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Gandhara Briefing: Deadly Afghan Floods, Shocking Rape Allegations, Controversial Taliban Film Festival

Flooding in Afghanistan's Laghman Province, east of Kabul.

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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This week's Gandhara Briefing highlights our reporting on the devastation caused by the floods in Afghanistan, an Afghan woman accusing a Taliban official of rape, and the militants holding their first film festival.

Floods Ravage Impoverished Afghanistan

I report on the recent flash floods in Afghanistan that have killed hundreds of people and devastated swathes of eastern and southern Afghanistan. The natural disaster has aggravated the major economic and humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

"Our house was swept away by the raging floods," said Mira Jan, a farmer from Nangarhar who lost his home, crops, and livestock in the floods. "We were only able to save ourselves and our children. We have nothing to live off now."

According to the United Nations' humanitarian coordination organization, OCHA, the floods have so far killed over 250 people and damaged 34,000 hectares of agricultural land. More than 7,500 livestock were also killed. Coinciding with the summer harvest season, the floods have ruined the livelihoods of thousands of destitute farmers.

"Critical civilian infrastructure, including roads and bridges, have also been either damaged or destroyed, cutting people off from areas and restricting access to markets," said OCHA's deputy head, Katherine Carey.

She says that with 75 percent of the country's rural population dependent on farming, the loss of farmland, crops, and livestock will cloud the economic prospects of millions.

Taliban's Abuse Of Women In The Spotlight

Radio Azadi reports on a young Afghan woman alleging that a Taliban official beat, raped, and forcibly married her.

Saeed Khosty, a former Taliban spokesman, has denied the accusations. But rights groups say the allegations are part of a wider trend of Taliban officials and fighters allegedly abusing, sexually assaulting, and forcibly marrying young Afghan women and girls.

"We don't know how widespread these abuses are against the Afghan women, but we know that violence against women and girls is carried out with complete impunity," Heather Barr, associate director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch, told us.

Film Festival Or 'Propaganda'?

Radio Azadi reports on the Taliban organizing a film festival in Kabul.

The militant group banned film during its first stint in power in the 1990s. Now, it will screen dozens of fiction and documentary films in several cinemas later this month.

But critics have accused the Taliban of using film as a new propaganda tool. Since returning to power, the Taliban has cracked down on the independent press and the film industry, forcing hundreds of journalists and filmmakers to flee their homeland.

"Filmmaking will become another avenue to whitewash the Taliban and will be used as a propaganda tool," Sahra Karimi, the former head of the Afghan Film Directorate, told us.

Afghan Refugees Decry Turkish, Iranian Treatment

Radio Azadi reports on the mistreatment of Afghan migrants and refugees by security forces in Iran and Turkey.

"The Turkish forces beat us so badly that some of us had broken limbs, while others lost their lives," said Sardar Wali Aryubi, who was recently deported back to Afghanistan.

In a report this week, Amnesty International accused Turkish and Iranian border guards of violently pushing back Afghans seeking safety in their countries.

The watchdog documented the killing of 11 Afghans by the Iranian forces and three by Turkish troops.

U.S. Says Taliban Will Pay For Rights Violations

In an interview, Rob Berschinski, a special assistant to U.S. President Joe Biden, said that the Taliban will face financial consequences for its human rights abuses in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has been accused of carrying out hundreds of human rights violations in Afghanistan since seizing power, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture. The militant group has specifically targeted those associated with the ousted government, human rights defenders, and journalists, according to the UN.

In his first broadcast interview since his appointment last year, Berschinski said, "We're going to hold [the Taliban] to their word" on the human rights pledges made during talks on the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

That's all from me this week.

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Note: The next edition of the Gandhara Briefing will be issued on September 23.

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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