Sheesha: Ahmadi, we are glad to have you in our program. Today is August 15, the day the Taliban entered Kabul. A year has passed since then. I want you to express your feelings to your audience. What image does August 15 bring to your mind?
Ahmadi: In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Let me greet you and your dear viewers, listeners, and readers of the program. I think my emotional feeling is best displayed in a song sung by most people in cyberspace last year during the nights and days of the fall of Kabul. The lyric enunciated that the songless nights and unkindness of the time shall not last. Last year the hybrid space and public media were overwhelmed with this song. It can be the expression of the emotional sensation of a person in a heavy event like that.
My next point is that the fall of Kabul to the Taliban was a heavy and historic failure that the people of Afghanistan and the progressive forces who wanted and still wish for a fundamental change in Afghanistan faced. For these forces, this incident is considered a heavy failure. These two points, in short, are the expression of my feelings.
Sheesha: Doctor, in your opinion, during this one year, what kind of reactions have been expressed against the Taliban? I mean the responses we had at the local population level, the reactions that the elites of society had as a cultural and civil stratum, and the reactions of the international community. After all, the Taliban are a different phenomenon than all other images we usually have in our minds. How and at what level do you evaluate these reactions?
Ahmadi: If we look at the domestic level, the reactions against the Taliban, whether from the Afghanistan’s elites, political groups, ethnic groups, or the Taliban themselves, were not as strong as feared. That is, the intensity of the conflict from both sides was not as much as feared. For this reason, we witnessed a positive development.
The second point that I wish to note is that as the political elites of Afghanistan and the political circles of the ethnic groups, we are still living in the atmosphere of the Republic. It means that we have not recovered from the shock of defeat yet, and we think that we are still in the atmosphere of the Republic and the competitions of the Republic era. For this reason, many of the talks made by the elites are to criticize the past. We attack each other and our past deeds like a competitor. However, this critique is not in the sense of finding the core cause of the failure. Mostly, it is because we don’t like each other. We have conflicts mainly in the form of wrist-grabbing, taunting, and such rebukes. We are not going deep into the matter and looking at the fundamental causes of the failure. We do not see what happened in the last twenty years that we finally failed to use a tremendous historical opportunity properly.
The third point is that due to the influence of the atmosphere mentioned above, the political forces and the civil Society of Afghanistan have not yet been able to recover. That is, they have not been able to find a clear and correct understanding of the situation. They have not yet achieved a practical struggle standpoint. We still don’t know what we can do, what we are capable of, the best ways to bring about a fundamental change in Afghanistan, and what techniques are available to resist. We still haven’t been able to answer these questions.
To some extent, I can say that we haven’t thought about these issues yet. Many of us still believe that the way to fundamental change and transformation comes from outside; That is, if foreign countries or the regional powers decide, they can change the fate of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this view is still overwhelming.
We still haven’t reached this common point that transformation’s basic foundation lies in people’s views and decisions. The main reason for our failure in the last twenty years was that we did not make our own decisions. We thought that others had made a decision and were responsible for the outcome, and they will support us to the end. So we failed. We still believe the same. There has not yet been a fundamental change in our thinking in this field.
Regarding the countries of the world and the international community, I can say that their views on the Taliban, compared to twenty or twenty-one years ago, have embraced a fundamental change. Even though they have not recognized the Taliban yet, their views on the Taliban are highly modified. Now the Taliban is no longer labeled as a global terrorist band. On the contrary, they are somewhat seen as a responsible group. The international community is interacting with the Taliban, directly or indirectly, out of necessity or without necessity. The regional countries, even those against the Taliban in previous years and strongly supported the groups opposing the Taliban, have now changed their positions significantly. So one can say that the world’s view of the Taliban has changed drastically.
Sheesha: Doctor, in one year after the Taliban seizure of power, in your opinion, which sections of the society specifically suffered the most? What is the situation of the most vulnerable strata due to this development? How do you see the prospects of the current situation for these groups? For example, if this situation lasts for two or three years, what destiny do you foresee for them?
Ahmadi: I think one can say that most social classes of Afghanistan suffered from the development. Everyone is affected to a great extent of which I will point at some prominent ones:
First: The ordinary people of Afghanistan.
