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‘We’re back to square one’: Afghan activists on the Taliban takeover

Activists and youth charity workers speak on the seizing of Kabul, and what this means for the young people, minorities, women, and wider diaspora of Afghanistan

In 2001, the US and allied forces deployed troops to Afghanistan with the intention of removing the Taliban from power. 20 years on, as the US prepared to withdraw its military presence from the country by 11 September, the Islamist group seized power of Kabul.

Today there are desperate scenes in the capital as people attempt to flee following the takeover. Footage of stampedes emerged from the airport as people tried to escape – one video shows people clinging to the outside of a US aircraft as it speeds down the runway, another shows a man plummeting to his death from a plane shortly after takeoff.

A Taliban spokesman said on Sunday that “the war is over in Afghanistan”. Speaking to Al-Jazeera Mubasher TV, the political office for the group said that it is “too early to say how we will take over governance,” but that the “type of rule and the form of regime will become clear soon”.

Just hours after the takeover of Kabul, Nobel Prize Laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai expressed her concern for the safety of minorities and women in the region: “We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates,” the 24-year-old wrote on Twitter. 

She added: “Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians.”

In a further blow to young Afghans who wish to escape the turmoil, the UK Government announced on Sunday that it would be withdrawing offers to Afghan students of a prestigious scholarship to British universities, claiming that its embassy could no longer administer their visas. It has been reported that the students are anxious to speak up publicly about the situation as they fear jeopardising their places on the programme, which have been delayed for a year, as well as identifying themselves as targets for the Taliban. 

The median age in Afghanistan is 18 (in Britain it is 40 and in the US, 38), highlighting the urgent situation for many young people in the country who have never experienced or lived under full Taliban rule. In 2021, it’s vital to centre reporting on the region that is not from a colonialist or American exceptionalist perspective, that will follow the impact on the Afghanistan population with accuracy. The Fuller Project is one such source, dedicated to groundbreaking reporting on women, highlighting injustices, and spurring accountability. This thread, compiled by the platform’s editor in chief Khushbu Shah, compiles dispatches from Afghan reporters on the ground, including from an all-Afghan women-led newsroom, Rukhshana Media.

In order to make sense of events in recent days and their implications for people in Afghanistan, as well as the wider diaspora, we speak to Afghan charity workers and activists from organisations working to help young Afghan communities in the UK and beyond to see recent events through their lens.


“The Government of Afghanistan failed to protect its public. The country is now back to square one being ruled by a terrorist group who have proven to deny basic human rights and necessities to the people of Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan have worked hard for more than two decades for peace, democracy, education, basic human rights and a better way of life which has now turned into an impossible dream. The takeover of Taliban is scary and horrific, Afghans face a very uncertain future.

The world witnessed Afghanistan falling in the hands of a terrorist group who have shown no mercy for the people of Afghanistan. I believe that the international communities have turned their back and ignored a human crisis that is taking place.

I strongly believe that the international communities should support Afghans in any way they can. Women are the most vulnerable group who will be endangered by the Taliban regime, they will not have the freedom to work, study and chase their dreams. I urge all international humanitarian organisations and individuals to raise awareness about the human crisis in Afghanistan and support them where possible. Hear our voices!

The Afghan Youth Association holds regular meetings with the youth in Afghanistan trying to address different issues in the country. One of our main objectives so far has been to raise awareness and  support vulnerable women in the country.

Since the fall of cities and provinces in the hands of Taliban, we have not been able to communicate due to lack of electricity, internet and the fact that cities are under attack. Moving forward I’m not sure if we can continue to work closely with the Afghan youth especially women due to  the new laws declared by the Taliban regime.”


“I can’t put into words how I feel right now.

I have family back home, I made lots of friends in Afghanistan when I visited during school holidays and I love my people in general. There is no guarantee of what the future holds – we don’t know how much of a compromise the Taliban can make, all we do know is that people are ready to put their lives in danger and climb a plane in an attempt to feel the Taliban's hope for safety. I have seen pictures of children being turned away from school, and women changing what they wear. This is just the beginning so I fear what will come next and how much worse it will get.

“Afghans do not want the Taliban anymore, they want to live in a democratic society where they can grow and flourish” – Sheekeba Nasimi

We need the International Government to come together to avert further tragedy. In just a few days we have seen what the Taliban are capable of, how much more needs to be witnessed for a decision to be made? Afghans do not want the Taliban anymore, they want to live in a democratic society where they can grow and flourish. The Taliban should no longer have a place in our society.

It is extremely distressing to hear Afghan families come to us and cry and plead for help, plead for us to save their families. Some people have said the Taliban have held family members captive, others are wary that younger female family members may be forcefully taken to marry a Talib. It’s hard to bear, it takes a lot of emotional energy to see so much suffering. People may be away from Afghanistan but they have not forgotten their homeland.”


“Taliban are a violent terrorist group and they have clearly demonstrated that throughout history. The US-Taliban negotiation which led to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners meant that they have become more powerful with greater capacity. The people of Afghanistan were not consulted on that nor were their concerns taken into consideration. Consequently, the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban terrorist groups means the 20 years of progress, 20 years of hope, and 20 years of hard work for modernisation of Afghanistan has just drained into the ground and has amounted to nothing. 

Additionally it also means that other ethnic groups in Afghanistan such as the Hazaras who have previously been significantly targeted by the Taliban in their school, universities, in the hospitals and on the streets will once again be a victim of the Taliban’s atrocities. 

In the past 20 years, women were allowed to go to work just like men, have access to higher education and play their role in the development of Afghanistan. But now, under Taliban rule, they will have limited access to higher education, have to wear burqas and cannot leave the house without a male companion – the women of Afghanistan will once again be isolated in their homes and treated like an object.

“20 years of hard work for modernisation of Afghanistan has just drained into the ground and has amounted to nothing” – Parwiz Karimi

It is difficult to say what the international community can do to help out. The international community, in particular, those who were directly involved in Afghanistan such as the US, should have made sure this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. They suppressed the Taliban for 20 years, didn’t get rid of them. Now with the surprising withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan the Taliban have come out more powerful than ever. 

The international community must ensure that the vulnerable communities such as the Hazaras who have been isolated and neglected for years are protected, the journalists and humans rights activists are protected too – because these are the groups of people in Afghanistan who are at most risk.

The Afghan diaspora in the UK and around the world are trying to do what they can to help the people of Afghanistan. We have families, relatives and friends all over Afghanistan who we do have communications with since the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan. We are very frustrated and upset how both the western countries and in particular the government of Afghanistan have betrayed the people of Afghanistan and have played with their lives.”