Over the past few weeks, numerous reports have surfaced of the Afghan elite and some former officials of the Western-backed Kabul government fleeing to luxury apartments in Dubai and beach villas in California in the past few weeks. when the Taliban took over the country last August.
But tens of thousands of Afghans, who have also fled the country, languish in cramped refugee camps around the world, while returning home, millions more face starvation.
Last week, more than 1,000 people was killed and 10,000 homes were destroyed after a strong earthquake hit southeastern Afghanistan.
According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, former Afghan officials, including aides to former President Ashraf Ghani, spent millions of dollars buying properties in Dubai and the US during the final years of the government. Western-backed government.
A US watchdog said earlier this month that millions of dollars had disappeared from the presidential palace and the National Security Administration during the Taliban takeover last August. However, the amount has not been calculated yet Ghani not sure According to the watchdog, fled with millions of dollars in cash.
The former president has moved into the world famous 5-star St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi after leaving Afghanistan. He currently lives in the UAE.
Tens of thousands of Afghans, who used to work for US and NATO forces, were airlifted as US forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of war, but many of them are stuck in centers. processing refugees around the world with an uncertain future.
Corruption and embezzlement of funds
Reports of corruption in the Afghan government and misappropriation of funds in the largely aid-dependent nation have brought attention to how Afghans – both refugees and those within the country – have failed before their leadership.
“I have spent the best years of my life rebuilding this country, educating the next generation of thinkers. And now here I am, vulnerable and unable even to support my family, while those who do nothing for the country live comfortable lives,” said Mina, a university professor who aspires to be. indicate a name.
Mina has built a career of over 10 years, serving as a respected professor and prominent voice on women’s rights in Afghanistan. We will be withholding her university name for security reasons.
Her work has been severely affected by the Taliban’s increasing restrictions on women. Many of her classes have been cancelled, she has not been paid for months, and she regularly faces harassment from Taliban guards for going out without a mahram (male escort). Afghan girls are still banned from high schools and women are increasingly excluded from public life, recalling memories of the last Taliban regime of the 1990s.
The Taliban have struggled to revive a war-torn economy after Western sanctions imposed, with the US freezing nearly $10 billion worth of Afghanistan’s central bank funds after the American-led forces withdrew.
The domestic financial crisis has spilled over into her family, and as the family’s sole breadwinner, Mina has been struggling to make ends meet on a constant and greatly reduced salary along with prices. higher.
In the past 10 months, she has only been paid twice and less than half of what she owes.
“A year ago, cooking oil was 50 Afs [$.56] per kg and today is more than 150 Afs [$1.69]. A bag of flour is 1600 Afs [$18]but now more than 4000 Afs [$45]. I haven’t been paid for months and am taking out a loan to support my family (her parents and her sister). But people won’t even lend it to me anymore,” she said, adding that on most days they divide any meal they can get their hands on into two or more servings to eat later.
“We are starving and I feel extremely desperate, especially when I see that the people who abandoned us in this situation are living a comfortable life,” Mina, who lives in Afghanistan, told Al. Jazeera.
Fight to survive
Meanwhile, Afghans forced into exile and struggling to survive painfully watch corrupt former officials shirk accountability.
Dr. Kamaluddin Koshan was a journalist in Kabul before the Taliban took over. He later worked to become a doctor serving his people, but now lives as a refugee in neighboring Pakistan, often dependent on donations and charity.
“I had a decent and honest income, but above all I loved the work I did because it helped our country. I don’t imagine this is where I would end up today,” Koshan, 34, told Al Jazeera, speaking from Pakistan, where he now lives, after escaping Taliban threats because of his job. .
A refugee, Koshan, who was once the area manager of the Northern District of Khaama Press, a prominent Afghan agency, now shares a small, dingy one-room space with his wife and three children. , all under 8 years old.
According to the European Union report announced in May, there are more than 3 million Afghans living in Pakistan, of which 775,000 are undocumented and most of them live in extremely inhumane conditions in informal settlements in the country. this. Most of them have fled due to the four-decade-long conflict in the country.
When the savings ran out, the Koshan family struggled to make ends meet.
“I have no income to pay rent, electricity or gas. Food is also sparse, some days go to bed hungry. Sometimes my kids ask me for fruit and I can’t even buy them for them,” he said, his voice sounding tired.
In the previous 20 years, Koshan said, he worked hard to achieve every goal he set for himself.
“I have also worked with many Afghan NGOs and civil society organizations fighting injustice,” he said, beaming with pride as he recounted his life journey.
“Even my children have to miss school for months because I can’t afford to pay their tuition. Every day that they miss out on education, their future is at stake,” he said.
While Taliban threats force Koshan into exile, he blames equally corrupt Afghan officials for his misery.
“Surname [corrupt officials] looted everything that belonged to the country for 20 years. They appoint each other to positions of influence, and then reward each other,” he said, his voice rising with anger.
“There are too many nationalist and discriminatory regimes among the elites, and there is absolutely no sense of loyalty to Afghanistan,” he said.
Millions of people face food insecurity
In fact, US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F Sopko echoed similar concerns in grim warning in June 2021.
“Corruption in Afghanistan is not just a criminal justice issue. Systemic corruption in Afghanistan goes beyond… a threat to the entire US mission and international effort in Afghanistan,” he said, warning the Afghan government to be “serious” about dismantling. corruption if you want to bring lasting peace to the people.
“Time is running out,” he warned, just weeks before President Ghani’s Afghan government collapsed.
More than 22 million Afghans are facing food insecurity, according to the UN’s World Food Program, as the country faces an economic collapse. The Taliban’s diplomatic isolation did not help the situation.
Khalid Payenda, Afghanistan’s last finance minister, who was mentioned in a Wall Street Journal report on owning US real estate, denied the allegation.
He shared his financial profile and source of wealth on Twitter handle.
Payenda, who has denounced several reports exposing corruption within the Afghan government, said that Afghanistan’s corruption problem was widely known and even exploited by many networks and stakeholders.
“Corruption is endemic in that it exists not only at the national level but also at the local level, and in all branches of government, executive, legislative and even private,” he told Al Jazeera. France.
Payenda shared similar assessments from her time in the government system.
“In one department, which brings in only a million afghani per month, far less than its potential, it has grown significantly under my tenure,” he said.
Local reports from last year confirm his claims, noting an increase in customs collection – 330 million afghanis were collected daily in June 2021 compared to 180 million afghanis per day in the previous quarter.
Koshan, who once believed strongly in Afghanistan’s democracy, was a disappointment.
“I regularly vote in elections and encourage others to participate, thinking we can make a difference. But they lied to us,” he said bitterly.
“They told us to work for the country, even as they built a life abroad, and abandoned us as soon as things got worse,” he said, referring to the Afghan president’s defection. on August 15, 2021 leading to the downfall of the country.