As numerous Afghans seek safety from the rising Taliban in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a traumatized daughter is recounting how insurgency fighters beat her mother to death with AK-47s earlier this summer when she was unable to supply the group with food.
The killing, recounted by the slain woman's family to CNN in a new story, underlines the fear of how precarious life may become under the Taliban, especially for women and girls.
The militant group's fighters swept through the country this month, taking city after city as American troops began to move out. Over the weekend, the country's capital, Kabul, fell with little resistance from the government or national army.
The Taliban now insists its rule will not repeat the barbarism of its reign before 9/11. But in the weeks before America's planned withdrawal, fighters had repeatedly harassed a widow, Najia, in a small village in northern Afghanistan, demanding that she cook for them, according to CNN.
The woman's daughter, Manizha, was in the home on July 12 with her four children. Manizha told CNN the men had previously come to the house three days in a row, demanding that her mother, 45, cook for 15 fighters.
On the fourth day, "My mother told them, 'I am poor, how can I cook for you?' " Manizha told CNN.
"[The Taliban] started beating her. My mother collapsed and they hit her with their guns — AK-47s."
The woman, who was identified by CNN with an alias to protect her and her children, said she yelled at the fighters to stop. When they finally did stop the beating, she said, they threw a grenade into the next room and left the house as it burned.
Her mother died from the beating, she said.
Witnesses to the burning of the woman's home in the village confirmed the daughter's account, although the Taliban has denied the killing, according to CNN.
The sudden and utter collapse of Afghanistan's government and the resurgence of the Taliban has shocked many in the U.S.
Militants seized control of Kabul on Sunday in the wake of America's end to its 20-year military operation.
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It was a "gut-wrenching" outcome, President Joe Biden acknowledged in a speech on Monday, but one he said he still believed was beyond the power of the U.S. to address after years of what he cast as fruitless fighting.
The Taliban is now in control of the majority of the country. The international community has called on them to respect human rights, but many await a return of a repressive Islamist regime that was especially harsh on women.
Civil rights attorney Kimberley Motley, who has done work in Afghanistan since 2008, tells PEOPLE that, according to friends, the Taliban has gone door-to-door trying to ferret out which residents have worked with journalists or in the military or with non-Afghans.
"I'm not even seeing women on the street in Kabul. It's just disgusting. It is absolutely disgusting what's happening. I think they're afraid to be beaten," Motley says. "They're afraid to be forced into marriage. They're afraid if they go on the street on their own they'll be stopping and be asked, 'Where's your male guardian?' "
Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty
One woman who expects the worst is Zharifa Ghafari, the youngest mayor in Afghanistan and the first woman to hold the office in Maidan Shar in Wardak province.
Ghafari has told reporters she expects to be killed.
"I'm sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one to help me or my family. I'm just sitting with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me," Ghafari, 27, told the British newspaper i. "I can't leave my family. And anyway, where would I go?"
* With reporting by AMY ESKIND
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