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The Afghan ambassador to Italy: “Rome does not recognize the Taliban”

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“Our diplomatic office in Rome is guarded by armed guards around the clock. The reason is that in Italy there are people who support the Taliban and their ideology. It is one of the most dangerous scenarios for most of Europe: if we legitimize the Taliban government we must realize what the impact will be on other terrorist organizations, starting with North Africa “. Khaled Ahmad Zekriya is the Afghan ambassador to Italy, appointed by the democratically elected executive and not at all willing to recognize the new lords of Kabul. And today its main mission is precisely to convince Italian politicians not to dialogue with the Taliban power.

Which personalities and which parties have shown themselves to be most sensitive to your initiative?
“Immediately after the fall of Kabul, I had a business lunch here at the embassy with Matteo Salvini. A three-hour conversation in which he was very attentive to the issue, so much so that shortly thereafter he announced that Italy would not will never recognize the Taliban. I then spoke to Emma Bonino, an exceptional woman who loves Afghanistan and is very attentive to human rights and I had meetings with Piero Fassino, with members of the M5S, with Paolo Romani, with Laura Boldrini. it is essential that everyone is involved “.

Why do you think the Taliban cannot be trusted in the slightest?
“The Taliban claim to have the popular support of Afghanistan, but this is not true. They have taken power by force, they do not respect human rights, they do not guarantee essential goods and they are unable to protect the Afghan people. They boast that they have brought security, but since they took power there have been 57 attacks. My goal is to make Italian society aware of what is happening, to avoid international recognition of the Taliban. Together with other ambassadors I have also sent a letter to the Nations United to safeguard our seat and not leave it vacant or worse in their hands, because up to now they have not respected the principles of international law which are indispensable to merit diplomatic recognition.

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Do you think the Taliban will succeed in imposing itself on the Afghan population or will the changes in your society during the last twenty years prevent them from stabilizing their power?
These past twenty years have changed the socio-economic and political dynamics of Afghanistan. Our country has a young and educated generation that is not compatible with the backward and extremist thoughts of the Taliban. But it is not only these twenty years, because what has changed Afghan society is also the legacy of democracy. I think of the forty years of constitutional monarchy, a glorious period where women voted, held top positions and education was for everyone. With the Soviet invasion we were forced into communist ideology, but education and participation by women was never banned. Then in the 1990s we had the Taliban era and they made it clear to us what democracy is not. From 2001 to 2021 our society, after the overthrow of the Taliban, opened up and the role of women was fundamental: over 20 percent of our economic stability was based on their participation and that is why they rebel. The Taliban have no legitimacy within the country, their radical interpretation of Sharia law is foreign to Afghan society. We are a very moderate Muslim society.

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Today, do you continue to deal with Afghan citizens who want to reach Italy because they are threatened by their collaboration with Italian NGOs or institutions?
The embassy immediately worked hard to assist them. We are in contact with the thousands of Afghans who managed to be evacuated to Italy and we have prepared other lists. One includes officials, members of intelligence and parliament, mostly women; another the Afghans who have worked with Italy or whose husband may be safe but his wife is still in danger. And then there are those who have found a temporary refuge in another country, we are trying to get them a visa. We are in contact with the NGOs that are taking care of the humanitarian corridors and I also thank you for Republic that you started the ‘sosAfghanistan’ initiative. My phone keeps getting requests for help. I cannot promise anything but I am in constant contact with the Italian authorities. Just in these days 15 journalists have sent me a very touching letter: “please, Ambassador, we are hiding”. I’m trying to do what I can to save them.

You continue to remain loyal to the democratically elected Afghan government, without accepting Taliban power. How many Afghan diplomats in the world share your position?
Most of the ambassadors, I’d say 80 percent. I was among the first diplomats to declare that I will never work under the current Taliban regime. At first they put me in a WhatsApp group with the other ambassadors. I left the group. Then the chief of staff of the current foreign minister got in touch and said: “I want you to talk to the minister.” My response was: “Which foreign minister are you talking about? Your interim administration has no legitimacy. I have a foreign minister that I recognize and a government in exile.” I told him not to call me anymore. He told me he didn’t expect it from a Pashtun. But it’s not about being Pashtuns, we have a national identity: we are Afghans while they think they can manipulate individuals based on their ethnicity.

Did they tell you to resign? Are you afraid that if you keep your position you will be in physical risk?
They have never asked for my resignation, but even if they asked it would be useless because I do not reply to their communications. I am running some risks. I have no close family members in Afghanistan, they are all overseas, but I consider the whole Afghan nation to be my family and I am very worried. We need to protect everyone’s rights and if we lose Afghanistan, we have lost everything: the country will become the epicenter of terrorism.

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