KABUL -- Hundreds of Afghans have marched in Kabul demanding the release of billions of dollars of assets held in the United States in a protest sanctioned by the ruling Taliban as the country grapples with a growing economic crisis that threatens to turn into a humanitarian disaster.
The protesters, holding banners reading “Let us eat” and “Give us our frozen money,” marched down a central avenue and near the U.S. Embassy, with the Taliban providing security.
After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August, the international community has refused to recognize them as the new rulers, urging them to establish an inclusive government and to ensure the fundamental human rights of all Afghans.
Key global donors have blocked most of their aid to the country, and reserves of the Afghan central bank held abroad were also frozen.
The Taliban has banned unapproved protests, cracking down heavily on several demonstrations held by women demanding the right to jobs and education.
A World Food Program (WFP) survey last week showed that an estimated 98 percent of Afghans are not eating enough, with seven in 10 families resorting to borrowing food, which pushes them deeper into poverty.
Prices for food, fuel, and other basics have been rising, putting them out of reach for many people, and pressure on the Afghan currency has made the impact worse.
Earlier this month the World Bank said donors had approved the transfer of $280 million from a frozen trust fund to two aid agencies to help Afghanistan respond to its humanitarian crisis.
During the 1996-2001 Taliban rule of Afghanistan, the militants banned women and girls from education and public life, mandated beards for men and attendance at prayers, banned sports and entertainment, and carried out public executions.