In late February, the Taliban launched a house-to-house search operation called “search and clear,” supposedly to address rising crime in Kabul. The search operation spreads throughout Kabul and other areas of Afghanistan, especially the Kapisa, Parwan, Bamiyan and Panjshir provinces. Photos and videos on social media show Taliban security forces kicking in people’s doors, pointing guns at the residents and beating some of them. Videos also show the Taliban fighters going through people’s closets, chopping up mattresses, digging in their yards and destroying furniture. Some describe the search as “ransacking,” rather than a search operation looking for criminals.
While all eyes are are on #Ukraine, in #kabul, #Afghanistan, people are going through hell. The #Taliban are going door to door to search people's house.— Natiq Malikzada | ناطق ملکزاده (@natiqmalikzada) February 28, 2022
Hundreds of people have been arrested so far without any reason, & most of those arrested are former members of the #ANDSF. pic.twitter.com/Cjc2F3Uec8
The house searches have terrorized Afghans, reminding them of the harrowing experiences of the past house searches by former governments. The Afghan people have been clear about sharing their dismay and photos of chaos created by the Taliban forces on social media, calling it “violations of privacy,” “intrusive” and “suppressing dissent” in the name of clearing criminalities.
In a tweet, Andreas von Brandt, European Union ambassador to Afghanistan, wrote to the Taliban; “Despite Putin’s war, we are watching you. … The intimidations, house searches, arrests and violence against members of different ethnic groups and women are crimes and must stop immediately.”
In another tweet, Andrew Fox, operations manager for the U.K.-based Azadi Charity wrote, “The Taliban are sealing off the city district by district and methodically searching every house. Those they seize are being tortured and ransomed. Our WhatsApps are full of horror stories and utterly horrific photos.”
This large-scale search across Kabul is beyond any justification and impacts women and girls the most. Reports suggest that house to house searches are mainly conducted by men, with no prior notification to residents.— Amnesty International South Asia (@amnestysasia) March 1, 2022
Despite footages and multiple witnesses, Taliban officials deny any wrongdoing. In a news conference, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid called the operations in Kabul and neighboring cities “successful,” and that their main goal was to “collect weapons” and arrest “criminals.” “Over 60,000 rounds of ammunition, 13 armored vehicles, 13 tons of gunpowder and explosives along with rocket launchers and grenades were seized in the raids,” Mujahid claimed. ” Taliban fighters also announced that they arrested “nine kidnappers, six ISIS members and 53 thieves.”
Despite announcing a general amnesty, since their takeover of power, the Taliban has continued detaining journalists, activists and people associated with the former government and police forces. The Afghan national security forces under the former republic have remained their big target. Many Afghans have complained that the Taliban are not committed to their blanket amnesty declaration. The house-to-house searches have also caused panic among people who used to work for the previous government and international NGOs, leading them to burn their documents in fear of being harassed or arrested by the Taliban.