Sheesha: One of the interesting phenomena related to the Taliban was the psychological and cultural reaction of the society to the orders and decrees of this group. The Afghan army resisted in some places due to the same support they received over twenty years. It is true that they fought as the soldiers of a system against the Taliban and were able to resist, in some places, or maintain their stronghold. But when the Taliban invaded the big cities and eventually reached Kabul, we witnessed a fascinating passive reaction against their victory. For example, in Kabul, where six million people live, no one shot a single bullet against the Taliban. It means that we were psychologically ready to accept the Taliban. Our reaction against the Taliban was not very serious.
In the same way, the society’s reaction was very significant, especially regarding the issue of women, women’s rights, the status of women, and the Taliban’s treatment of women. We saw that when women were removed from the government’s offices and excluded from the social and civil life of the society, there was not even a single protest from the Afghan male community. For example, we did not see anyone who wrote a Facebook status saying he doesn’t go to the office when the women don’t. Or when the women launched demonstrations and street protests, we didn’t see a single man standing in line with the women, even if he spoke to defend his right to be a citizen. It was astonishing, indeed. In other words, the women were left alone. They remained defenseless against the Taliban decision from the position of the government’s authority. Then we saw the issue of girls’ education. The Taliban banned more than one and a half million girls from 7th to 12th grade from schooling. However, not a single person was found in the society to say that if their daughter did not go to school, they would not send their son to school either. Or a boy in the community did not even write a Facebook status saying that when his sister did not go to school, he would also not go to that school in protest. All of them surrendered calmly, which was an acceptance of the orders of the Taliban government. I want to ask you what reality we see here in the cultural psyche of society. How do we evaluate the reactions within the patrimonial culture of the society that the Taliban represent? We can see that despite the changes of the last twenty years, or as you say, the hundred years of the secular governments’ functioning in Afghanistan, the society has maintained this rough structure of patrimonial culture and has not broken it in the society. The view of the society as a whole is what the Taliban represented, although a bit more extreme and violent. I wanted to seek your opinion from this angle. How do you examine the issue from this point of view?
Ahmadi: Well, let me start from the last part of your statement: Yes, the traditional culture in Afghanistan has not fundamentally changed or transformed. If there is a transformation, its rate is not very high. For example, recognizing the individuality of everybody has not yet been manifested in the literal sense. I can say this with full responsibility. There has never been such an effort to make individuality a dominant issue for a hundred years. As a result, respect to all individuals as independent, autonomy human beings has not become a prevalent issue in society, and it is still feeble. Despite all efforts, the institution of individuality in Afghanistan is fragile. That is why it cannot create a strong resistance. My point in this regard might help answer your question and fit its spirit.
But as to why the resistance against the Taliban did not occur, I assume you mean more collectively and in a group format. I think failure always has a steep slope. Of course, I am not good at understanding military issues. Still, I feel that when you are in a very high position, all ports which are the source of financing for the whole country are under your control. The big cities, highways, and even small cities are under your control. At this point, when the sudden fallout begins, it has a profound psychological impact. Some failures usually have a severe psychological effect. For example, when you lose all the ports which are the sources of income and see them fall into the hands of your enemy, it will weaken the hope of survival in your mind and diminish your power of resistance.
The general belief was that with the departure of the US, the Afghan government would maintain its power over the vital resources of Afghanistan for at least two more years. No one imagined that the war would reach the gates of Kabul, and the city’s defense would become the central issue. No one imagined that the ports, small towns, and highways would fall into the hands of the Taliban. When the collapses began, and the ports tumbled on a speedy scale, all lost their hopes of resistance. There was an overwhelming impression that there was nothing left to resist. This psychological failure made the victory of the Taliban confident.
Another essential factor was that the people of Afghanistan had somehow earned facilities and ease of life. A large population lived in Kabul and other big cities with wealth and property. They had an urban livelihood order. They didn’t want their life, wealth, property, and urban order to fall prey to the fire of war. This factor also weakened the idea of resistance in people’s minds.
Another problem was that there was no sense of ownership towards the government and the Republic in most people’s minds. This mentality was not formed in the last twenty years. Even this mindset was suffocated in the minds of people due to mismanagement, wrong ideas, and false literature that existed over the past twenty years. It was a fatal misunderstanding that we never separated the system from the individual. You have witnessed people questioning the whole system in recent months under the title of three-member Republic. We did not intelligently separate the institution from the individuals. We used to make the system a single bowl and condemned it under the title of three-person Republic. With these ideas, we couldn’t develop a sense of ownership towards the government and the Republic. There was no sense of ownership in the soldier, in private, and in the army to defend their property. There was no sense of ownership among the people. In the last twenty years, the Afghan rulers did not want and, in some cases, did not allow a sense of ownership to grow towards the Republic in Afghanistan. They considered the whole government a foreign project for their vested privilege. Of course, the outsiders incepted the scenarios of the last twenty years; but the people of Afghanistan could own it and take ownership of its process. We did not want to create this feeling in ourselves. That is why this heavy defeat happened without any resistance.
