“If the Taliban get to Kabul, they will burn everything down”

By Ghazal Golshiri

Posted today at 02:35

Upon entering the café of the cultural center of Pulé Surkh, in a district in the west of Kabul, the reality of daily life immediately catches up with the visitor. A dozen photos of young women and men, sometimes smiling, sometimes looking serious, their gaze fixed on the lens, line one of the walls at the entrance. “These are the journalists killed in recent years by the Taliban, explains this August 8 Shahed Farhosh, aged 29, who manages this cultural center. Him, it’s Sami Faraz, he continues. He was dispatched to the scene after a stadium attack in western Kabul [en 2018]. He started broadcasting the footage live. But the second suicide bomber blew himself up next to him. Afterwards, everything went black. No more pictures. More sound. “ Shahed Farhosh then points to the other photos and tells the story of each reporter. He stops. “The photo of Dawa Khan Menapal is missing here. I will add it soon. “

Dawa Khan Menapal, a former journalist who served as a former deputy spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and so far head of the government’s communications department, was killed on Friday August 6 by the Taliban. Two days earlier, the insurgents had promised to carry out operations of “Retaliation” against senior Kabul government officials in response to the Afghan army airstrikes.

Street scene in Kote Sangi, Kabul, Afghanistan on August 8, 2021.

Since May, the Taliban have led an offensive in favor of the withdrawal of international forces, especially the Americans. Their departure, provided for in the peace agreement reached in February 2020 between Washington and the Taliban, must be fully completed by August 31. On Sunday, the Taliban captured much of the strategic northern city of Kunduz. The movement claimed the capture of five regional capitals, including four conquered in just three days. More than half of the territory is now believed to be in the hands of its combatants. Never have the inter-Afghan negotiations in Doha – which were to resume on Tuesday – seem so far from a peaceful settlement.

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“Afghanistan has become the land of the dead, sighs Shahed Farhosh looking at the photos of journalists, some of whom were his friends. Impossible to know what awaits us. “ Before the fighting intensified, the frail young Afghan was optimistic enough to rent this building and turn it into a cultural center. The district of Pulé Surkh, known for its lively avenues, lined with cafes and restaurants, and renowned for the open-mindedness of its inhabitants – as evidenced by the freedom with which women dress in public – could have attracted a loyal and fairly large clientele. The Taliban’s lightning advance, both in rural and urban areas, and targeted assassinations have ruined his plans.

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