AFGHANISTAN. Kabul: Days before the first anniversary of the radical Islamists’ return to power in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters forcefully dispersed a rare gathering of women protesting for their rights in the Afghan capital on Saturday, by beating them and firing shots in the air.
The Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan has reversed and undone the slight progress made by women throughout the two decades of US operations in the country since taking power on August 15 of last year.
An AFP correspondent reported that some 40 women marched in front of the education ministry in Kabul while chanting the slogan, “food, work, freedom!”, but was compelled to disperse and flee once the Taliban started firing shots in the air.
The demonstrators carried a banner that read “August 15 is a black day” which signified that with the Taliban’s entry into the Afghan community, women had lost all freedoms of right to work and political participation. “Justice, justice. We’re fed up with ignorance,” the crow chanted, many of the women not wearing veils.
Zhola Parsi, one of the organizers of the march said, “Unfortunately, the Taliban from the intelligence service came and fired in the air. They dispersed the girls, tore our banners and confiscated the mobile phones of many girls.”
An AFP correspondent witnessed the first woman being physically assaulted by the Taliban.
Ever since the Taliban sprang into action after their dramatic takeover last year, the Islamist faction has assured the public and press that it would no longer adhere to the strict moral codes of conduct for women, as was practised back in 1996 during which they ruled Afghanistan for four years.
However, the Taliban government has consistently conformed itself to conservative and orthodox patriarchy and has failed to deliver on its promises. Women’s rights have been snatched away and consequently, demonstrations and protests persist.
Many government jobs are no longer available for women and tens of thousands of young girls have been excluded from secondary school. Additionally, women are now allowed to visit public gardens and parks in the capital only on days when men are absent. Long-distance solo travel is also banned for women.
Hibatullah Akhundzada, Taliban leader and head of the country’s ultimate authority, has commanded women to cover themselves in public, even their faces, preferably with a tight, impenetrable burqa.
The Taliban government has consequently received backlash from the UN and other human rights organizations for its ill-treatment of women. Richard Bennett, the UN’s special correspondent on human rights in Afghanistan told reporters in Kabul during a visit in May that these measures are deliberately implemented to enforce “absolute segregation” and “intended to make women invisible in the country”.