The ordinary population of Afghanistan wishes to respond to their basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and security. According to reports, in this field, probably more than 25 million people out of the country’s population are in urgent need of food; That is, they lack the basic needs of their lives. So, the local population of Afghanistan has suffered a lot. Why have they suffered? Because they do not have access to work and have lost job opportunities. With the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy, most people have lost their job opportunities. In this sense, one can say that the local population of Afghanistan has suffered a lot. It is impossible to find anyone who is not affected.
Second: Afghanistan’s women.
Under the Taliban regime, women are removed from the scene of society. Women do not have access to jobs and work. They are excluded indiscriminately. The girls who don’t go to school today are a generation that is missing their opportunity. Imagine a generation that loses its chance to study. During this one year, how much the fate of young girls who could have a different future is turned flipside. For example, many of these girls faced forced or early marriage. They got married unintentionally. They wished to continue their education, study, and create a promising future for themselves. They were forced to get married due to official pressure from the government and many other related factors, such as social and economic pressure. As a result, their lives were completely turned upside down. If we see each of these in detail, we will realize how much the fate of human beings is actually stuck in a swamp. It means that it has experienced a kind of swamp and a kind of darkness.
Third: The musicians and art groups.
The Taliban have removed Afghanistan’s musicians and art groups from society. They shut the doors to their education, university, school, and everything related to music and art. Those who had worked in music and art, and invested their lives in this field, were removed from the scene of Afghan culture and literature.
Fourth: The educated class of Afghanistan.
The educated class of Afghanistan is displaced chiefly. Because, as you see, the educated and cultured groups of the country, in addition to security and livelihood, also need an accessible environment in which they can freely study, think and express the product of their thoughts. They can teach, speak, write, deliver speeches and express their views in society. These fields were lost for this group as well. They have mostly left Afghanistan and become displaced around the world.
You know that the countries of the world do not need the educated group of Afghans to be attracted to their global labor market. So, there is no hope for the progress of this group in the countries where they have resettled.
Fifth: Afghanistan’s technocrats.
A group of technocrats had been educated in Afghanistan in recent years. They had grown their expertise, learned the work of governance, and learned administration and management. But now, they have turned to refugees around the world. Their experiences are of no use in the world. On the one hand, they face personal loss; on the other hand, the people of Afghanistan have lost their collective capital for governance and administration. All these are losses.
Sixth: Ethnic Groups and religious communities of Afghanistan.
Look at the ethnic and religious communities of Afghanistan. For example, the Shiite community of Afghanistan has been systematically removed and sidelined from the scene of power and politics based on their religious beliefs. Likewise, all ethnic groups of Afghanistan are sidelined based on the ruling group’s ethnocentric assumption and monopolistic strategy. In the same way, all other sections of the society, which are among the religious and linguistic minorities, have been wholly excluded. For now, a particular class has all the opportunities and sources of wealth at its disposal. The monopoly over the country’s wealth sources poses a significant danger threatening Afghanistan’s future. Afghanistan has three essential sources of wealth: transit, water and land, and mining. The Taliban have monopolized these three sources of work and wealth production in Afghanistan and will further squeeze their monopoly in the future. In this way, most Afghan people will be deprived of these essential resources of life and wealth.
Sheesha: Doctor, as a thinker with an intellectual perspective on the issues of Afghanistan, you might have seen signs in the society’s belief system that have given root to the emergence of a phenomenon called the Taliban. This has placed a tremendous intellectual challenge in front of all the educated people of Afghan society. What do you think is the most critical challenge that you, as a person, a member of the Afghan intellectual community, see under the Taliban rule? What challenges have the Taliban created explicitly for Afghanistan’s academic and civil strata? What challenges have the Taliban themselves faced that they might not have expected? What challenges has this group raised for the people of Afghanistan living in a specific geographical unit?
Ahmadi: First of all, let me briefly say something about the origin of the Taliban. I can say that every society is made up of different strata, which is an entirely natural issue. There are highly conservative strata in a country; others can be progressive, reformist, or revolutionary. Our country is also composed of these strata in different social layers. For the last one hundred years, whenever the idea of reformism or modernism has come up in Afghanistan, these two strata have faced each other.
Historically, there has been a fundamental conflict between these two strata. But in general, in the modernization process in Afghanistan, the secular governments gradually dominated the situation, gained relative dominance over public life, and created a balance between modernization and conservatism. Meanwhile, the direction of movement was towards modernism. The institution of the government became more powerful day by day. Higher education expanded. The culture of urbanization and communication with the world increased customary. The essential power was in the hands of reformist forces or those who wanted transformation in the Afghanistan’s society. They had all military, economic and political power in their hands. The conservative stratum and extremely conservative forces lived on society’s margins. They didn’t have control over the actual sources of authority. In other words, they did not have any essential power sources. Because of this, they had no power for social mobilization, and they could not create a change from the bottom to the top and prevent transformation.
The occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviets or the coup d’état of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan brought about a fundamental change in the country. As a result of this coup and the presence of the Red Army, the Afghan Jihad began. This Jihad created a potent kind of radicalism not only in Afghanistan but also in the world. In addition to having a domestic context, this influential radicalism also had an international context. Because according to the policy of America at the time, Islamic movements had to be supported against the Soviet’s Red Army to create a green belt around the Soviet Union. Within the framework of this policy, the Afghan Jihad was boosted to support radical Islamic groups or individuals who would join the Jihad and fight here. Then the literature of Jihad against the Soviet Union and the idea of Islamic resistance against the Soviet Union would spread throughout the region and the Islamic world.
This American policy caused the Afghanistan war to attract the attention of the entire region. Radical Islamic forces came to Afghanistan from all over the world. In return, they were welcomed as heroes in the airfields of their countries. The practical result of this policy was the wide spread of religious schools in Pakistan, where many young people from Afghanistan and Pakistan studied. Another consequence of this policy was that the same marginalized stratum and layer of society who were deprived of any means of power got organized in the shadow of Jihad. They got the power of guns and rifles and came to the center from the margins.
By the collapse of Dr. Najib’s regime, the Mujahideen failed to form a national government. Considering the chaos in the country at the time, with the energy of ethnicity, religion, and the direct organization of foreign intelligence, the conservative Taliban was established and imposed itself as a strong power in the field of Afghan politics.
As a result of this development, the vast army of motivated students of religious schools got organized. Then, according to the ethnic and religious incentives, the country’s widespread disorder, and Pakistan and other countries’ regional policies, an exceptional opportunity was provided for the Taliban as the highly conservative stratum of Afghanistan. They turned themselves into a superior power in the country and were able to fight with international forces in the last twenty years. At length, we witnessed their victory over the political system and their seizure of sovereignty in Afghanistan.
Now that this transformation has taken place. As a result, various challenges have been created, including some that you mentioned that the opposition forces of the Taliban have faced, and I will address them later.
But the first challenge the Taliban faces is that it has confronted a very diverse society, a generation that is entirely different from the past. The Taliban even cannot control this generation. We are currently living in the age of digital. In the digital age, no one control access to information and education. If there is a will, every family and every person can continue the flow of education and receive information in a self-educated manner. They can access up-to-date information, language, and knowledge and reach a solid level to preserve their individuality.
Let me underline that the Taliban is against individuality. They are at war with individuality. If the Afghanistan’s youths and all individuals, including boys and girls, maintain their individuality, they will dismantle the doctrine of the Taliban. Based on their ideology, the Taliban want to indoctrinate the Afghanistan’s people and the young generation of Afghanistan. They want it to become a natural phenomenon. Thus, by protecting the people’s individuality, the Taliban’s doctrine falls from efficiency. If the Afghan people preserve their individuality against the doctrine of the Taliban, they will create the biggest challenge for them. In my view, the biggest challenge of the Taliban is the society, the new generation, and the youth who want to have their individuality.
Another challenge of the Taliban is their financial resources. So far, regarding financial resources and income, Afghanistan has not reached a level where its national income can cover government expenses. This expectation has not been fulfilled ever since the past 150 years. In particular, it has not been able to provide the budget that a government needs to equip its organized army and police. Afghanistan’s revenues are not enough to equip an army of 100,000 soldiers. The Taliban claim that they can have an army of 100,000 soldiers. Domestic resources cannot finance this army. There may be weapons left over from American forces. But these weapons will soon be out of use in terms of technology and many other things known to experts.
In the same way, there are no sources of income needed to run a government in Afghanistan. Abdul Rahman Khan, who established a central autonomy- not independent- government in Afghanistan, was supported by the financial and military support of British India. This dynasty and tradition continued the same way during Zahir Shah, Dr. Najib, and the past twenty years. Afghanistan’s historical experience generally has a simple economic formula: your income does not cover your expenses, and you cannot rule without foreign aid. Thus, lack of financial resources is the second most significant challenge for the Taliban.