Sheesha: What do you think about the public reactions? Is it true that the general public treated the Taliban’s victory and the Republic’s defeat with indifference or optimism?
Ahmadi: It goes back to our typical perception of the notion of struggle. The idea is to either fight and win or surrender. We do not know anything called the third state, which is a civil struggle. Our understanding of civil resistance, which is costly, is feeble. Suppose there is a responsible and accountable government, and its suppression power is also weak. Then, we go out on the streets and say we are waging a civil struggle. It is not a civil struggle, indeed. It is a very common lawsuit that does not cost anything. Civil resistance has a cost, and your life and safety might be at risk. You might pay a heavy price in civil struggle.
We are unfamiliar with this type of struggle and don’t know its techniques, literature, culture, and theory. Our civil society was not trained or organized in this direction in the last twenty years, which is why the ongoing tragedy in Afghanistan took place.
Sheesha: Let me paraphrase my question by looking at the society with two categories: A) One which the Taliban now represent as a stratum cultivated in the society’s patriarchal culture; and B) Another group which is the women who are the targets of fierce and naked attacks by the Taliban. In a general glimpse of society as a mega picture, we did not see a reaction to support women, to look at the issue with a different culture, humane culture, against a purely male-dominant and patriarchal culture. For example, someone comes and says that if a woman is not in a government office, it does not make sense for me as a man to go to the office; Or, suppose that when my daughter does not go to school, my son does not go to school either; Or when my sister doesn’t go to school, I don’t go to school either. There was never such a reaction in society. Don’t you think this situation shows a kind of brewing and adaptation to what the Taliban have in their context, cultural origins, and society’s belief system?
Ahmadi: To some extent, what you say is true, but not 100%. I would say that several factors are suitable to consider all at the same time:
The first factor is what you have noted. Both the Taliban and many people have the same idea. For example, they say that what is the use of a girl to study? They don’t see the lesson and education of the girl as a basic need. Or say what the necessity for a woman to work is?
The Taliban do not recognize women’s education and work as a basic human need. This necessity is unknown to the Taliban and different layers of the people. Of course, it is impossible to judge people as a whole. One can say that this need is not recognized at different levels of society. However, to some extent, awareness has been created in parts of the community. I mean, a relative understanding has grown in Afghanistan. That’s why I speak cautiously about people.
Another point is that our knowledge of civil struggle is feeble. For example, we do not want a situation that is not desirable for us; but the question is what to do. Should we fight? Well, once we see ourselves in an extraordinary case where war is not an option and resorting to war is impossible. Well, what else do we do? We are stuck in response to what else to do because we do not have the necessary knowledge of civil resistance.
The third point, which I think is very important, is that Afghanistan’s women have had many opportunities to organize themselves in the last twenty years. Many who were called women activists were political activists, cultural activists, and civil society activists. They had a unique relationship and a powerful lobby in the world. But inside Afghanistan, they never thought of organizing themselves and did not do anything to mobilize the women around a mutual cause. There were many active women in politics, civil society, university, and administrative work. For example, several thousand women worked only in the government body; but they did not have the minor characteristics of collective behavior and organizational cohesion. As ethnic leaders were called tribal mafia, in the same way, among the elite women of Afghanistan, there was also women mafia. They ignored that women need organization and organizational representation and should take care of this fundamental need. No one thought that until women do not form their organizations, they would not be able to develop the concept of representation. Everyone stood up from every corner, saying that she represented women. But no one told on what basis she was a representative of women. Who appointed her? From which organization? Because there was no such thing. Women did not form their organized political struggle. If there was a struggle for women’s rights, after the collapse of republic, it was by a circle of committed and devoted women who worked and showed courage that will be recorded in history. This limited movements of the young girls in protest against the Taliban will remain in history. They will be the future heroes of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, we did not have an organized women’s movement with a clear purpose and goal. They did not see the challenge the Taliban posed against them. There was no organized group with clear language and literature against the challenge of the Taliban. For example, in some cases, a woman confronts a claimant and says, “I want my rights within the framework of Sharia law.” In the same context as Taliban, thinks, Talib also says that “Well, so go home .” She does not understand what she is saying at all.
