The 102nd anniversary of Afghanistan's emancipation from the British marked the first popular uprising against the Taliban today. The red, green and black flag of the country came up in several cities -- including Kabul, where since Sunday, the defining image has been panic-stricken people at the airport desperate to get out of the country.
The choice of site was a message on its own in a city where many residents dare not venture out on roads. The flag was hoisted at Kabul's Abdul Haq Square, named after a Mujahideen commander. Abdul Haq was publicly executed by the Taliban days before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The square is the gateway to Kabul for the traffic from the eastern provinces.
In videos of Abdul Haq Square flooding social media, two men are seen climbing twin flagpoles to unfurl the national flag. Below, people carrying tiny, plastic replicas of the flag waved and cheer. Some even pour onto the road, where the traffic move hesitantly.
Afghans erecting national flag in Abdul Haq square in #Kabul, in defiance of Taliban— Frud Bezhan (FrudBezhan) August 19, 2021
The militants have replaced the black, red, and green national flag with their own white flags across #Afghanistan
But Afghans are braving threats, possible violence to mark Independence Day pic.twitter.com/xtFKL9ygxh
Over the last two days, the Afghan national flags have made their appearance in two eastern provinces of Nanganhar an Kunar. In each case, they were followed by Taliban retaliation with guns.
Processions have been fired upon in the eastern city of Jalalabad in Nanganhar in which three people died, news agency Reuters had reported quoting eyewitnesses.
Today, Taliban opened fire on an Independence Day rally in Konar province's Asadabad, in which several people were killed as well.
The handling of the protests will act as an acid test for the softer image the Taliban has been projecting this time through promises like general amnesty.
The protests come amid political efforts to set up a government. But the leaders of the Northern Alliance stand divided.
A section of northern leaders including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the ex-foreign minister are involved in talks with Taliban.
But Ahmed Massoud -- the 32 year old son of iconic Afghan resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud -- and Amrullah Saleh, the first Vice President of Afghanistan, remain defiant and have retreated to their base in the Panjshir Valley.