“Afghanistan is the saddest country on earth”

Bangkok Dozens of men cower in the dust along a wall in front of the passport office in Kabul. Most of them have brought with them transparent foils full of documents – in the hope of obtaining travel documents that will allow them to leave the country Afghanistan make possible. Jamshid Roshangar walks the seemingly endless queue for minutes with his cell phone camera and publishes the video on the Internet. He wants to show how great the urge is to leave the country ruled by the Taliban.

The next day he wants to film again – but this time he is stopped by Taliban guards. They first destroyed his smartphone and then hit him for minutes, says the 25-year-old. “There must have been 100 people around me, but no one dared to intervene.”

Roshangar describes the incident as exemplary for the situation in his home country since the radical Islamists took power a year ago. Public administration is hopelessly overwhelmed. Instead of serving their people, the Taliban rule with fear and brutality.

Anyone who stands in their way must expect the worst. The dissatisfaction is great. Twelve months after invading the capital, the new rulers in Kabul still haven’t found an answer to the deep economic crisis and nationwide famine.

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In the country’s humanitarian crisis, residents are primarily dependent on themselves. Also because the economic aid from abroad is not progressing.

The economy is in free fall

Roshangar lives in Kabul with his mother and sister. This year he completed his economics studies in the metropolis. So far he has not been able to find a job. “Unemployment is huge, there are no jobs,” he says. “Among my 68 fellow students, I don’t know a single one who managed to find a job in Afghanistan.”

Because of the disastrous economic situation, Roshangar’s father moved to neighboring Iran and works there as a harvest helper. The family in Kabul lives on the money he sends home. “Life is actually the wrong word,” says Roshangar. “We survive. That’s all.”

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Afghanistan’s economy has been in free fall since the Taliban seized power. Official data is scarce, estimates by the World Bank put the slump in economic output at 20 to 30 percent. The main reason for this is the abrupt drying up of foreign aid money, which in the past accounted for more than 40 percent of Afghan gross domestic product.

Out of concern to strengthen the ruling Islamists, international willingness to help has fallen sharply. Since the beginning of the year, the United Nations has been trying to raise $4.4 billion for the country. So far, half has been promised. Only $600 million has actually been made available.

Even for emergency supplies, that’s not enough: The World Food Program, which helps millions of people in need with basic foodstuffs, says it needs additional funds of 900 million dollars in order to be able to continue its work until the end of the year.

Destroyed shops in Kabul

The economy in Afghanistan is not getting back on its feet. Foreign countries did not stand up to the Islamist regime.

(Photo: Reuters)

According to data from aid organizations, around 70 percent of Afghan households are unable to cover their basic needs. “It is appalling to see the scale of hunger and the resurgence of poverty that we have worked so hard to eradicate,” said Mohammad Nabi Burhan, Secretary General of the Red Crescent Organization in Afghanistan.

The human rights situation remains catastrophic

The population can hardly expect any support from the Taliban. Half of the state budget of around two and a half billion dollars, which the rulers were able to scrape together through taxes and duties, they want to spend on defense and internal security – there is not much money left for social programs.

In addition, there are no signs that those in power in Kabul want to move towards Western financiers. They broke their promise to reopen secondary schools for girls. Women have to veil themselves and, according to the religious police, it is best to stay at home.

They are only allowed to travel within the country if they are accompanied by a male. Overall, the human rights situation is catastrophic. According to a UN report published last month, 160 extrajudicial executions have been confirmed so far. Arbitrary arrests and torture are common.

The fact that the Taliban had given shelter in Kabul to the longtime head of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, Aiman ​​al-Zawahiri, who was killed by a US drone at the end of July, makes any rapprochement even more difficult.

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A US delegation had previously discussed the release of $3.5 billion with Taliban envoys in Uzbekistan frozen Afghan central bank funds negotiated – half the amount the Americans seized.

According to the US State Department, the money should be used “for the benefit of the Afghan people”. So far, however, there has been no agreement that would ensure that the money does not fall into the hands of the Islamists. The Taliban’s al-Qaeda connections are likely to further erode the already low level of trust.

The banking system doesn’t work

At the same time, the confiscation of central bank funds stored abroad brought Afghanistan’s financial system to the brink of collapse. The country’s banks are still barely functioning due to Western sanctions. “The humanitarian crisis cannot be effectively managed unless the United States and other governments ease restrictions on the country’s banking sector,” the human rights organization said Human Rights Watch.

However, Jamshid Roshangar in Kabul does not believe that there are simple solutions that the West can use to end the Afghan crisis. “As long as the Taliban are in power, there will be no progress,” he says. “Food will become more and more expensive and people will become poorer.”

Roshangar has been documenting his experiences in public diary entries on Twitter for some time. In one of them he writes: “I suspect that Afghanistan is the saddest country on earth these days.”

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