‘You see fear in everyone’s eyes’: An Afghan rights defender on life under the Taliban

Western governments must ensure aid ‘reaches intended beneficiaries’, unlike previously

A Taliban fighter among shoppers in Kabul’s Mandawi market. The last time the Taliban were in power, they were armed with broken Kalashnikovs, says Kourosh. ‘Now they are armed to the teeth with American weapons.’ Photograph: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

A Taliban fighter among shoppers in Kabul’s Mandawi market. The last time the Taliban were in power, they were armed with broken Kalashnikovs, says Kourosh. ‘Now they are armed to the teeth with American weapons.’ Photograph: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

It is 7.30pm in Kabul. The man I interview via a Zoom internet link has spent the day destroying archives in the office of the European NGO that employs him. “Call me Kourosh,” he says. “It’s a version of the name of the Persian King Cyrus. He wrote the first declaration of human rights, 2,700 years ago.”

Kourosh is a threatened human rights defender, living in semi-clandestinity in Kabul. He and his family joined the ranks of Afghanistan’s 3.5 million internally displaced persons last month, when they fled their home city of Herat, because he was well known there. They have inhabited four safe houses in the past 20 days.

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