Sheesha: Ok, Doctor. I want to look a little more specifically in this part too. Women have weaknesses because they lack organization and organizational skills. They are not familiar with the ways of civil movements. But I am curious to know your view on the cultural reaction we saw in the male section of society. They didn’t support women or their daughters as an integral part of their collective life. In your view, what is significant in expressing their overall reactions? Let me give an analogy: I am in my family. My daughter and son are sitting in front of me. One day someone tells me that your son has this privilege, but your daughter does not. My daughter is sitting at the table, and her tears are flowing. I see her, but I do not have any compassion for her. I do not share her pain. The next day, I calmly sent my son to school, and I thought, at least my son had gone to school. I don’t care if the girl didn’t go. What do you think this cultural reaction of the society shows in brewing with the Taliban?
Ahmadi: I said earlier that we had not recognized individuality as an essential factor. In particular, we have not accepted the notion of individuality for girls and women. We have not acknowledged their basic needs for education and work. As a ruling group, the Taliban are alien to this concept, which has not even penetrated their minds. Likewise, many sections of society do not yet accept women’s individuality. When you recognize a woman’s individuality, you also acknowledge her needs. You know that a woman needs education, work, and financial independence, and she is a person for herself. We have not recognized this right for our girls and women as necessary.
In contrast, we have admitted it to some extent for the male child. We believe that the male child has a future; he should work, get married, form a family, provide for his family’s expenses, and have a social position. We have recognized it for boys but not for girls and women. Our mentality affects our behavior and reactions, and it is not free of influence.
However, besides that, no one is willing to pay for other people’s rights. No one is willing to pay for their collective rights. For two reasons: one is that every human being avoids danger; Second, it is because we do not know about the civil struggle. Therefore, one did nothing to defend the rights of women and girls.
Sheesha: Well, Doctor. For the moment, we are dealing with a reality called the Taliban, who are the de facto ruler of Afghanistan. More than ninety-nine percent of Afghanistan’s geography, and therefore ninety-nine percent of the Afghan people, are practically under the control of the Taliban. When you don’t have a solemn organized protest across the country, the ruling group has enacted its sovereignty. My question is, how do you see the future of this rule? For example, suppose this situation continues with its police and intelligence aspect.
On the one hand, the Taliban has imposed a reign of terror and repression; on the other hand, it has monopolized all sources of wealth, and no one has access to it. How do you see the prospects of this situation within one to three years? What is your prediction if the Taliban rule lasts for three years?
Ahmadi : It is hard to predict, but the situation will become more challenging, indeed. Suppose the Taliban rule continues its current move. Then, it will create many problems such as poverty, lack of education and job, and lack of mental and psychological security. People fear that they might be arrested and detained by the Taliban intelligence for justified or unjustified reasons. No one defends your rights in the Taliban intelligence system. There is no supervision over the Taliban intelligence system to monitor and question them. All this causes a kind of psychological insecurity in society, and people do not feel safe. Especially those who have been in a social, cultural, or political position have lost their psychological security. All these are problems. The monopoly over the essential sources of wealth, such as transit, water, land, and mines, is also a danger. It is an enormous danger that threatens the entire people of Afghanistan.
The Taliban has become disastrous for the people of Afghanistan. A government that excludes ethnic groups and women from the body of political power weakens the people as a whole. When a specific group or clan monopolizes power, it makes others equally weak economically and politically. The more monopoly increases, the more powerless people become. All this is pain and suffering. The widespread unemployment is a crisis. You saw that the people poured out in Sri Lanka and forced the president to flee. Why? Because there was a lot of hunger. After the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka established a mono-ethnic government. It removed other religious and ethnic groups, mainly the Tamils and Muslims, from power. Therefore, the Western countries imposed sanctions and did not have proper relations with the Sri Lankan government.
Only China supported the Sri Lankan government while leaving it alone during the crisis. Interestingly, China has become a disaster in the world. The result was that the people starved, and the president ran away.
For this reason, the methods used by the Taliban are not the solution. They have brought absolute unemployment. It is hard to predict the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Even in terms of security, this government has problems threatening its survival. Experience has shown that repressive governments lead to violence. This method of governance adopted by the Taliban is sterile. Without solving the long-rooted social conflict in Afghanistan or finding a solution, the Taliban wants to rule over the people of Afghanistan only by force. To the extent that the Taliban emphasizes intelligence and pressure, it loses its legitimacy in the mind and psyche of the Afghanistan’s people. The Taliban relies on sheer force: the exercise of sheer power and sheer violence. In Afghanistan or elsewhere, Such a government usually produces violence as feedback. If Afghanistan returns to the cycle of violence, the Taliban does not have the financial resources to control the country in a war situation. It cannot control Afghanistan in the field of war. Those religious motivations that existed for war are slowly disappearing and becoming cold and silent. The guerilla war that the Taliban carried out, based on religious beliefs, will no longer exist. It will be over, and only slight blows will destroy the Taliban’s rule. A regular and robust army with advanced equipment in Afghanistan needs financial resources. The financial resources are not at the disposal of the Taliban. Therefore, if they enhance the cycle of violence again, they will not be able to control Afghanistan.