The third challenge for the Taliban is Global Legitimacy. The Taliban have a problem with global legitimacy. Because the Taliban ideologically do not accept global values. Ideology is critical to the top layers of the Taliban leadership, especially those who do not know much about the world and live in isolation. For example, they have not yet been able to solve the problem of girls’ education. Why? Because their ideology does not allow it. Their ideology, based on which they fought for twenty years and burned the schools, does not allow the girls’ school to be open. When they cannot meet minimum global standards of human rights and women’s rights, it is clear that they have a problem with the world. The world has a series of standards and principles. Ignoring the world’s standards and codes of values will be costly for the Taliban. It is true that the countries’ politicians pursue their interests and mostly do not abide by values. For example, to ensure their interests, they want to compromise with governments and countries that have problems in terms of global human rights standards. However, the nations of the world, the parliaments, and the public opinion pose certain red lines, and blatant violation of them will be highly difficult and expensive for the governments.
Therefore, global and international legitimacy is a significant challenge for the Taliban. As the Taliban cannot provide internal legitimacy in various ways, their international legitimacy is also problematic. These are the main challenges that the Taliban have.
The challenges that we have with the Taliban are somehow clear. For example, we can have challenges in different spectrums. We face problems in every life scene: For example, as a Shia, I am judged based on my religious beliefs and excluded. As a Hazara, I am prejudiced and excluded based on my race. As a professor, I am not allowed to teach, write or publish what I know and consider valuable and correct. All these are problems.
Sheesha: Doctor, the biggest challenge that the Taliban have created is that they have pushed Afghanistan to a primitive era in terms of its civic developments. They have undone all our achievements in Afghanistan’s long years of secular governments. They have pushed them back to the era of primitiveness. They have taken the government but have destroyed the structure of the governance. What challenges do you think the collapse of this government structure has created for the civil Society of Afghanistan? If we want to start doing something tomorrow, we must begin from a zero point. What significant challenges have the collapse of this structure posed for you and us as individuals?
Ahmadi: Let me say that the Taliban have not abandoned the entire system of the government. They are using the bureaucracy of the government in some cases, unfortunately, for repression. They have kept the body of the government’s bureaucracy for repression. For example, they have changed the Directorate of National Security into intelligence as a means of repression. Likewise, for them, the Ministries of Interior and Defense are means of repression. The Taliban have preserved the bureaucracy of the previous government in these fields but use them to suppress the people of Afghanistan.
At the same time, they have eliminated the structure of the government in specific other fields: They have broken the legal and executive structures that allowed the civil Society of Afghanistan to express themselves and to speak about their rights. They have destroyed the judiciary system’s configuration, have limited access to information, and consider public gatherings a kind of danger and threat. They hold a security perspective on public gatherings and treat them harshly. They have unofficially dissolved political parties and have removed the legal structure of parties in the Ministry of Justice. They destroyed the parliament and removed the legislative branch, where people’s representatives used to gather and legislate on behalf of the public. The parliament was functioning as a monitoring body of the government’s actions which the Taliban destroyed. They have weakened the academic independence of universities. They want to indoctrinate their views through these institutions and make everyone the same as themselves.
Be careful that civil society will lose its breath when these legal and executive structures are broken. Civil society breathes in the context of these institutions and within the capacities hidden in these institutions. It is good to pay attention to this point very seriously.
Let me also say another point to complete my words: All we express as setbacks or challenges do not mean that there is no capacity left in the country or there is no capacity in society at all. The Taliban indeed has the will to control, assimilate and suppress, but this will is not always successful. Because first of all, the Taliban is not an absolute and undisputed power that can do whatever it wants in Afghanistan. Because this group, anyway, has a series of international commitments. The minor responsibility it has to the international community and the minimum flexibility it shows towards the Afghanistan’s people is a capacity. It also creates accommodation for the civil society of Afghanistan. It gives them a chance to breathe and a chance to strengthen themselves. Afghanistan’s civil society should consider this an opportunity and use it for their improvement.
Another critical point is that we live in the age of digital. In the age of digital, no power can barrier access to information, neither teaching nor learning. These are the capacities that we can use. Another point is that the people of Afghanistan are engaged people of the world. They are global citizens. I think a famous American thinker has said that the people of Afghanistan are the people of the world. It is a people who live in the world. Many among them are aware of the world situation. According to this thinker, Afghans’ relationships and interactions with the world are more than American citizens. According to statistics, the average of travel, communication, and contact of Afghan people with the world is much larger than that of American citizens. These all create capacities that can be relied upon to overcome challenges.