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Hundreds of Afghan protesters call for release of frozen assets

Afghans hold banners during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 21, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of Afghan demonstrators have marched through the streets of Kabul towards the United States’ shuttered embassy, calling for the release of billions of dollars in assets frozen by Washington and its Western allies.

The Tuesday march was organized by the Afghan People’s Movement, which has in the past held peace rallies in the Afghan capital.

Social media accounts posting multiple images and video clips indicated that the participants spoke for ordinary citizens.

“Our main demand is that the United States should release our assets as soon as possible,” organizer Shafiq Ahmad Rahimi said. “This is the wealth of the nation, not of any single person, group or government.”

The protesters chanted anti-US slogans and held banners reading “Let us eat” and “Give us our frozen money.”

Afghanistan has been teetering on the brink of a major humanitarian catastrophe. In recent weeks, UN agencies have warned that millions of Afghans could run out of food before the onset of winter and around one million children are at risk of starvation.

According to recent surveys by the World Food Programme (WFP), an estimated 98% of Afghans are not eating enough, with seven in 10 families resorting to borrowing food, which pushes them deeper into poverty.

The unfolding crisis has also affected the already fragile banking system in the country, especially with billions of dollars in Afghan assets frozen by the US since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August.

Foreign ministers who attended the latest meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) earlier this week pledged to establish a humanitarian trust fund to address the growing chaos and economic crisis in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, who had previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, took power again on August 15 as the US was in the middle of a chaotic troop withdrawal. The group announced the formation of a caretaker government on September 7. No country has yet recognized their rule. Since then, the Taliban have been struggling to contain an economic crisis.

The UN says Afghanistan is facing “one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.”

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