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After a year of Taliban rule, many Afghans are struggling to survive

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

On this day one year ago, Kabul fell to the Taliban. With that, they were ruling Afghanistan again after 20 years out of power. So what has this day been like for Afghans? NPR's Diaa Hadid joins us from the Afghan capital. Hi, Diaa.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.

SUMMERS: So tell us. What was today like?

HADID: Well, Taliban security forces, mostly young men, were doing victory laps around Kabul in convoys of jeeps, cars and motorbikes. Some of them were waving the black-and-white Taliban flag. Some guys were brandishing assault rifles, and some had pasted flowers to their cars and were wearing sequined bandanas. But it wasn't some mass event. Most Afghans - in Kabul, at least - appeared to stay home. There weren't families out or anything like that. We walked over to an army jeep that was blaring pro-Taliban tunes. These are male singers who praise fighters who wrested Kabul from their enemies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in non-English language).

HADID: There I spoke to one participant, a young fighter. His name is Samiullah. He's 23, and we chat in Arabic because he learned it in a madrassa or religious seminary. And he tells me they're celebrating because they liberated Afghanistan from foreign occupation.

SAMIULLAH: (Speaking Arabic).

HADID: And he says this is an example for other Muslim countries, but he also says life has been hard. He says Afghans are hungry, and he blames sanctions imposed by America and the international community.

SUMMERS: With daily life being so tough for many, how are other Afghans feeling about today's anniversary?

HADID: Well, it's hard to tell. You know, some are likely to feel pleased because security is generally much better. But the Taliban have silenced those who oppose them, like women who held a rare protest on Saturday to demand their rights. See; the Taliban have banned girls from going to secondary school. They've pushed most women out of work. They've ordered them to cover up and stay home. And Taliban security forces swiftly ended that protest by opening fire above the women's heads. But women, at least, are still trying to show that they're resisting. Like, today one young woman sent me a clip of herself singing in Dari.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Dari).

HADID: It's a very catchy tune in Dari. And the song's message is, don't be afraid of the Taliban.

SUMMERS: Well, that raises the question, how fearful are people of the Taliban a year after they took power?

HADID: I would say with the exception of these young, defiant women, most people appear to be nearly entirely consumed with just trying to get by. There's a humanitarian crisis here. The U.N. estimates that more than 90% of all Afghans aren't getting enough food to eat. And millions need aid just not to starve. And that's mainly because of sanctions to punish Taliban leaders, who are now in the government. And that has had a disastrous impact on the economy. To understand this a bit better, listen here to Samira Sayed Rahman. She's with the International Rescue Committee. It's one of the really big aid groups that works in Afghanistan.

SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN: I've been traveling to clinics and hospitals. Here you see - you know, there was three babies in a single incubator. I talked to nurses who haven't been paid in months. So the sanctions that have been placed on the Taliban - we have a few hundred people in power, but 38 million people are suffering.

SUMMERS: Diaa, what is being done to help all of those people?

HADID: Well, the U.N. has an enormous, enormous presence here, and they've spent about $4 billion effectively to stop Afghans from starving. The problem is they say they need about $8 billion because the need is so great. But it's unlikely donors are going to give substantially more money. We hear from multiple sources that they're fed up with the Taliban. Western donors in particular accuse the group of breaking promises they made when they first came to power, like letting all girls go to school.

SUMMERS: There are so many challenges at this point. What are the Taliban's priorities now?

HADID: Well, looking forward, the Taliban are focused on revenue raising. They're mining. They're doing customs taxes. And one Western representative we spoke to said he was actually impressed by how quickly the group takes decisions and gets moving. But that revenue - about 2.5 billion - is nowhere near substituting for the enormous amount of aid that Afghanistan currently needs. And frankly, it appears that hardliners among the Taliban have taken the upper hand in decision making. And they've issued repeated statements that they won't compromise on their values to appease the West. So it's unlikely they're going to soften on women's rights, and the country is likely to remain mired in crisis.

SUMMERS: That is NPR's Diaa Hadid speaking with us from Kabul on the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover. Thank you, Diaa.

HADID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.