A girl shouts slogans during a demonstration of Afghan migrants against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, August 16, 2021 | Photo: REUTERS/Elias Marcou
A girl shouts slogans during a demonstration of Afghan migrants against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, August 16, 2021 | Photo: REUTERS/Elias Marcou

Some 500 asylum seekers and local activists on the Greek island of Lesbos gathered late Monday evening for a peaceful protest against the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. They held up Afghan flags and banners that read "We say no to Taliban".

Elena, an Afghan asylum seeker who lives in a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, worries about friends and family back home after the Taliban's swift moves to seize control of Afghanistan.

"It's a disaster," the 21-year-old told the news agency Reuters. "What will happen now in Afghanistan for (the) young generation? For children? For women's rights? Everything is destroyed by the Taliban."

Elena was one around 200 refugees and migrants from Afghanistan -- with some from Iran too -- who gathered in Sappho square in Lesbos on Monday evening, August 16, waving banners and chanting slogans against the Taliban takeover. They were joined by some 300 local activists, according to reports by Reuters and AFP.

Children sit in front of a banner reading "We say No to Taliban" as Afghan migrants demonstrate against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, August 16, 2021 | Photo: REUTERS/Elias Marcou
Children sit in front of a banner reading "We say No to Taliban" as Afghan migrants demonstrate against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, August 16, 2021 | Photo: REUTERS/Elias Marcou


It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of Afghanistan; Kabul fell to the Islamic militant group on Monday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Thousands of people were trying to escape Kabul, with scenes of chaos as crowds gathered at the airport.

Although the militants have sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women's rights and protect people, many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to the harsh practices of their 1996-2001 rule, when women were not allowed to work and punishments such as public stoning were administered, reports Reuters.

'Don't leave Afghan people alone'

On Lesbos, the protesters shared those fears. Some 2,500 of the roughly 5,000 asylum seekers on Lesbos are from Afghanistan, according to the Greek interior ministry.

"All the Afghan people are crying," said Elena, who helped organize the protest rally. "I expect from the world, please support Afghanistan, don't leave Afghan people alone."

She was worried about women in particular. "Women cannot be educated. Women cannot go out from their house, they should stay in the house because they don't feel safe. I have my friends in Afghanistan, they are panicked, they don't know what they can do," she told Reuters.

A woman holds a placard as Afghan migrants demonstrate against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, August 16, 2021 | Photo:  REUTERS/Elias Marcou
A woman holds a placard as Afghan migrants demonstrate against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, August 16, 2021 | Photo: REUTERS/Elias Marcou


Greece, and Lesbos in particular, has been at the frontline of migrant arrivals to the European Union for years. Authorities, who fear the arrival of a new wave of migrants with the victory of the Taliban, have pushed for a coordinated EU response.

Greece's Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi on Tuesday said that Greece will not allow migrants from Afghanistan to cross its borders into the EU. "We do not want our country to become the gateway to the EU for people who want to head to Europe," Mitarakis told national broadcaster ERT, cited by dpa.

He also told reporters Monday that two months ago Greece deemed Turkey a safe third country for asylum seekers, among others from Afghanistan.

The EU's interior ministers are scheduled on Wednesday to discuss the new situation in Afghanistan.

With Reuters, AFP, dpa

 

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