Afghanistan’s Smallest Province Continues to Resist the Taliban: What Happens in Panjshir?

The Taliban invasion of Panjshir province has created many hardships for civilians. People narrate painful stories about their lives, ranging from being harassed, kidnapped, killed and having their properties seized by Taliban forces to disruption of security, economic, education and health conditions.

The Taliban have carried out operations to arrest, torture and kill civilians on a daily basis. The Taliban always consider the people as enemies. A number of residents have been suffering from severe trauma and mental illness as a result of persecution by the Taliban. Currently, 90% of students in Panjshir are unable to attend school due to the conflict, and in most of their schools, the Taliban have built military strongholds. There are no adequate health care services, and hospitals are filled with wounded Taliban members instead of patients. People even have to get a permit to go to a village, and aid agencies have been banned from providing any assistance in some parts.

Panjshir in the north of Kabul was famous for its peace and security among the people of Afghanistan and tourists before the Taliban takeover of the country. Panjshir has been one of the most volatile areas in Afghanistan for the past 10 months as the Taliban waged a war against the National Resistance Front (NRF). In an interview with Hasht-e Subh, residents told painful stories ranging from mass arrests to torture, murder and forced relocation.

Taliban Behead People

Ahmad (a pseudonym) is a resident of Rokha district in Panjshir. He says there is an increase in the detention, torture and killing of civilians. According to Ahmad, the Taliban abducted seven people from Paryan district, seven from Hesar district and eight others from Khenj district on Sunday (June 19th) alone. Among them, the Taliban beheaded a man and threw his body into the sea after recognizing that he was a former soldier.

“Similar incidents happen every day in Panjshir, but most families prefer silence for fear of the Taliban,” Ahmad said. “For example, last week, a man named Khalid from Dara district, met three Taliban members when he left the mosque and wanted to go to the village. [On the way back] the Taliban stabbed him after questioning and beating him. He remained on the ground for several hours and eventually died of heavy bleeding, but his family did not raise the issue to the media out of fear of the Taliban.”

Locals also reported witnessing pieces of human flesh in the Panjshir Sea. In the latest case, the Taliban cut off the skins of tattooed residents with pincers. The Taliban have killed dozens of people, including women, men and children, according to figures released from Panjshir. The killings took place in a variety of ways, including shootings, beheadings, and torture. Civilians included students, shopkeepers, farmers, miners and other residents. In some cases, a number of people have even starved to death due to the Taliban’s house-to-house search operations. A local resident who is aware of the situation said that the prisons in Kabul, especially Pul-e-Charkhi and Security Directorate Prisons, are full of young people from Panjshir.

Emotional and Psychological Trauma

The Taliban are not content to kill civilians alone. The group is conducting house-to-house searches in Panjshir, and because of this move, people are suffering from mental illness. Yusuf Khan (a pseudonym), a tribal elder from Panjshir, told Hasht-e Subh that most of the province’s women and children were suffering from mental illness as a result of the Taliban’s clearing searches. “Arbitrary searches are underway and all our women and children are suffering from mental illness,” he added. “For example, a few days ago, I went to our neighbor’s house and knocked on their door. The woman in the family thought the Taliban had come to search and fainted.” According to this influential local figure, people in their areas cannot easily navigate and even have to get permission from the Taliban to go to their village.

Harun Majidi, a journalist and resident of Panjshir province, says that the peace of the people has been lost and the Taliban see the locals as enemies. According to him, the group has built military strongholds in most of the schools and homes of the people and the people have been forced to leave their homes. According to statistics provided by him, about 90% of students in the province are currently out of school due to the construction of military strongholds and fear of conflict.

Lack of Health Facilities

Patients in Panjshir are not in a good condition. Some residents complain about the lack of access to adequate health services. In the past two months, they say, most of the province’s health clinics have been dedicated to wounded Taliban members. As locals say, patients are being harassed by the Taliban until they reach the Panjshir Emergency Hospital. “The guards of the Panjshir Emergency Hospital, who are Taliban, do not properly allow the people of Panjshir to enter the hospital,” said Shadab (a pseudonym). Recently, a pregnant woman who wanted to go to the hospital to give birth to her baby and was in a very bad condition, the Taliban did not allow her to enter the hospital for two hours, until a doctor was informed from inside the hospital then the patient was taken inside the hospital.”

Bad Economic Condition

The war in Panjshir has caused the Taliban to deliberately block the flow of humanitarian aid. Reliable sources in international aid agencies told Hasht-e Subh that they had not provided any assistance to Panjshir in the past six months. According to a source, the Taliban do not allow aid workers to enter remote districts. According to him, their latest aid has been distributed in Rokha and Bazarak districts.

Taliban forces do not say anything about the killing of civilians, despite the conflict and its widespread role in destabilizing it. Taliban members on social media and television programs call the situation in Panjshir ideal. Following the news of the Panjshir massacre, the Taliban-led national television also broadcast videos to make the situation in the province look good and to the liking of its people. Just yesterday, two people were killed in Panjshir, and the Taliban cut the skin of a resident for tattooing.

NRF forces have intensified their operations throughout Panjshir for about two months now. The Taliban have launched several large-scale operations during this period to repel the forces of this front, but despite suffering heavy casualties, they have not succeeded in defeating the NRF.