Afghanistan: ‘Thousands’ flock to Taliban passport office in Herat

Herat city. File photo.

Herat residents said a crowd of “thousands” of people were dispersed from outside the passport office in the city after Taliban members fired warning shots into the air on Thursday.

The Taliban opened fire as the crowd swelled, following their announcement that the passport office had expanded distribution of the travel documents.

Eager to secure passports, thousands gathered outside the office, all seeking the relevant application forms.

However, as the situation escalated, and the numbers became uncontrollable, the Taliban decided to abort the in-person process. Instead, they asked the people to complete their applications online, eyewitnesses said.

Sources indicated that on Wednesday alone, the Taliban distributed passport application forms to more than 1,000 individuals.

Over the past two years, the distribution of passports has been extremely erratic across the country.

“From 8pm last night until 9am today, we were waiting for the passport to be distributed, but unfortunately it was not. The crowd was huge and thousands of people had come,” said Ahmad, a Herat resident.

“When we went to the passport office, we saw that thousands of people had gathered to get passports for themselves, and the distribution process was stopped due to the crowding of people. It is a big problem,” said Zahra, another resident of Herat.

A number of Herat residents, who do not want to be named in this report, told AMU that the Taliban fired into the air to disperse the crowd. The overwhelming number of people led to the application process being stopped.

The Taliban passport management in Herat said for now they will only issue application forms in person for people needing to travel for medical reasons. However, they said they would distribute a few hundred online application forms a day.

“What we told our dear citizens yesterday is that we will now distribute 500 forms online daily, and we will run them offline for those who have problems. Unfortunately, more than 20,000 people came today. We don’t have that many personnel and we can’t implement it,” said Hossein Rahimi, a Taliban manager at the passport department in Herat.

The Taliban announced on May 25 last year that Lithuania had printed three million passport booklets for Afghanistan and sent them to the country. However, after the return of the Taliban to power, it has become difficult for the citizens of the country to get a passport.

Sources meanwhile told Amu a few months ago that members of the public have been able to secure passports for a fee of $1,400. After paying this “fee”, applicants reportedly received their booklets within a week.

Taliban recently announced that in addition to the Taliban missions in Pakistan and Turkey, the mission in Tehran, which is run by the Taliban, will also distribute passports to refugees from Afghanistan in Iran.