KABUL (AFP) – Taleban fighters beat women protesters and fired into the air yesterday as they violently dispersed a rare rally in the Afghan capital, days ahead of the first anniversary of the hardline extremist’s return to power.
Since seizing control on August 15 last year, the Taleban have rolled back the marginal gains made by women during two decades of United States (US) intervention in Afghanistan.
About 40 women – chanting “bread, work and freedom” – marched in front of the Education Ministry building in Kabul, before the fighters dispersed them by firing their guns into the air, an AFP correspondent reported.
Some women protesters who took refuge in nearby shops were chased and beaten by Taleban fighters with their rifle butts.
The demonstrators carried a banner which read “August 15 is a black day” as they demanded rights to work and political participation.
“Justice, justice. We’re fed up with ignorance,” they chanted, many not wearing face veils.
“Unfortunately, the Taleban from the intelligence service came and fired in the air,” said Zholia Parsi, one of the organisers of the march.
“They dispersed the girls, tore our banners and confiscated the mobile phones of many girls.”
But protester Munisa Mubariz vowed to continue fighting for women’s rights.
“If the Taleban want to silence this voice, it’s not possible. We will protest from our homes,” she said.
Some journalists covering the demonstration – the first women’s rally in months – were also beaten by the Taleban fighters, an AFP correspondent saw.
While the Taleban authorities have allowed and even promoted some rallies against the US, they have declined permission for any women’s rally since they returned to power.
After seizing control last year, the Taleban promised a softer version of the harsh extremist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.
But many restrictions have already been imposed, especially on women.
Tens of thousands of girls have been shut out of secondary schools, while women have been barred from returning to many government jobs.
Women have also been banned from travelling alone on long trips and can only visit public gardens and parks in the capital on days separate from men.
In May, the country’s supreme leader and chief of the Taleban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered women to fully cover themselves in public, including their faces – ideally with an all-encompassing burqa.
Since the secondary school ban was announced in March, many secret schools for these girls have sprung up across several provinces.
The United Nations and rights groups have repeatedly slammed the Taleban government for imposing the restrictions on women.