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Afghan women stage protest in Taliban-controlled Kabul

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A group of female activists in Afghanistan have staged a protest in Taliban-controlled Kabul on Friday, calling for equal rights and full participation in political life.

The group known as the Women’s Political Participation Network, defied stringent Taliban laws and marched on the streets in front of Afghanistan’s Finance Ministry, chanting slogans and holding signs demanding involvement in the Afghan government and calling for constitutional law.

Footage showed a brief confrontation between a Taliban guard and some of the women, and a man’s voice could be heard saying, “Go away!” before the chanting resumed.

The gathering, though relatively small as a few dozen women were bold enough to participate in the protest, represented the wide ranging fears that the new regime would do little or nothing to enhance women participation in government.

The demonstration in Kabul comes one day after women staged a similar demonstration in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat. Women in that protest held a large sign that said, “No government can be long lasting without the support of women. Our demands: The right to education and the right to work in all areas.”

READ ALSO: Journalist who interviewed Taliban spokesman fears for her life, flees Afghanistan

Lina Haidari, a protester at the Herat demonstration, said the “rights and achievements of women, which we have worked and fought for over 20 years, must not be ignored under Taliban rule.

“I want to say that I was forced to stay at home for the crime of being a student 20 years ago. And now 20 years later, for the crime of being a teacher and a woman.”

The protests come amid heightened fears over security under Taliban rule. The militant group is involved in internal discussions about forming a government, but have already signaled that working women should stay at home, and militants have, in some instances, ordered women to leave their workplaces.

Though Taliban leaders insist publicly that women will play a prominent role in society and have access to education, the group’s public statements about adhering to their interpretation of Islamic values have stoked fears that there will be a return to the harsh policies of Taliban rule two decades ago, when women all but disappeared from public life.

Some Afghan women are already staying home out of fears for their safety, and some families are buying all-covering burqas for female relatives, according to investigations.

Last month, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said women should not go to work for their own safety, undermining the group’s efforts to convince international observers that the group would be more tolerant towards women than when they were last in power.

Mujahid said the guidance to stay at home would be temporary, and would allow the group to find ways to ensure that women are not “treated in a disrespectful way” or “God forbid, hurt.” He admitted the measure was necessary because the Taliban’s soldiers “keep changing and are not trained.”

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