Protests against all-male Taliban Cabinet met with violence in Afghanistan

Several Afghan and international reporters were temporarily detained and had their equipment confiscated in Kabul

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The Taliban violently broke up protests across Kabul a day after the group announced their new all-male interim government.

The Cabinet includes members of the terrorist Haqqani network and the Taliban leadership council, the Quetta Shura.

There are no members from Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic minority or the previous Afghan administration.

Women took to the streets early on Wednesday morning in several places across the city, but were violently dispersed by Taliban fighters.

Demonstrators wore colourful dresses and showed their faces in defiance of Taliban ideas on women's clothing, blocking traffic as the Taliban surrounded them.

Crowds of Afghans stood watching from a safe distance.

Journalists were told they were barred from covering the demonstrations and were met with violence and aggression. Several Afghan and international reporters were temporarily detained and had their equipment confiscated.

Zaki Daryabi, chief editor of the Afghan daily Etilaatroz said five of his journalists had been held but later released, with at least one of them suffering severe injuries from lashings by the Taliban.

Several women protesters were also struck with whips when members of the Taliban charged at them while protesting in the city’s Pul-e-Surkh area near Kabul University as the Taliban tried to disperse the crowds.

“Of course I am scared to be here, but what option do I have?” Maryam, a 21-year-old journalism student at Kabul University told The National.

“The Taliban doesn’t accept women’s rights - we’ve known this already but we saw it again with the announcement of their new government. I have dreams and ambitions and I am not going back.”

Maryam said while her autumn semester had already started, she had not been allowed to return to her courses. She said this was because the decision on whether women could study journalism had not yet been made.

It was the second day of Taliban violence against demonstrators after gunmen fired live ammunition in the air on Tuesday, trying to break up protesting crowds in the city.

While Wednesday's protests focused on the new government formation with Hassan Akhund as the acting prime minister and Abdul Ghani Baradar as his deputy, women said they were also protesting against Pakistan, calling for their neighbour to be sanctioned for “helping the terrorists.”

Pakistan has long supported the Taliban both financially and logistically and those on the streets accuse Islamabad of aiding the group in the fight for Panjshir.

The central Afghan province continues to see fighting between the militants and the National Resistance Front, headed by former vice president Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, son of the late warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed in an Al Qaeda suicide attack on September 9, 2001.

Many Taliban members found safe haven in Pakistan, while 20 years of war were raging in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is our enemy and they are supporting the enemies of Afghanistan,” said Najiba, a 25-year-old economics student. “The international community needs to take action against our neighbour because they are knowingly destroying us.”

Najiba told The National she had been protesting for the past few days because she didn’t see any alternative, even though she knew she was risking her life. Protests were organised via WhatsApp groups, urging other women to join.

A Hazara woman from Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi district, she fought and studied hard for her education, always with the support of her family, hoping to one day work for the Afghan government to help contribute to a brighter future for women.

“We don’t have any freedoms anymore. We are being silenced and the world is silent, but we will continue to raise our voices. We have no other choice,” she said fiercely.

During the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, women were neither allowed to work nor go to school, with most of them largely confined to their houses.

But over the past 20 years, women’s outlook and self-determination has changed - and Afghan women adamantly say this is not reversible, regardless of the cost.

Earlier that morning, Taliban members had approached Najiba’s group, she said, to tell the women were that they were not their “sisters.”

“Our sisters are at home and you are out here on the street. You are threatening the security of our society. You should go home," they told the women.

Najiba said none of the women in her group would be giving up, regardless of how dangerous it could get.

“I know we are risking our lives, but what do we have left?” she said. “We can’t give up now. We have to continue fighting, continue protesting.”

The Taliban released a statement late on Wednesday saying people needed permission from the Ministry of Justice to hold protests, and the purpose, slogans, place, time and details of the demonstration to be shared with security agencies. Those found in breach would face legal action, they said.

Updated: September 8th 2021, 6:54 PM