KABUL (NewsNation Now) —An independent journalist living in Kabul described the dichotomy between Taliban members who are nice to western media figures and their treatment of everyday Afghan citizens as “bizarre,”
Hollie McKay, who has been reporting in the region since 2014, has seen firsthand the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan.
“They’re definitely on this very bizarre PR blitz, Leland, where they’re trying to soften their image somewhat. And they’re trying to send a message to the outside world that they aren’t the same Taliban that existed in 2001,” McKay explained.
She described to NewsNationNow.com‘s Leland Vittert how her crew had to rely on the Taliban to ensure their safe passage through checkpoints in Afghanistan.
Pictures and videos of desperate Afghans attempting to make it past Taliban checkpoints to the airport or other exits from the country have shown how dire the situation is for residents inside the country.
Despite that, McKay said the Taliban leaders are trying to portray that their rule as different than before, but what that actually means is a bit unclear.
“They were very quick to sort of tell me that what they wanted was a sharia law. And when I sort of pressed for what does that mean, they would say, ‘Well, if you murder someone, you get murdered, if you steal, you have your hand chopped off, women should be completely covered in a burqa.’ So they were sort of reciting laws that would that did exist 20 years ago that at the same breath, they were also trying to say that they weren’t the same Taliban,” described McKay.
Citizens have been protesting the Taliban for several days despite the risks involved. On Thursday, a procession of cars and people near Kabul’s airport carried long black, red and green banners in honor of the Afghan flag — a banner that is becoming a symbol of defiance. At another protest in Nangarhar province, video posted online showed a bleeding demonstrator with a gunshot wound. Onlookers tried to carry him away.
Younger Taliban members meanwhile are less concerned with setting up a sharia law system according to McKay.
“They just wanted to be on their phones, they wanted to be on Instagram, they wanted to chat with their friends, a lot of them were picking up army uniforms that had been dumped by the military and getting rid of the insignia and wearing them around themselves … this is crazy to me to sort of think that these people are now running a country or you know, it’s just mind-blowing,” McKay said.
McKay told Vittert she fears the Taliban’s “softer image” attempts will end once the U.S. formally leaves, which will put average citizens at even greater risk.
“I mean, if we seeing this now, I can only imagine what we’re going to be seeing next week and the week after that. And my heart is really with the Afghans,” she said.
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