Afghan women call for rights, protest alleged Taliban killings

Protesters say former soldiers and ex-employees of the overthrown government are ‘under direct threat’.

Women hold placards during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan to demand an end to the extra-judicial killings of former officials
Women hold placards during a protest in Kabul to demand an end to alleged extrajudicial killings of former officials [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

A crowd of women has marched through the Afghan capital calling for women’s rights to be respected and accusing Taliban authorities of covertly killing soldiers who served the former United States-backed government.

About 30 women gathered near a mosque in the centre of Kabul on Tuesday and marched a few hundred metres chanting “justice, justice” before they were stopped by Taliban forces, an AFP correspondent reported.

The Taliban also tried to prevent journalists from covering the march, organised against the “mysterious murders of young people, particularly the country’s former soldiers”, according to social media invitations for the march.

Taliban fighters briefly detained a group of reporters and confiscated equipment from some photographers, deleting images from their cameras before returning them.

Since the Taliban returned to power in August, it has effectively banned unsanctioned protests and frequently intervene to block demonstrations against its rule.

The protest comes weeks after separate reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said there were credible allegations of more than 100 extrajudicial killings by the Taliban since the takeover.

“I want to tell the world, tell the Taliban to stop killing. We want freedom, we want justice, we want human rights,” protester Nayera Koahistani told the AFP news agency.

In a statement read aloud by protester Laila Basam, the demonstrators called on the Taliban “to stop its criminal machine”.

The statement said former soldiers and ex-employees of the overthrown government are “under direct threat”, violating a general amnesty announced by the Taliban in August.

The protesters also aired objections to the ratcheting restrictions women are facing under the Taliban rule.

The government issued new guidelines at the weekend, banning women from travelling long distances unless escorted by a close male relative.

“Women’s rights are human rights. We must defend our rights,” said Koahistani.

Speaking from Kabul, Mahbooba Saraj, chair of the Afghan Women’s Network, said the move made it difficult for women to get around as many “do not have a mahram [male guardian]” to accompany them.

“This is another way of placing restrictions on women for no apparent reason,” she told Al Jazeera.

Taliban leaders have sought to project a more moderate image in recent months, including saying women and girls will be able to attend school and work in accordance with Islamic law.

School for girls under the Taliban is erratic, and in many provinces, they are not allowed to attend school after grade six, but in more than 10 provinces, schools are open.

Video footage posted online on Tuesday showed another women’s protest held elsewhere in the capital that also called for women to be allowed education and work opportunities.

Taliban fighters fired into the air bringing an abrupt end to the protest demanding improved food supplies and work opportunities.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies