featured image

The Emirate of poverty and misery

In its recent report, the World Bank forecasts a bleak future for Afghanistan’s economy: the country is facing severe economic stagnation due to a lack of domestic growth and the reduction in foreign aid. That stagnation means that Afghanistan’s per capita income in 2025 will be what it was in 2022. That economic struggle means further intensification of hunger and poverty, which are already widespread. The United Nations already estimates that one in three people in Afghanistan do not know where their next meal will come from.

Although Afghanistan was suffering from poverty before the Taliban came to power, the situation has deteriorated significantly since their return in 2021. In response to the World Bank report, Zabiullah Mujahid, the person in charge of Taliban doublespeak, stated that “the future of Afghanistan’s economy is not dark, but its past was dark.” 

What is crystal clear is that the Taliban’s policies are directly causing and intensifying poverty. Their gender apartheid policy puts women under house arrest, prevents half of the country’s population from earning their living, and condemns women-led households to hunger and poverty. In addition, countless women-run businesses have closed across the country, women’s bathhouses, beauty salons, and tailoring shops are forbidden, and women street vendors and even panhandlers are constantly harassed. According to the UNDP, the Taliban’s ban on women’s work is costing the country at least US$1 billion a year, which is five percent of the nation’s GDP. 

Their repressive cultural policies have killed the livelihoods of workers in untold sectors of society, including artists, singers, musicians, and music instrument makers who are banned from working. The pain and suffering of the population have been compounded through a recent decree from the Taliban leader which formally dismantled the country’s pension system because they believe it is unIslamic. This comes after they’d already stopped paying pensioners’ allowances as well as disability allowances, which pushed the most vulnerable and their families deeper into poverty. 

Sign up for This Week in Afghanistan newsletter

* indicates required

The most devastating are the effect of Taliban policies on the country’s education system and the deterioration of the country’s human resources. They have banned education beyond grade six for half of the population, while at the same time are “Talibanizing” the curriculum in government schools. The Taliban have methodically expanded madrasa education at the cost of modern education and have established hundreds of new madrasas across the country. The combined effects of the Taliban’s anti-education policies are going to have devastating effects on the country’s skilled labour force and civil administration for generations to come. The damage is already so severe that any recovery will be both long and painful. 

What are the Taliban policies for alleviating extreme poverty and famine? The regime’s main preoccupation is to make people perform religious rituals and prevent them from committing what the Taliban believe is sin, like women showing their faces, men trimming their beards, or listening to music. Their prime minister famously said that the hungry people should cry in front of God and pray for help. Besides this advice, the Taliban regularly demand people join them in mass public prayers, asking God for rain and an end to drought and famine. At the same time, their preachers blame the people’s sin and God’s wrath for widespread poverty and other calamities.  

In Taliban ideology, the principal function of government is to ensure the salvation of believers in the afterlife. Therefore, the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is central to their governance. In his last two audio speeches, the Taliban leader has emphasized that the regime is serious about implementing Sharia and will not compromise on implementing God’s laws on Earth. He promised that the Taliban will strive to be even stricter in their implementation of sharia, especially about stoning women to death in public as a sign of the regime’s commitment to doctrinal principles. 

Though the majority of Afghanistan’s people are being crushed under extreme poverty, the Taliban are using their authority to channel aid toward their base, in order to further consolidate their power. In addition, Taliban commanders and officials are busy hoarding wealth and looting resources by a very rigorous system of taxation, which is so efficient at tax collection that it has received praise from international agencies. It is effectively a system of extortion aimed at one of the most wretched populations on the planet. Meanwhile, they are not providing any services to people in return – instead, the regime’s priorities are sustaining their machine of repression, building madrasas and mosques, and furthering the Talibanization of society.

There is no hope for the country’s recovery while the Taliban’s Emirate of suffering and misery is in power. The continuation of Taliban rule can only result in the increase of pauperization, hunger, and want. The Taliban’s desire to strictly implement what they call God’s law means a worsening of the social and economic situation in Afghanistan, and a deepening of the poverty of the people. For an end to this nightmare, there is no option but to actively work for the end of the Taliban’s mullahcracy and to build a secular democratic future, in which political decisions are based on the needs of society, rather than on considerations of the afterlife. 

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required
Subscribe to newsletter