The Taliban’s announcement a few days ago that the terror group has put together a “caretaker” government in Afghanistan further breaks my heart for millions of Afghans back home.
America has been good to me since arriving in St. Petersburg nine years ago as a student. In recent weeks, I have experienced its warmth and kindness firsthand.
Dozens of people, especially my wonderful friends in Tampa Bay, across Florida and in other states have sent me prayers. Last week I attended a church on Tierra Verde and felt the love and concern for all Afghans who now face such an uncertain future.
As if the last month has not been bad enough for Afghans, now they are faced with the Taliban’s “vision” of government.
Despite its hollow attempt to “put a new face” on itself, the Taliban’s ministerial appointments actually double down on the harsh cruelty that I knew growing up in Kabul during the first tyrannical Taliban regime.
During that despicable time, my mother was forced to quit her job at a bank and cover her face. Girls could not go to school.
Young boys hardly old enough to shave were beaten in the streets for not having a beard long enough for “men.”
With the return of the Taliban, not surprisingly, the so-called ministers’ cabinet has been filled with some of the harshest, most extreme names in Afghanistan.
One of those, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has had a $5 million bounty on his head by the FBI for years. The Haqqani network has been responsible for some of the most gut-wrenching complex attacks in Kabul. Innocent children, women and men have been killed or maimed at the hands of this fanatical group.
Now, Sirajuddin has been appointed as the minister of Interior.
One of the country’s most important positions, the minister oversees the national police who are supposed to provide for the safety and security of all Afghans.
Other names for government positions also include religious extremists who have historically supported harsh punishment toward women and girls, keeping them from schools and education and denying them basic human rights.
Mohammad Hassan Akund is a former leader of the Taliban’s decision-making group, which during the last 20 years is not only responsible for killing Afghans, but many of the more than 3,052 U.S. and coalition service members who have died in Afghanistan.
Now, he becomes prime minister, a position that includes the welfare of all Afghans and relations with the global community.
How truly shameful.
So, in about 20 days, the Taliban has been allowed to erase 20 years of achievements for Afghanistan that came about through the determination for erasing such extremism by the United States and the international coalition.
Among the success stories of Afghanistan’s “enduring partnership” with the U.S. was education for both girls and boys. Incredible gains were made in higher education, including great colleges and universities.
The American University stood as the dream of many Afghan students and produced outstanding Fulbright Scholars. Now, the buildings are empty and many of its students pleaded to be evacuated but were abandoned.
No doubt the “new government” of Afghanistan will look unfavorably to those who attended the “American” university.
The history since 2001 also included significant progress in health care, telecommunications and the role of women in society.
From the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 following U.S. Special Operations Forces from MacDill Air Force Base to this day, all Afghans could dream of becoming doctors, engineers, business executives, IT professionals, athletes and even musicians. And, unlike my childhood, they were allowed to dance.
Now, those dreams have likely ended.
This will not be a new government as much as a return to the old, barely functioning, corrupt and barbaric Taliban regime that the United States and coalition was committed to defeating in the last 20 years.
The fall of Kabul on Aug. 15 didn’t just represent the end of “America’s longest war.”
It ended the dreams of millions of innocent Afghans who like myself, had big hopes and dreams for the future of our country.
Zi Azizi is a Realtor with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty and a member of the Rotary Club of St.Petersburg.