Taliban use violence to break up rare women's protest

Kabul marchers demanded freedom and justice after a year under repressive rule of hardliners

Afghan women stage a protest in Kabul that was broken up by the Taliban on Saturday. AFP
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The Taliban beat women protesters and fired into the air as they violently dispersed a rare rally in Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Saturday, days before the first anniversary of the hardliners' return to power.

Since seizing power on August 15 last year, the extremist group have rolled back the marginal gains made by women during the two decades of US intervention in Afghanistan.

About 40 women chanting “Bread, work and freedom” marched in front of the education ministry building in Kabul, before Taliban members dispersed them by firing their guns into the air.

Some of the women who took refuge in nearby shops were chased and beaten with rifle butts.

The protesters carried a banner reading “August 15 is a black day” as they demanded the right to work and participate in politics.

“Justice, justice. We're fed up with ignorance,” chanted the protesters, many of whom were not wearing face veils.

Some journalists covering the protest — the first women's rally in months — were also beaten by the Taliban fighters.

Afghan women living under Taliban rule - in pictures

After seizing power, the Taliban had promised a softer version of the harsh interpretation of Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

But many restrictions have already been reimposed.

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 leader and chief of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered women to fully cover themselves in public, including their faces — ideally with an all-encompassing burqa.

Some Afghan women tried to stand firm against the curbs, holding small protests.

But the Taliban soon rounded up the protest leaders, holding them incommunicado while denying they had been detained.

Updated: August 13, 2022, 9:38 AM
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