The Taliban Takeover and Its Attempt to Rebrand

Since the American government’s controversial military evacuation of Afghanistan in September 2021, the country has been under Taliban rule, led by Mohammad Hasan Akhund. Immediately following the Taliban takeover, the World Bank halted financial aid into Afghanistan while the International Monetary Fund suspended the newly formed government’s access to funds. 

As of February 2022, no countries have recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s official government even after Akhund publicly called for neighboring Muslim countries to legitimize the Taliban. In the past, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s governing body, but in the contemporary context, nations are even more hesitant to voice their support given the Taliban’s track record.

In an effort to rebrand its international image,  Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, announced in August of 2021 that its actions in the past during their previous reign which ended in 2001 do not reflect its new approach to governance. Mujahid declared that “there’s a huge difference between us, in comparison to 20 years ago.” He expressed the Taliban’s dedication to rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, stating that it would work on “our natural resources and our resources in order to revitalize our economy, for our reconstruction, for our prosperity.” 

Women’s Rights Under the New Taliban Regime: Will Anything Change?

One of the most worrisome aspects of the takeover, however, is the Taliban’s treatment of women. This fear stems from its previous reign from 1996 to 2001, which resulted in an extensive list of human rights abuses towards women. The Taliban stated, however, that it will now be an inclusive and peaceful government, announcing that it will preserve and uphold women’s rights. Speaking to the international community, Mujahid explained that “we would like to assure them that there’s not going to be any discrimination against women.” 

Its takeover, however, has proven otherwise. Despite only being in power for 6 months, the Taliban has dismantled the Women’s Affairs Ministry and banned women and girls from secondary school and any higher education. It has also been reported that women are banned from working in any field, aside from being a healthcare worker or a teacher. Additionally, women are not permitted to travel more than 72 kilometers without a male relative, and taxi drivers are required to deny rides to women who do not wear a hijab or veil.

The United States is in a complex position, seeing as it planted the seeds for the Taliban’s resurgence, yet President Biden still stands by his decision to evacuate the U.S military. In response, a coalition of all-female U.S senators has expressed their concerns about the U.S’ disengagement with Afghanistan in a letter to President Biden. They wrote, “You have committed to pressing the Taliban to uphold the rights of women and girls, and you have stated that America will maintain an enduring partnership with the people of Afghanistan resisting Taliban rule,” and stated that their severance with Afghanistan is threatening their “​​hard-won gains.” 

The Failure to be Recognized as the Official Government and Its Consequences

The Taliban’s inability to adequately rebrand and garner recognition as the official government of Afghanistan has resulted in an extreme economic and humanitarian crisis. According to Akhund, international sanctions and the freezing of around 9.5 billion afghanis (about $98 million USD) in assets are to blame for the current economic catastrophe. With Afghanistan no longer receiving international aid, more than 20 million Afghans are on the verge of starvation, making Afghanistan the world’s largest humanitarian crisis as of January 2022. Unemployment is at a high, and banks are only open on an occasional basis, with citizens only able to withdraw little more than $100 each month. 

Akhund asserted, “We do not want anyone’s help. We don’t want it for the officials, we want it for our public.” The United States, the United Kingdom, and all other countries refusing to recognize the Taliban have put Western countries in a bind, as they try to find ways to provide aid to Afghanistan, as they did in the past, but without giving the Taliban legitimacy. They fear putting money in the Taliban’s hands, as they may not use the funds as the West intended. 

Iran is the sole country currently discussing the possibility of recognizing the Taliban. Its Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, stated that “the current condition of Afghanistan is a major concern for the Islamic Republic of Iran and the visit of the Afghan delegation was within the framework of these concerns.” He added that Iran’s talks with the Taliban have been positive nonetheless. According to Khatibzadeh, there are more meetings scheduled, and until then, it will be sending continuous humanitarian aid, such as 21 tons of food, to Afghanistan. 

The Future of Afghanistan 

The Taliban government’s plea for recognition is crucial in order to receive these funds to aid their humanitarian crisis, or else there will be dire consequences. With no country, but Iran, even considering accepting Afghanistan’s new leader, the public will be facing horrific struggles.  

Edited by Majeed Malhas

Jeanine Tajeddine

Jeanine is from Toronto, Ontario and is currently completing her Honours Bachelor Degree of Applied Science in Justice Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber. Her interests include human rights and...