Taliban fighters beat protesters and fired in the air on Saturday as they violently dispersed a rare gathering in the Afghan capital, days before the first anniversary of the return to power of extremist Islamists.
Since taking control on August 15 last year, the Taliban have reversed the marginal gains made by women during two decades of US intervention in Afghanistan.
About 40 women – chanting “bread, work and freedom” – marched past the Education Ministry building in Kabul, before fighters dispersed them by firing into the air, an AFP correspondent reported. .
Some protesters who took refuge in nearby shops were chased down and beaten by Taliban fighters with rifle butts.
The demonstrators carried a banner that read “August 15 is a black day” as they demanded the right to work and political participation.
“Justice! Justice! We are fed up with ignorance,” they chanted, with many wearing no veil.
“Unfortunately, the Taliban from the intelligence services came and fired in the air,” said Zholia Parsi, one of the march organizers.
“They dispersed the girls, tore down our banners and confiscated many girls’ cell phones.”
But Munisa Mubariz has vowed to continue fighting for women’s rights.
“If the Taliban want to silence this voice, it is not possible. We will protest from our homes,” she said.
Some journalists covering the protest – the first gathering of women in months – were also beaten by Taliban fighters, an AFP correspondent reported.
While Taliban authorities have authorized and encouraged some rallies against the United States, they have denied permission for any gatherings of women since their return to power.
After taking control last year, the Taliban promised a softer version of the hardline Islamist rule that characterized their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.
But many restrictions have already been imposed, especially on women, to conform to the movement’s austere view of Islam.
Tens of thousands of girls have been excluded from secondary schools, while women have been prevented from returning to many government jobs.
Women have also been banned from traveling alone on long journeys and can only visit public gardens and parks in the capital on separate days from men.
In May, the country’s supreme leader and leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered women to cover themselves fully in public, including their faces – ideally with a burqa.
Since the ban on secondary schools was announced in March, many secret schools for these girls have arisen in several provinces.
The UN and rights groups have repeatedly condemned the Taliban government for imposing restrictions on women.
These policies show a “pattern of absolute gender segregation and aim to make women invisible in society”, Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul during a briefing. a visit in May.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch called on the Taliban to “reverse their horrifying and misogynistic decision” to deny women access to education.
“It would send the message that the Taliban are ready to reconsider their most egregious actions,” Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at the human rights group, said in a statement.
Some Afghan women initially pushed back from the sidewalks, staging small protests.
But the Taliban quickly rounded up the ringleaders, holding them incommunicado while denying they had been detained.