Hundreds of Afghans protested in Kabul on Tuesday against the US for freezing Afghanistan's central bank reserves of over $9 billion and cutting international assistance to the impoverished country, which has been embroiled in a nearly 20-year war.
Approximately 600 people gathered at the Abdul Haq intersection and in front of an abandoned building that served as the US embassy in Afghanistan before the US announced its exit on Aug. 31 after nearly two decades of operations.
The Afghan People's Movement, a relatively unknown organization, organized the all-men demonstration.
Protesters chanted anti-US slogans and carried banners and posters with slogans such as "Our money is our right," "People are voicing against hunger," "Does the world want a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan?" "Why don't you release our funds?" "Do Afghans get no attention from the UN and human rights organizations?"
Protesters also raised slogans supporting the Taliban administration.
Shafiq Ahmad Rahimi, the group's organizer, spoke on behalf of the protesters, urging the quick unfreezing of the reserves as well as the restoration of international assistance.
"The money that belonged to us was seized by the US. Its goal is to bring the Afghan people to their knees," he said.
Rahimi referred to the US approach in Afghanistan as "economic pressure," and stated that Afghanistan will not surrender to it.
A 63-year-old rally participant, Ahmadullah Muhammedi, told Anadolu Agency that he is unemployed and urged that sanctions against his country be eased.
"Our current economic condition is dire. The US is oppressing us. It stopped our money and put us in serious financial trouble," he said.
Another protester, Ihsanullah Niazi, described the US' actions in Afghanistan as "economic violence."
"This protest is being held to unfreeze our reserves. We demand that the Afghan economic issue be resolved as quickly as possible by unfreezing the money," he stated.
Economic crisis in Afghanistan
The US government has blocked $9.4 billion of the Afghan Central Bank’s reserves, and many donors and organizations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have halted payments since the Taliban swept to power on Aug. 15.
Several countries, including China, Russia, Pakistan, and Qatar, have called on the US to allow Afghanistan to access its foreign reserves, but there have been no positive indications so far.
After more than 40 years of political turbulence and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in wars, the country has been facing numerous hardships, including economic challenges since the Taliban took power in August.
According to figures from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, 22.8 million people, or more than half of the country's population, will face severe food shortages if the current crisis persists.
Pressure on US
On Monday, US lawmakers called on the Biden administration to release $9.4 billion in frozen Afghan central bank reserves.
Democratic members of the US House of Representatives wrote to US President Joe Biden and the Treasury Department to express their support for American allies and humanitarian experts in encouraging the US to avoid harsh economic measures that will directly harm Afghan families and children.
In the letter, the congressmen stated, "We stand with American allies and humanitarian experts in urging the United States to avoid harsh economic measures that will directly harm Afghan families and children. This means conscientiously but urgently modifying current US policy regarding the freeze of Afghanistan's foreign reserves and ongoing sanctions."