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Life in Kabul under the Taliban: Scenes of protest and prayer

As Afghanistan marked the anniversary of its 1919 independence from British rule Thursday, the streets of Kabul looked different from years past: Taliban fighters, now in control of the country, drove through the capital city’s thoroughfares to mark a new sort of independence.

Rahmat Gul/AP

“Fortunately, today we are celebrating the anniversary of independence from Britain,” the Taliban said, according to the Associated Press. “We at the same time as a result of our jihadi resistance forced another arrogant power of the world, the United States, to fail and retreat from our holy territory of Afghanistan.”

Rahmat Gul/AP

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul on Aug. 19, 2021, celebrating Afghanistan's Independence Day, 102 years after the signing of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919.

Rahmat Gul/AP

Rahmat Gul/AP

Rahmat Gul/AP

Rahmat Gul/AP

Afghans take selfies with Taliban fighters.

Rahmat Gul/AP

Rahmat Gul/AP

Still as the Islamist militant group hailed the day as cause for celebration, others saw it as an opportunity for resistance. Kabul residents took to the streets, waving the Afghan flag to protest the Taliban’s rule.

In other parts of the country, such demonstrations were met with violence. Taliban members fired on protesters in Asadabad in Konar province, killing several, Reuters reported.

Rahmat Gul/AP

Afghans celebrate Afghanistan's Independence Day.

Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Afghans wave a national flag on their Independence Day in Kabul on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2020.

Rahmat Gul/AP

Rahmat Gul/AP

A senior Taliban commander said Thursday Afghanistan would be governed by “sharia law” and not a democratic system, indicating that the group may rule similarly to its time in power from 1996-2001, with strict religious interpretations that would curb the rights of women and girls.

Rahmat Gul/AP

But Taliban actions are sparking confusion over what levels of faith and freedom will be tolerated. The extremist Sunni group has repeatedly targeted the Shiite minority in Afghanistan. But on Thursday, they setup up security in Kabul to allow them to worship on the Ashura holiday, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

Rahmat Gul/AP

Taliban fighters stand guard near a makeshift tent where Shiite Muslims celebrate Ashura procession in Kabul on Aug. 19, 2021.

Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

A boy distributes sherbet during the Ashura procession.

Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

A Taliban fighter climbs up on a vehicle near the Ashura procession.

Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

Taliban stand guard as Shiite Muslims attend a mourning procession.

EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

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Editing by Olivier Laurent and Reem Akkad.