It has been three months since the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan. They made promises they were different. That they had changed. But the reality is something much different.
Three months ago, life changed forever for millions of Afghans.
The world watched as the Taliban retook Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul after 20 years of a civilian government backed by a US-led military coalition.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, abandoning the presidential palace to Taliban fighters.
At the time, US intelligence predicted the militants would retake the country in September.
In reality, it only took a matter of days.
It was swift, sudden and shook the world as fears grew for Afghans left behind to live under the new Taliban rule.
This new version of the Taliban made fresh promises and insisted it would be different than their nineties hardline interpretation of Islam, which included punishments such as floggings, amputations and mass executions.
In a news conference in Kabul in August, the Taliban’s long-time chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid said: “We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore — from today onward, war is over.”
But, 90 days on from their return to rule over Afghanistan, have the Taliban really changed their ways?
Just this week, reports that a new ban on women appearing in television dramas emerged as female journalists and presenters were ordered to wear headscarves on screen.
And the Washington-based World Bank has stated it is unlikely to give further aid to the country’s health sector, which is on the brink of collapse.
With winter approaching, 22.8 million Afghans could face acute hunger and the country is on the brink of an economic and humanitarian disaster.
But Abdul Botsani, Director of Glasgow Afghan United, a group set up to support the Afghan community in the city, believes the country is already in the midst of that crisis.
“The entire country is living in fear,” he said.
“People are living in extreme difficulties. It is chaos.”
Botsani believes that it was irresponsible of the international community to walk away, and rejects the idea that Afghanistan is on the brink of a crisis, revealing the country is already there.
“A lot of people are facing hunger right now. People are selling their children to get something to feed the other one,” he said.
“There is no economy. People are hostages.”
The recent tragic drowning of 27 people in the English Channel has brought the refugee and immigration crisis into the news again and Botsani is expecting more Afghan’s to come to the UK.
“A lot of Afghans have fled Afghanistan. What I can see in the future is hundreds of thousands on their way to Europe. A good portion of them will arrive on UK shores.
“If we have Taliban in power over there, I have no doubt millions of people will leave that country because nobody wants to be a hostage and nobody will want to live in that kind of situation with that kind of government.”
Sayed Hashimi was the Chief General Counsel and Legal Director for the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum and fled the country two days before the Taliban took Kabul. He said: “It was a panic that started when the United States and NATO forces announced that they are were to leave Afghanistan.”
Asked if the promises the Taliban gave in their August statement had been kept three months on, the lawyer was direct with his response.
“None of them have been kept.
“They are going back gradually to the brutalities of 1996. They have made a lot of promises, but none of those promises are being met.
“They are not letting girls go to school, not letting women go back to work.”
Hashimi was the director of international relations for the Afghan parliament and worked with the British ambassador and the United States government in the country. He was vocal in the media in calling out the Taliban as terrorists and admits he fears he would have been killed if he had not left when he did.
“If I was there when the Taliban took over I don’t think they would have let me live.
“I definitely think they would have taken my life.”
An ex-British Army officer, who did not want to give his name, served four tours in Afghanistan between 2005 – 2015 and fought the Taliban. He admitted he was not shocked when he watched the militants return in August. He said: “I think it was inevitable wasn’t it?
“After we left Camp Bastion, which is massive, it’s the size of Reading, I think it took less than a week for the Taliban to move in there, so it was always going to happen and it’s heart breaking.”
Botsani offered some hope for the future, believing the resistance to the Taliban is increasing in Afghanistan day by day, “The information I have from Afghanistan is a lot of people are saying no to the Taliban.
“Any government who wants to run that state must go through a democratic procedure, they must be elected by the people of Afghanistan. Anything imposed on the people of Afghanistan will not be acceptable, and there will be resistance.
“History shows people of Afghanistan will stand against them and will remove them. For me, the Taliban will be removed and they will not be kept in Afghanistan because I know they don’t have the support of our people.
“There is no way they will govern our country for a long time.”