In the past few weeks multiple reports have emerged of Afghan elites and several former officials from the West-backed Kabul government escaping to luxury condos in Dubai and beachside villas in California during the Taliban takeover of the country last August.
But tens of thousands of Afghans, who also left the country, still languish in cramped refugee camps across the world, while back home, millions of others face hunger.
Last week, more than 1,000 people were killed and 10,000 homes were destroyed after a powerful earthquake struck southeastern Afghanistan.
Former Afghan officials, including aides of former President Ashraf Ghani, spent millions to buy properties in Dubai and the US during the last years of the West-backed government, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.
A US watchdog said earlier this month that millions of dollars disappeared from the presidential palace and the National Directorate of Security during the Taliban takeover last August. The money remains unaccounted for, though Ghani unlikely fled with millions of cash, according to the watchdog.
The former president moved to the world-renowned five-star St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi after leaving Afghanistan. He now lives in the UAE.
Tens of thousands of Afghans, who worked for the US and NATO forces, were airlifted as the US forces were withdrawing from the country after 20 years of war, but many of them are stuck in refugee processing centres across the world with an uncertain future.
Corruption and misappropriation of funds
The reports of corruption within the Afghan government and misappropriation of funds in the largely aid-dependent country put the spotlight on how Afghans – both refugees as well as those in the country – have been failed by their leadership.
“I gave the best years of my life to rebuilding this country, to educating the next generation of thinkers. And now here I am, vulnerable and unable to even support my own family, while those who did nothing for the country live comfortable lives,” said Mina, a university professor who wished to be identified by one name.
Mina built a career of more than 10 years, working as a respected professor and a prominent voice on women’s rights in Afghanistan. We are withholding the name of her university due to security reasons.
Her work has been severely affected owing to growing Taliban restrictions on women. Many of her classes have been cancelled, she has not been paid in months, and she often faces harassment from Taliban guards for going out without a mahram (male escort). Afghan girls still are barred from attending high schools and women are increasingly being excluded from public life, bringing back the memory of the last Taliban regime of the 1990s.
The Taliban has struggled to revive the war-battered economy after the West slapped sanctions, with the US freezing the Afghan central bank funds worth nearly $10bn following the withdrawal of US-led forces.
The financial crisis in the country has trickled into her household, and as her family’s sole breadwinner, Mina has been struggling to make ends meet on a significantly reduced and intermittent salary, with rising prices.
In the last 10 months, she was only paid twice and it was less than half of what she was owed.
“A year ago, cooking oil was 50 Afs [$.56] per kilo, and today it is over 150 Afs [$1.69]. A bag of flour was 1600 Afs [$18], but now it is over 4000 Afs [$45]. I haven’t been paid in months and have been borrowing money to feed my family (her parents and her younger sister). But even people won’t lend me any more,” she said, adding that on most days, they divide any meals they can acquire into two or more parts so that they have something to eat later.
“We are starving and I feel extremely hopeless, especially when I see that those who left us in this situation are living comfortable lives,” Mina, who is based in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera.