From his home in Sydney, Abdul Alizada is watching events in Afghanistan for many of his relatives still living there. He has additional reason to be afraid. Alizada’s family belongs to the Hazaras, an ethnic minority who have been targeted for decades by militants including the Taliban and Islamic State for their ethnicity and religious beliefs.
Most Hazaras are Shia Muslims, hated by Sunni fundamentalists such as the Taliban, and the community has faced decades of persecution and violence, including most recently attacks on a maternity hospital and a girls’ school.
Alizada says that after the Taliban came to power, coalition forces released Hazara and her family Afghanistan is afraid.
“There is no sleep at all in Kabul,” he told Reuters.
“They are afraid … that every minute the Taliban may come to our house and ask for me, or money or weapons for or from other family members.”
The Taliban’s swift victory over Afghanistan follows US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces after a 20-year war that he said cost more than $1 trillion. The speed at which the city fell to the Taliban has taken the international community by surprise and the United States is widely accused of mismanaging the withdrawal.
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The Taliban maintain a moderate face, take no vengeance against opponents, respect the rights of women, minorities and foreigners, and call on people to go about their business. But many Afghans are skeptical and afraid to turn around old enemies and activists.
“As soon as they heard the word of the Taliban saying they were coming to Kabul, it was a complete shock to everyone,” Alizada said. “Everyone was trying to find a place and they couldn’t hide in their house and they couldn’t find a place to hide.”
Sitting in the courtyard of her home in Sydney, Alizada calls a relative in Afghanistan who tells her that the Taliban are breaking into people’s homes and confiscating money, vehicles and weapons.
“They have already started searching houses in Bamiyan, Mazar-i-Sharif and parts of Kabul,” the relative said.
“If people get new cars, they get their cars. If they get a motorcycle, they take it. Also, they’re asking if anyone has any weapons or something. If they have If not, they ask for money.”
Alizada Hazara is a community leader who came to Australia to seek asylum in 1999. He became an Australian citizen in 2001 and now owns his own construction company. Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to the old harsh practices. During his 1996–2001 rule, women could not work and stone-pelting, whipping and hanging were common practice.
“They are looking for people who were working in the previous government, and also active people who are politically or socially active, they are looking for them,” the relative said.