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Taliban fire into the air in Kabul to break up a women’s protest, nearly a year after they returned to power in Afghanistan

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Shots in the air and beatings: the Taliban violently dispersed, on Saturday August 13, in Kabul, a demonstration of women for the right to work and education, almost a year after the return to power of the Islamists in Afghanistan.

Forty women chanting “Bread, work and freedom” marched in front of the Ministry of Education before a group of Taliban fighters dispersed them by firing into the air in bursts, some five minutes after the start of the march. The protesters carried a banner that read “August 15 is a black day”in reference to the date of the capture of Kabul in 2021 by the Taliban. “Justice, justice. We are fed up with ignorance”they also chanted.

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Taliban armed with assault rifles blocked a crossroads in front of the protesters and started shooting in the air for long seconds. One of them simulated a shot aimed at the demonstrators, noted a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Some protesters then took refuge in nearby shops, where they were chased and beaten with rifle butts by the Taliban. They also confiscated their cell phones and beat journalists.

Demonstrations for women’s rights have been increasingly rare in the capital, especially after the arrest at the beginning of the year of organizers of these rallies, some of whom remained in detention for several weeks.

Obligation to wear the full veil in public

Since the return to power of the Taliban in August 2021, fundamentalist Islamists have gradually eroded the freedoms won by women over the past twenty years, since the fall of their previous regime (1996-2001). They have imposed a series of restrictions on civil society, many of which are aimed at subjugating women to their fundamentalist conception of Islam. They have largely excluded them from public employment, restricted their right to travel and barred girls from middle and high school.

The latest restriction dates back to May, when the government issued an edict, endorsed by the supreme leader of the Taliban and Afghanistan, Haibatullah Akhundzada, making it compulsory for women to wear the full veil in public. The Taliban clarified that their preference was for the burqa, this integral veil most often blue and meshed at eye level, but that other types of veil revealing only the eyes would be tolerated.

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The Taliban also felt that unless women had a pressing reason to go out, it was “better for them to stay at home”. All these measures “describe a model of total gender segregation and aim to make women invisible in society”said in May in Kabul the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett.

Over the past two decades, Afghan women had acquired new freedoms, returning to school or applying for jobs in all sectors of activity, even if the country remained socially conservative.

The World with AFP