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'People's money': Protests rage on against Biden's move to split Afghan funds

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protesters take to the streets in the central Afghan province of Bamyan against US President Joe Biden's order to split Afghan frozen funds.

Protests against US President Joe Biden’s move to confiscate foreign reserves of Afghanistan and distribute them among the families of 9/11 victims have spread across the crisis-stricken country.

Thousands of Afghans took to the streets in the central mountainous province of Bamyan, where demonstrators chanted vociferous anti-American slogans.

“Shame on America, let go of Afghanistan's money!” and other slogans reverberated in the central Afghan province, with protesters terming it a “cruel act” and “betrayal of the rights of Afghans”.  

The protesters also held placards, like the one reading: “We, the people of Bamyan want the United States to release frozen money of Afghanistan.

Biden signed an executive order earlier this month, allowing half of the $7 billion in frozen assets from Afghanistan's central bank to be distributed among the 9/11 claimants.

The funds, held in the US, were frozen following the sweeping Taliban takeover of Kabul last August and the botched exit of the US-led allied forces after 20-year long military occupation.

It has spawned what the UN agencies have termed a worst humanitarian catastrophe in recent history.

Almost 24 million people in Afghanistan – or 60% of the population – suffer from acute hunger, while millions have already been displaced.

Sayed Abdul Raziq Danesh, head of the Bamyan Disabled People's Union and one of the organizers of the rally, called on the US government to release assets belonging to Afghans as soon as possible.

He asserted that the US policies were taking a devastating toll on millions of ordinary people in the landlocked South Asian country.

Bamyan protesters also passed a resolution calling on the United Nations to force the US and its allies to release the confiscated assets. It further stated that in the current situation, aid organizations must cooperate with the disabled and the families of the war victims in Afghanistan.

The protests in Bamyan follow a series of similar demonstrations across Afghanistan in protest against the US government’s decision.

According to media reports, half the frozen assets -- $3.5 billion -- could go toward providing relief to people in Afghanistan, while the remaining $3.5 billion will be made available for victims of 9/11 attacks, who have been fighting in court for compensation using the frozen funds.  

Families of 9/11 victims have for years been seeking financial compensation from the Taliban. After the group’s takeover last year, the families renewed their efforts.

People in Afghanistan say they had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. The perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan, and even the alleged mastermind Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan.

Biden's order triggered a social media storm with hashtags like #USA_stole_money_from_Afghan trending among Afghans. Tweets pointed out that the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, not Afghans.

In a statement, the Afghan central bank, the Da Afghanistan Bank, urged the Biden administration to reverse its decision.

Washington’s decision to distribute Afghan money has added to the growing animosity that many Afghans have felt toward the United States over the past 20 years of military occupation.

The botched military exit last August and the subsequent economic and humanitarian crisis has been blamed on the US and its allies and their decision to embezzle Afghan money.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) last week said 95 percent of people in Afghanistan “do not have enough to eat,” and that “hunger continues to rise in Afghanistan.”

According to the UN, Afghanistan, which is already battling high poverty, faces “one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.”

The world body warned in October last year that without financial aid or humanitarian relief, Afghanistan is on a “countdown to catastrophe.”

Afghanistan has about $9 billion in assets overseas, including the $7 billion in the US. The rest is mostly in Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland.

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