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A year after the Taliban seized power, what is life like in Afghanistan now?


A year ago today, gunmen on motorbikes rode into Kabul, and Taliban fighters seized power in Afghanistan.


The radical group completed a lightning takeover. They already held rural areas, and then the U.S.-backed government lost one city after another. U.S. and NATO forces had just withdrawn from the country. For Americans, the compelling drama one year ago was an evacuation. The U.S. military flew out more than 100,000 people. Since then, close to 40 million people who remained have tried to adjust to new rulers. So how is life for them?

FADEL: NPR's Diaa Hadid joins us now from the Afghan capital, Kabul, to discuss. Hi, Diaa.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So, Diaa, give us a sense of what today is like, the anniversary of the Taliban rule. What's their message today?

HADID: Well, yeah, they're celebrating this as the true independence day of Afghanistan, And this afternoon, the government will hold a celebration ceremony at a Kabul auditorium. And on the streets, there's loyalists on motorbikes and bicycles, and they've got fresh black-and-white Taliban flags. But mostly the mood is pretty muted. It seems there's concerns about ISIS attacks. In recent weeks, there's been suicide bombings and explosions targeting Taliban supporters. But still, supporters are celebrating.

Earlier we spoke to Shams Ur Rehman He's a former fighter who wears the typical outfit of a Taliban loyalist - a black turban, long black shirt and pants. And we spoke to him near the graves of his cousins who were killed fighting for the Taliban. And our NPR producer here, Fazelminallah Qazizai, is translating for him.

SHAMS UR REHMAN: (Through interpreter) We are happy the invasion is ended. Independence is in our hands. The Islamic regime is established. We can walk and run around everywhere freely. This is the place of happiness.

HADID: A place of happiness. And even for people who don't support the Taliban, there's relief that decades of fighting has ended, particularly in rural areas which really bore the brunt of that fighting for years with bombings, night raids and searches.

FADEL: So you describe the celebrations of supporters, but I imagine not everyone is happy under new management, right? How are they viewing the day today?

HADID: Well, Leila, it's hard to tell because the Taliban government has largely suppressed the views of those critical to their rule. But on Saturday, we did attend a rare protest. It was about two dozen women marching down a Kabul street.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting in non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting in non-English language).

HADID: They're chanting there - bread, work, freedom. And that's a reminder that the Taliban government have banned girls from secondary school, informally pushed most women out of work and have ordered them to cover up and stay home. Taliban security forces disperse them by firing volleys of bullets over their heads. And just a warning - you're going to hear the sound of gunfire here.


HADID: Once we had all fled to safety, one young protestor said she wanted to remind the world that women like her did not consent to this government.

FADEL: OK, so we're talking about their detractors, their critics, their supporters today. But it's been a year since they've come into power. Can you give us a sense of what that year has been like for the country?

HADID: Well, Leila, it's been a year of hunger. Sanctions that were meant to punish Taliban leaders have battered the economy. They've plunged Afghanistan into a humanitarian catastrophe. More than 90% of Afghans don't eat enough food. There's not enough aid to go around. And you can see it on the streets. People are gaunt. Men, women and children plead for money. But the U.N.'s appeal to deal with this crisis is underfunded. And I'm reminded of something that a Human Rights Watch researcher said in a statement a few days ago. She said the Afghan people are living in a human rights nightmare; they are victims of both Taliban cruelty and international apathy.

FADEL: NPR's Diaa Hadid in Kabul. Thank you so much for your reporting.

HADID: You're welcome, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.