, they are coming to kill us,” Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi said in a tearful video message.