A sign was torn down. A defiant schoolyard song. A number of women are protesting. An almost empty cafe without music.
In the midst of the Taliban’s rapid and final takeover of Kabul, the Afghans took their mobile phones and filmed the chaos of the group’s arrival, the changes that marked their presence and the eerie calm that followed.
In the wake of the US withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war, the militant group is known for its brutal treatment of women and strict religious interpretations again responsible for Afghanistan.
Chaos gripped the international airport as lots of people tried to escape. But millions remained in Kabul, unsure of what would come next.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said those who helped the former Afghan government or military would be “pardoned” and that there would be “no discrimination against women, but of course within the framework we have.” But it’s already there reports in other parts of the country by women forced to cover themselves, and the shutters of girls’ schools.
With international embassies and some news broadcasts leaving the country, it is not yet clear how the group will govern or who will be there to document it.
The Washington Post collected social media posts uploaded from Kabul between August 15 and 17. Most videos and photos came from Snap Map, a public platform that allows Snapchat users to post videos and photos taken in real time.
The post analyzed more than 100 videos and photos that together illustrate what Kabul residents witnessed when the Taliban took control of the city.
The Taliban arrive
When the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday morning, videos seemed to panic. Traffic jams clogged the city.
Pictures showed that warriors had entered the city early Sunday afternoon, causing despair for some and immediate changes. Taliban members, according to the caption, were completely filmed in the “District 5” part of the city. The user submitted an emoji with a white flag to symbolize the group’s banner.
Users filmed trucks they identified as Taliban vehicles driving through the streets.
One person showed what they said was the “largest” military base in Kabul “under Taliban control.”
Another showed men tearing a poster of a woman on the Rana University campus.
A man filmed people taking the Afghan flag down in Kabul.
“Oh God, please help my country,” he said.
Scenes of a city in change
As night fell on Sunday, the streets were emptied. A normally busy neighborhood, Pole Sorkh, was quiet and dark.
Meanwhile, some users had had their social media accounts in an act of subtle defiance. One posted the music video for a song whose lyrics evoke the spirit in female expression.
“Do not hide me inside the house, behind the veil, under the shadow,” sings a woman. “Because I am the lady of the sun, progressive, full of passion.”
Another user posted a parody of a children’s song.
“I wish I was a fish / in a big ocean,” reads the original song.
“I wish I was Dostum / going to Uzbekistan,” the user said, referring to Afghanistan’s former vice president, Abdurrashid Dostum, who had fled the country.
Pictures of women on storefronts were destroyed. The photographer who took them on Monday said it was ordinary Afghans who destroyed the posters, remembering that the Taliban banned such images when it was in power from 1996 to 2001.
Pictures of women on Kabul storefronts are being repainted as civilians fear consequences from the Taliban. Follow Favorite
Insecure calm sets in
Over the next two days, an eerie calm took over the city as some shops and restaurants reopened.
“Everything is normal,” someone wrote, pointing to an imperceptible cross in Kabul.
But there were signs of a changed city. One user said there were no “security guards” on the street for the first time in their lives.
Another user put a typical breakfast and hot drink in a cafe, but they noticed that no music was playing in the almost empty establishment.
Others turned to dark humor.
Three days after the Taliban took control of Kabul, Snapchat users are sharing reactions online. (Snapchat)
While some Afghans resumed daily life, the fate of their country in balance, a few took that future into their own hands. On Tuesday, several women stood in line to demand freedoms in the new regime.
“Sharia law gives us the right to work and study and be educated,” they sang. The Taliban has said it will give women more rights within Islamic law, but how it will interpret and enforce it, we shall see.
Mahnaz Rezaie contributed to this report.
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