The Afghans protesting to keep national flag despite Taliban pushback

Protesters in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad raise the Afghan flag on top of a monument in a square.
Protesters in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad raise the Afghan flag on top of a monument in a square. © Pajhwok Afghan News

Days after the Taliban took over the Afghan capital, Kabul, demonstrations have broken out in several cities in eastern Afghanistan. Videos show defiant citizens climbing up monuments to replace the Taliban flag with the Afghan flag. The Taliban have fired shots to quell these protests. According to our Observer, these protests are not necessarily anti-Taliban, but instead represent the importance of the Afghan national flag to this region.

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Videos posted on August 18, 2021 show Afghans protesting against the Taliban flag in several cities in eastern Afghanistan, just one day before Afghanistan would celebrate its independence day. Protests broke out in Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, and Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, also in the east.

In these videos, Afghans march through the streets of Jalalabad holding the national flag, chanting and cheering.

In this video posted on Twitter on August 18, 2021, protesters carrying the Afghan national flag walk through the streets of Jalalabad.

Protesters also climbed atop a monument in a square in eastern Jalalabad to raise the Afghan national flag. 

In a video published on August 18 on Twitter, protesters climb a monument in eastern Jalalabad and raise the Afghan national flag.

The Taliban responded to these demonstrations with live bullets. In Jalalabad, three people were killed and a dozen others injured as they attempted to raise the Afghan flag, witnesses say. A video shows people running in the street as gunshots ring out in the background.

A video posted on Twitter on August 18 shows a crowd of people running in a street of Jalalabad as gunfire can be heard in the background.

Similar protests also took place in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, which was captured by the Taliban on August 14. Here, protesters climbed atop a monument in the city’s main square to replace the Taliban flag with the Afghan flag.

A video shows several people on top of the monument with several Afghan flags as dozens of people cheer them on from below.

A video posted on Twitter on August 18 shows people climbing a monument in central Asadabad to raise the Afghan flag.

Several other videos have been published showing similar protests against the Taliban flag in Afghan cities. 

The most recent version of the Afghan national flag, a black, red and green tricolour, was adopted in 2002, after the fall of the Taliban’s first regime. Afghanistan has used some form of black, red and green flag since 1928, except during the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001. 

The Taliban has been using their flag, which is white with the Islamic shahada, or profession of faith, written on it in black Arabic text, since 1997. 

‘The Afghan flag has become symbolic in recent years’

According to our Observer, an Afghan journalist in Kabul, these flag-bearing protesters are not exactly protesting against the Taliban, but rather protesting for the maintenance of a symbol of a common Afghan identity.

These protesters were not opposing the Taliban regime in general. They were protesting against this tendency of the Taliban to take down the Afghanistan flag and replace it with their flag. You can see that the Taliban, in most cases, has taken them down and replaced them with their own white flag.

The Taliban flag was raised over a building in Herat, after the Taliban captured the city on August 13.
The Taliban flag was raised over a building in Herat, after the Taliban captured the city on August 13. © Social media

Even though the Afghan flag is only 20 years old, it has become symbolic in recent years. It’s a symbol of unity and love for our mother country, so it has become more and more important. In the last two decades, it has been celebrated on every single national holiday and ceremony – people have an affection for it. 

‘People are tired of war’

Another Afghan journalist told the FRANCE 24 Observers that these protests show Afghan’s dedication to their culture and identity. 

People are tired of war – some have welcomed the Taliban’s initiative to secure the country. But when the Taliban wants to impose their beliefs and ideology, and suppress the Afghan national identity, people react badly. Young people, especially, do not want to accept this. What they are doing to our flag is an insult to our national symbols. Today’s demonstration was a reaction to these insults. 

The Taliban has been fighting to regain control of Afghanistan since the US invasion in 2001, causing thousands of civilian deaths each year.