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Taliban’s bid to change Afghanistan’s national flag ignites fierce backlash

A scene at Jalalabad which became a flashpoint in the battle of the flags, showcasing the clash between competing national identities and ideologies (Pic Courtesy Reuters)

The celebration of Afghanistan’s  independence  day today, is pitting the Taliban, the new rulers of Kabul against young patriots , who are proud to anchor their national identity with their country’s flag. The rift between the Taliban and the young brigade ignited after the Taliban tried to replace the Afghan national flag, traced to King Amanullah, with their own. High octane emotions  quickly flared leading to a free-for-all between the two. Injuries and deaths followed.

On Wednesday, the city of Jalalabad became a flashpoint  in the battle of the flags, showcasing the clash between competing national identities and ideologies.

In Jalalabad, people took  out a procession in support of their traditional national tricolour. They took down the white Taliban flag and replaced it with the national flag , causing the  Taliban security to open fire. Local media reported that the firing killed two and injured others.

The Jalalabad incident energised a social media storm, which, in turn triggered an outpouring of solidarity, persuading people to display their allegiance to the national tricolour in massive numbers.

“Martyr of the national flag. Today in Jalalabad, Zahidullah, the head of Sahar Broadcasting Association, was martyred by the Taliban for raising the national flag”, wrote an Afghan activist sharing the pictures. Most of them who have come out in support of the Afghan national flag are youth who have been raised in free Afghanistan.

In Nangarhar, hundreds of people raised  their Afghan flags,  urging the Taliban to respect and not change it.

The nationalistic spirit is now spreading like wild fire.

“Taliban opened fire on demonstrators in the eastern city of Khost, #Afghanistan, this footage purportedly shows. Reports of multiple deaths and injuries after residents took down the white Taliban flag and replaced it with the black, red and green flag of Afghanistan,” Afghan journalist Frud Bezhan shared the picture of people coming out with the national flags.

According to the BBC Pasto, “Chaos broke out during the protest, and videos released by local media showed some gunmen firing in the air to disperse people. Local sources said at least one person was injured in the shooting.”


Is it Sparks of national civil resistance against the insurgents?

Despite the Taliban’s military take over, and the fleeing of the elected government, Afghans are adamant to celebrate Independence Day today.

Ironically, Afghanistan has the unusual distinction of having never been colonised. It celebrates Independence Day nonetheless. In Afghanistan, “Independence Day” marks the signing of a treaty between Afghanistan’s then king, Amanullah Khan, and Britain on August 19, 1919. The treaty committed London  to stop interfering in Afghan affairs. In the presence of a British envoy, King Amanullah declared Afghanistan to be “entirely free, autonomous and independent, both internally and externally”. Since then, Afghanistan has marked 102 Independence Day celebrations. Less than half of them occurred outside the shadow of wars and dark ages, yet they were celebrated regardless. To quote King Amanullah’s original declaration of independence, it ought to mean something that applies both “internally and externally”. In recent decades, much attention has been devoted to celebrating the dream – if not the reality – of “freedom” from the rule of terrorist organisations. 

The three colours of Afghanistan's flag – black colour represents its troubled 19th century history as a protected state,  red represents the blood of those who fought for independence and the green reflects hope and prosperity for the future . The emblem of Afghanistan in the centre.

So, what does independence mean in Afghanistan? In 2021, it is difficult to say. But the message is clear. As a post on Twitter says:  “Keep the Flag undisputed…changing this Flag is dividing Afghans…Don't give opportunity to the spoilers….Taliban should think over it…they cannot control many fronts for too long through barrel..Win hearts and minds.”

An anti-Taliban front is already visible  in Panjshir, where the First Vice President Amrullah Saleh has issued a self-declaration of being the  “caretaker president”. He has called other nations to support him in the fight against the Taliban.

Also Read: Taliban blow up Abdul Ali Mazari’s statue revealing deep Sunni-Shia rift in Afghanistan

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