Shots in the air and shots: the Taliban violently dispersed a women’s demonstration in Kabul on Saturday for the right to work and education, nearly a year after the Islamists came to power in Afghanistan. About 40 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, a few minutes after the start of the march. The demonstrators 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 chanted before being violently dispersed.
Taliban in military uniform and armed with assault rifles blocked a crossroads in front of the demonstrators and began shooting in the air for long seconds. One of them simulated a shot by aiming at the demonstrators, noted an AFP journalist. Some protesters then took refuge in nearby shops where they were chased and beaten with rifle butts by the Taliban. They also confiscated cell phones from protesters. Journalists have also been beaten by the Taliban. Demonstrations by women to demand more 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 were kept in detention for several weeks.
Full veil mandatory in public
Since their return to power last August, fundamentalist Islamists have gradually eroded the freedoms won by women over the past 20 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 government jobs, restricted their right to travel, and banned girls from middle and high school. The latest restriction dates back to early May, when the government issued an edict, endorsed by Taliban and Afghan Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, making it compulsory for women to wear full-face veils 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. They also felt that unless the women had a pressing reason to go out, it was “better for them to stay at home”. Over the past two decades, Afghan women had gained new freedoms, returning to school or applying for jobs in all industries, even as the country remained socially conservative.