Taliban raid homes of Afghan women protesters after rally

Experts say Taliban have 'reached a point where they feel they have to stamp out the women’s resistance'

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The Taliban have begun a crackdown on women protesters in Kabul, raiding their homes and detaining them, activists in Afghanistan’s capital have said.

Afghan activists said that at least two women were detained during several night raids that took place on Wednesday.

One of the women whose house was raided told The National that Taliban fighters assaulted her during the incident.

“My head was [hit] and I was severely beaten. I am not safe,” said Gul, 22, whose name was changed to protect her identity.

Friends of Gul have since said they have been unable to contact her and fear she has been detained.

A video circulating on social media, reportedly taken on Wednesday night, showed one of the protesters — Tamana Paryani — pleading with Taliban fighters at her door to leave while begging for help.

“Help please, the Taliban have come to our home … only my sisters are home,” she can be heard saying in the footage. There are other women's voices in the background, crying. “I can’t open the door. Please … help!”

Ms Paryani was one of about 25 women who took part in an anti-Taliban protest on Sunday against the compulsory headscarf, or hijab, for women.

Friends of Ms Paryani told The National she has not been heard from since.

A fellow activist familiar with Ms Paryani’s situation said that Taliban fighters broke into the house and detained her shortly after the incident that was recorded in the video.

“Parawana Ibrahimkhel was also taken earlier in the day, along with her brother-in-law, and no one has heard from them since,” the activist said, on condition of anonymity.

The spokesman for the Taliban-appointed police in Kabul, Gen Mobin Khan, said Ms Paryani’s video was a manufactured drama.

Taliban intelligence spokesman Khalid Hamraz would neither confirm nor deny the arrest, but said on Twitter that “insulting the religious and national values of the Afghan people is not tolerated anymore”, referring to Sunday’s protest during which the protesters appeared to burn a white burqa, the traditional, head-to-toe women's garment that only leaves a mesh opening for the eyes.

'Alarming escalation'

Afghan women have intensified their anti-Taliban protests despite the Taliban’s harsh crackdown on demonstrations.

The Taliban have used violence against protesters, including using pepper spray during a rally on Sunday.

“It feels like a pattern,” said Heather Barr, associate director of the women’s division at Human Rights Watch, who has been documenting cases of violence against women under the Taliban regime.

“The Taliban have been responding very negatively to these protests, but now it seems they have reached a point where they feel they have to stamp out the women’s resistance,” she told The National.

In a report released on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch noted an “alarming and unlawful escalation of efforts to suppress peaceful protest and free speech in Afghanistan”.

The report documented some of the heavy-handed tactics used by the fighters to disperse the protests.

“Taliban members pointed firearms at the marchers, threatening and insulting them, calling them ‘puppets of the West’ and ‘whores’,” it said.

“Two protesters told Human Rights Watch that Taliban members used an electric device to shock one of them and other protesters. As the protesters tried to escape the Taliban encirclement, they were sprayed with a chemical substance such as pepper spray that caused severe irritation of their skin, eyes and respiratory tracts.”

Women in Afghanistan have played a prominent role in a series of widespread demonstrations against the Taliban’s extremist policies restricting women’s rights.

Despite the challenges posed by decades of war and instability, Afghan women had made tremendous progress in the two decades following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Much of this was lost when the insurgent group retook control of the country in August last year, reversing many hard-won gains.

Despite the Taliban crackdown, Afghan women have vowed to continue resisting.

“The Taliban are clearly intimidated by the images of women protesters,” said Ms Barr.

“They’ve been powerful — the women have to be incredibly brave to step out and join the demonstrations despite the threats.

“At a moment, when interest in Afghanistan is disappearing, the issue of women’s rights is still a topic of interest to the international community and the reason why the Taliban are targeting these women.”

Updated: January 21, 2022, 5:39 AM
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