Coveney casts doubt on Taliban’s efforts to portray moderate image

Afghan refugee in Ireland fears for boys stranded in Kabul on visit to grandparents

Taliban fighters in Kabul celebrate on Tuesday  after the US pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan. Photograph: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

Taliban fighters in Kabul celebrate on Tuesday after the US pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan. Photograph: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has expressed scepticism that the Taliban regime which now governs Afghanistan will be significantly more moderate than when it last controlled the country 20 years ago.

Mr Coveney told the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs that the Taliban has sought to communicate an image of moderation since gaining control of Kabul on August 14th.

“[They have been] promising amnesty to former rivals, peace and rights for women – ‘within the limits of Islam’, which they have not defined – and calling for recognition from the international community.”

However, the scenes of panic at Kabul airport demonstrate the scepticism of most Afghans, especially urban women and those raised since the previous Taliban administration was forced out of office in 2001. “This also reflects the violence perpetrated by the Taliban in recent months as they retook territory outside the capital.”

He said 10 Irish citizens were successfully evacuated during August but it became clear the situation was extremely complex for family groups trying to gain access to the airport. He said the decision to employ the Emergency Civil Assistance Team led to the subsequent evacuation of 26 Irish citizens, family members and residents.

Orphaned nephews

Meanwhile, a businessman who made a new life with his family and two orphaned nephews in Ireland after fleeing his native Afghanistan a decade ago following Taliban threats is fearful for his nephews, who are stranded in Kabul since going there in July to visit their grandparents.

The man wept as he described trying keep up the boys’ spirits when speaking daily to them by phone. “I tell them they must be like James Bond, 007, but I worry. Every time I speak to them, I am scared for them,” said the man.

“I speak to the boys every day and they want to get back to Ireland in time for school. They have never missed a day and always do their homework. The school has been very good and sent a nice letter for us. The boys now ask, if they cannot get home, if they can do classes online.”

The man is legal guardian of the boys, aged 16 and 15, who have lived with his family since he secured refugee status in 2010 shortly after coming to Ireland. He had owned a company in Afghanistan which did some work for the US army, and his nephews were orphaned after members of his family, including two brothers, were killed in bomb attacks on premises linked to him.

Since coming here, the man has set up a number of businesses which support his extended family, including his wife, children and nephews, who are legally resident here.

Safety concerns

Due to safety concerns, the man asked that neither he nor the boys should be identified. “Talibans broke the arm of my parents’ doctor when he told them they had moved from their house and he did not know their address. I am fearful for them.”

Last July, the boys travelled to Afghanistan with a neighbour to visit their grandparents and participate in the Eid al-Adha festival. They were due to return before school term but have been unable to do so because an application for re-entry visas was not made before they left Ireland.

The man said the application was not made in July because he had only learned at a late stage of his neighbour’s visit to Afghanistan and was anxious the boys travel with the neighbour.

Through his solicitor Albert Llussà, of Daly Lynch Crowe & Morris Solicitors, he is seeking family reunification visas for the boys and for their grandparents.

He is also applying for a visa for his sister, who he says is so opposed to an arranged marriage with a member of the Taliban, recently released from prison, she has said she will kill herself if it proceeds. “I am also not agreeing to this marriage,” he said.

Family reunification is also sought for another brother who is married with five children.