Female Afghan Journalist Says Country Needs to Stand on Its Own After Americans Leave

Sediqa Rezaei, a female journalist in Afghanistan, advocated for Afghans to stand up for their country, and was hopeful they'd mount a physical fight if the Taliban took Afghanistan back to the 1990s when they held the country under a strict interpretation of Sharia law.

After two decades and an investment of billions of dollars, American troops left Afghanistan and the country quickly fell to the Taliban, sparking international criticism. President Joe Biden defended his strategy, criticizing the Afghan army for failing to resist Taliban forces, a demonstration that the result would not have changed if troops remained for another year or another five years.

Although Afghans are "confused and disappointed" at what transpired with the Americans' exit, Rezaei told Newsweek Afghanistan can't rely on habitual support from other countries. She said Afghanistan has to fight for its own future and she encouraged Afghans to stand up to the Taliban in a message to the world that the organization's takeover is not in line with the people's wishes.

Protests have sporadically sprung up across the country and some people are ready to risk their lives to challenge the Taliban's rule. Ali Nazary, head of foreign relations for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) told the BBC he had "thousands of forces" ready for the resistance, although the BBC couldn't verify the number of people willing to take up arms.

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Sediqa Rezaei, an Afghan female journalist, advocated for Afghans to stand up to the Taliban because she said the country can't rely on support from other countries forever. Afghans hold their national flags as they celebrate the 102nd Independence Day of Afghanistan in Kabul on August 19, days after the Taliban's military takeover of the country. Getty Images/Wakil Kohsar/AFP

Created by Ahmad Massoud, the NRF is a means of Ahmad carrying on the legacy of his father, Ahmad Shah Massoud. His father, affectionately known as the Lion of Panjshir because of his successful defense of the area during the Soviet-Afghan War, led a strong resistance against the Taliban until Al-Qaeda assassinated him days before the September 11 attacks in 2001.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Massoud, 32, said mujahideen fighters are "prepared to once again take on the Taliban." The resistance, he said, includes Afghan citizens and former members of the Army who were "disgusted by the surrender of their commanders."

Despite collecting ammunition and weapons on the chance that the Taliban could once again reclaim power in Afghanistan, the 32-year-old said they don't have the power to defeat the group. He used the op-ed to make an urgent plea for support from the West in the form of weapons, ammunition and supplies, saying, "You are our only hope."

"No matter what happens, my mujahideen fighters and I will defend Panjshir as the last bastion of Afghan freedom. Our morale is intact. We know from experience what awaits us," Massoud wrote.

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Ahmad Shah Massoud, 32, has vowed to continue his father's fight against the Taliban. Afghan demonstrators hold a depiction of late Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud as they protest over Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in Brussels on August 18. John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

The Taliban attempted to temper global concerns about the safety of Afghans under their rule with claims that women would be active members of society and it wouldn't seek retribution on those who aided Americans or served in the former government. However, there have been conflicting reports regarding nearly all of the Taliban's promises and many consider their recent comments as part of a charisma campaign.

"It's terrible," Rezaei told Newsweek. "We're just waiting for the Taliban to show their real face. I'm sure they will."

All of the Taliban's comments regarding the future of Afghanistan came with disclaimers that people would have rights "within the framework of Sharia" or "within our cultural frameworks." Their inclusion of that language was worrisome for Rezaei, who believes the Taliban will use Sharia Law as a means of oppressing women, journalists and other vulnerable people.

In Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, Rezaei said many Afghan women were staying in their homes following the Taliban's takeover. After five days, she ventured out and noticed a change in women's clothing. Many women were now dressed according to Taliban standards and wearing hijabs.

Prices on burqas surged in other parts of the country, according to reports, and women were scrambling to obtain the head-to-toe body covering to avoid repercussions from the Taliban. The organization also executed Haji Mullah Achakzai, the police chief of the Badghis province, following his surrender, and a Norwegian intelligence group reported the Taliban are rounding up people on a blacklist.

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Sediqa Rezaei, an Afghan journalist, told Newsweek she noticed a change in women's attire when she left her house five days after the Taliban's military takeover. A general view of Kabul capital Street in Afghanistan after the arrival of the Taliban on August 17 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Faizi Omer Farooq/ATPImages/Getty Images

"The Taliban are now here and people don't know about the future," Rezaei said. "People who worked as part of the Army or government don't know what will happen in the future with the Taliban. Will they be saved or no?"

Amrullah Saleh, the former vice president of Afghanistan, claimed the role as acting president after former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Saleh posted on Twitter that the Taliban weren't allowing food and fuel into the Andarab Valley. He called the humanitarian situation "dire" and said women and children were fleeing into the mountains as the Taliban were abducting children to use "as shields to move around or do house search."

Saleh is among those who have gathered in the Panjshir Valley, the last region not under Taliban control. However, Torek Farhadi, an Afghan analyst and former government adviser, told the Associated Press Saleh should have stayed and defended the palace if he was a "real threat" to the Taliban. Experts were also skeptical about the group's ability to mount a real fight especially since the Taliban seized U.S. military equipment in recent weeks.

Farhadi advocated for Afghans to use the weight of the international community to secure guarantees from the Taliban for a government that includes women and non-Taliban. The Taliban have said they want an "inclusive, Islamic government," which was met with skepticism given the reports of crackdowns on women's rights and those who were aligned with the previous, Western-backed government.

If the Taliban reneges on its promises, Rezaei hoped it'd face sanctions from the international community. She's also hopeful that if Afghans see that the Taliban implementing the same rules that were in place in the 1990s, they would "rise up and fight physically."