World: As world marks 9/11, Taliban flag raised over seat of power

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban raised their iconic white flag over the Afghan presidential palace Saturday, a spokesman said, as the U.S. and the world marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The iconic Taliban flag is painted on a wall outside the American embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press The iconic Taliban flag is painted on a wall outside the American embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) Afghan women walk past a closed beauty salon in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Since the Taliban gained control of Kabul, several images depicting women outside beauty salons have been removed or covered up. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press Afghan women walk past a closed beauty salon in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Since the Taliban gained control of Kabul, several images depicting women outside beauty salons have been removed or covered up. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The banner, emblazoned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban interim government, in a low-key ceremony, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, multimedia branch chief of the Taliban’s cultural commission.

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A man walks down the stairs at dusk in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press A man walks down the stairs at dusk in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The flag-raising marked the official start of the work of the new government, he said. The composition of the all-male, all-Taliban government was announced earlier this week and was met with disappointment by the international community which had hoped the Taliban would make good on an earlier promise of an inclusive lineup.

A street vendor selling Taliban flags waits for customers outside the American embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press A street vendor selling Taliban flags waits for customers outside the American embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Two decades ago, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with a heavy hand. Television was banned, and on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the horrific attacks on America, the news spread from crackling radios across the darkened streets of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

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An Afghan woman enters a beauty salon in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Since the Taliban gained control of Kabul, several images depicting women outside beauty salons have been removed or covered up. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press An Afghan woman enters a beauty salon in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Since the Taliban gained control of Kabul, several images depicting women outside beauty salons have been removed or covered up. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The city rarely had electricity and barely a million people lived in Kabul at the time. It took the U.S.-led coalition just two months to drive the Taliban from the capital and by Dec. 7, 2001, they were defeated, driven from their last holdout in southern Kandahar, their spiritual heartland.

Afghans play games on a cellphone outside their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press Afghans play games on a cellphone outside their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Twenty years later, the Taliban are back in Kabul. America has departed, ending its ‘forever war’ two weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and two weeks after the Taliban returned to the Afghan capital on Aug. 15.

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A boy walks into his house as the night falls in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press A boy walks into his house as the night falls in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Some things have changed since the first period of Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Vendors wait for customers outside their shop in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press Vendors wait for customers outside their shop in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

This time, the gun-toting fighters don’t race through the city streets in their pickups. Instead, they inch through chaotic, clogged traffic in the city of more than 5 million. In Taliban-controlled Kabul in the 1990s, barber shops were banned. Now Taliban fighters get the latest haircuts, even if their beards remain untouched in line with their religious beliefs.

The iconic Taliban flag is painted on a wall outside the American embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press The iconic Taliban flag is painted on a wall outside the American embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

But the Taliban have begun issuing harsh edits that have hit women hardest, such as banning women's sports. They have also used violence to stop women demanding equal rights from protesting.

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A boy carries water to his home atop a hill in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press A boy carries water to his home atop a hill in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Inside a high-end women's store in the city's Karte Se neighborhood Saturday, Marzia Hamidi, a Taekwondo competitor with ambitions of being a national champion, said the return of the Taliban has crushed her dreams.

Vehicles drive past a mural paying homage to late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, left, and the late founder of the feared Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press Vehicles drive past a mural paying homage to late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, left, and the late founder of the feared Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

She was among the women attacked by the Taliban and called “agents of the West” during one of the recent protests. She said she's not surprised about America's withdrawal.

A woman cooks dinner outside her house in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press A woman cooks dinner outside her house in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

“This year or next year, they had to leave eventually,” she said. “They came for their own interest and they left for their interest.”

Cars wait in traffic as Afghans shop in a local market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press Cars wait in traffic as Afghans shop in a local market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Hamidi is hoping the Taliban will relent and ease their restrictions, but with a glance toward the store owner, Faisal Naziri, she said “most men in Afghanistan agree with what the Taliban say about women and their rules against them.”

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Members of the Taliban prepare flags for a women's march in support of the Taliban government at Kabul University's education center in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press Members of the Taliban prepare flags for a women's march in support of the Taliban government at Kabul University's education center in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Naziri nodded, saying preserving the rights of women is not a cause that will bring Afghan men on the streets.

Women march in support of the Taliban government outside Kabul University, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press Women march in support of the Taliban government outside Kabul University, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

On Saturday, the Taliban even orchestrated a women's march of their own. This one involved dozens of women obscured from head to toe, hidden behind layers of black veils. They filled an auditorium at Kabul University’s education center in a well-choreographed snub to the past 20 years of Western efforts to empower women.

A woman sits with baby at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press A woman sits with baby at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Speakers read from scripted speeches celebrating the Taliban victory over a West they charged was anti-Islam. The women marched briefly outside the center grounds, waving placards saying “the women who left don’t represent us,” referring to the many thousands who fled in fear of a Taliban crackdown on women's rights. “We don’t want co-education,” read another banner.

Taliban fighters escort women's march in support of the Taliban government outside Kabul University, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press Taliban fighters escort women's march in support of the Taliban government outside Kabul University, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Outside the hall, the Taliban director of higher education, Maulvi Mohammad Daoud Haqqani, said 9/11 was the day “the world started their propaganda against us calling us terrorists and blaming us” for the attacks in the United States.

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Taliban fighters escort women march in support of the Taliban government outside Kabul University, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) © Provided by Associated Press Taliban fighters escort women march in support of the Taliban government outside Kabul University, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

At a dusty book store in Kabul's Karte Sangi neighborhood, Atta Zakiri, a self-declared civil society activist said America was wrong to attack Afghanistan after 9/11.

A women walks down from the stage inside an auditorium at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press A women walks down from the stage inside an auditorium at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

He blamed the invasion that followed the 9/11 attacks for creating another generation of hardline Taliban fighters.

Women stand inside an auditorium at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press Women stand inside an auditorium at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

“The Taliban should have been allowed to stay. Why didn't we work with them? Instead they went to fight,” he said." And now we are back to where we were 20 years ago.”

Women wave Taliban flags as they sit inside an auditorium at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) © Provided by Associated Press Women wave Taliban flags as they sit inside an auditorium at Kabul University's education center during a demonstration in support of the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

‘No possible life’ under Taliban rule: Afghan women fear murder, oppression after US withdrawal .
"If the Taliban returns to power, I along with other women who work in the government will either be stoned to death or executed in public."These memories are invariably the stuff of nightmares.

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