KABUL -- Afghan citizens are raising their voices against the Taliban, criticising the militants for their un-Islamic and self-serving actions.
Taliban militants have killed and injured tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, while purporting to fight for the Afghan people and in defence of Islam.
But Afghans are rejecting the Taliban's lies.
"The Taliban claim that they are fighting for the freedom of their homeland, but all they have done is hurt people, destroy public facilities and murder the innocent," said Shafiqeh Hakimi, 35, an NGO employee in Kabul.
"By calling their illegitimate war 'jihad', the Taliban attempt to incite emotions," she told Salaam Times. "The people, however, are fully aware that the militants resort to deception, since they care only about serving their own personal interests."
Murdering in mosques
During the past 15 years, approximately 111,000 people have been killed in the war in Afghanistan, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and other sources.
"The Taliban claim to be mujahideen and supporters of Islam, while in reality they commit the worst deeds," said Majidullah Nasiri, a telecom employee in Kabul. "They even murder in mosques, which are the most sacred places for Muslims."
"Since the time they came to power [...] the Taliban have murdered thousands of Afghans and have committed all kinds of cruel and violent acts," he told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban exploit the name of Islam, justifying all their wrongdoings under the pretext of religion," he said.
Most actions committed by the Taliban and "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) militants violate Islamic principles, said Abdulahmed Mohammadyar, a religious scholar from Kabul.
"According to Islamic teachings, mosques are considered the safest places," he told Salaam Times. "The Taliban, however, murder Muslims and conduct suicide attacks even inside mosques."
Aminullah, a journalism student in a private school in Kabul, referred to a number of suicide attacks and bombings inside mosques, stating that the victims of these attacks were all Muslims who had come to worship.
"What justification could one possibly offer for the suicide attack which took place in Nangarhar during Ramadan last year, the attack on Baqir-ul-uloom mosque in Kabul, and [...] the bombing of a mosque in Herat?" he said.
In another recent case, on March 24, a militant planted an improvised explosive device in Guzar Shahan mosque in Sar-e-Pul Province, meant to target Friday prayers, local officials said.
After planting the bomb and recognising that authorities were looking for him, the terrorist attempted to hide among the worshippers, Zabiullah Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told Salaam Times.
Fortunately, Afghan security forces defused the bomb and arrested the culprit, Amani said.
Mulvi Abdul Samad, a religious scholar in Sar-e-Pul, thanked security forces for preventing a massacre.
"This practice violates the principles and beliefs of Islam, and those who target worshippers in the mosque stand outside the circle of Islam and humanity," he said.
Taliban war on education
Not only have the Taliban murdered and injured hundreds of thousands of innocent Afghans, they have dealt heavy blows to the country's economy, infrastructure and educational system.
"During their reign [1996-2001], the Taliban regime did not support education in general and barred girls from attending school," said Obaydullah Yusefi, a civil society activist in Kabul.
"Through its war-mongering tactics, the group still prevents thousands of children of this country from receiving an education," he told Salaam Times.
Some of the Taliban's "irreparable damage" to Afghanistan includes "burning down schools and preventing thousands of schoolchildren and university students from attending their classes", Afghan MP Safoora Elkhani told Salaam Times.
Some 1,006 schools throughout Afghanistan remain closed because of security challenges, Minister of Education Asadullah Hanif Balkhi said April 16 during a trip to the country's northern region to evaluate the educational system.
However, he said, the government is doing its best to ensure that security prevails and that Afghan children can receive an education.
Measurable progress has occurred. At the beginning of the school year, the government reopened 13 schools in Paktika Province that had been closed for security reasons.
Those schools had been shut down for the past four years, Nasim Wajid, director of the Paktika Province education department, told local media March 23.
The schools reopened after authorities made the province safe again, he said.
Increasing public scorn
The Taliban's actions, which are un-Islamic and contrary to national interests, are spurring citizens to speak out against militancy, say observers.
This outspoken criticism is mounting, especially following President Ashraf Ghani's clear message March 23 that all enemies of Afghanistan must be crushed.
"Anyone who takes up weapons against the constitution and government of Afghanistan is an enemy, and you are allowed to suppress him," Ghani said during his visit to the Special Forces of the Afghan National Police in Balkh.
"During the past five years, public opinion opposing Taliban actions has grown," said Yusefi, the civil society activist.
"We are witnessing candid [anti-Taliban] statements by analysts," he said. "Prayer leaders in mosques have declared the militants' actions anti-Islamic. And civil society activists have denounced the Taliban's actions by holding demonstrations."
"At this very moment, our people are busy fighting alongside their security forces against terrorists in Ghazni and Kandahar provinces, which proves that the people have lost all patience with militants," he said, referring to popular uprisings against the Taliban taking place across the country.