Taliban beat women protesters in Kabul ahead of anniversary

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Taliban beat women protesters in Kabul ahead of anniversary

On Saturday, Taliban fighters beat female protesters and fired into the air as they violently dispersed a rare rally in the Afghan capital on Saturday, days before the first anniversary of the hardline Islamists return to power.

Since seizing control on 15 August last year, the Taliban have rolled back the marginal gains made by women during the two decades of US intervention in Afghanistan.

An AFP correspondent reported that around 40 women chanting bread, work and freedom marched in front of the education ministry building in Kabul before the fighters dispersed them by firing their guns into the air.

Some female protesters who took refuge in nearby shops were chased and beaten by Taliban fighters with their rifle butts.

The demonstrators carried a banner that read 15 August, a black day, as they demanded rights to work and political participation.

We were fed up with ignorance, they chanted, many not wearing face veils.

One of the organizers of the march said that the Taliban from the intelligence service came and fired in the air.

They dispersed the girls, tore their banners and confiscated their mobile phones of many girls. Munisa Mubariz vowed to fight for women's rights.

If the Taliban want to silence this voice, it is not possible. She said we will protest from our homes.

An AFP correspondent reported that some reporters covering the demonstrations the first women's rally in months were also beaten by the Taliban fighters.

Since they returned to power, the Taliban have allowed and promoted some rallies against the US, but they have refused permission for any women's rally.

After seizing control last year, the Taliban promised a softer version of the harsh Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

But many restrictions have already been imposed on women to comply with the movement's austere vision of Islam.

Hundreds of girls have been forced out of secondary schools while women have been barred from returning to many government jobs.

Women have also been banned from travelling alone on long trips and can only visit public gardens and parks in the capital on days separate from men.

In May, the country's supreme leader and chief of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered women to cover themselves fully in public, including their faces ideally with a burqa.

Since the secondary school ban was announced in March, many secret schools have been set up for these girls in several provinces.

The UN and rights groups have condemned the Taliban government for imposing restrictions on women.

These policies show a pattern of absolute gender segregation and are intended to make women invisible in the society. Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul during a visit in May.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch called for the Taliban to change their decision to ban women from education.

Fereshta Abbasi, a researcher at the rights group in Afghanistan, said in a statement that the Taliban would reconsider their most egregious actions.

Some Afghan women initially pushed back against the curbs, holding small protests.

But the Taliban soon rounded up the ringleaders, holding them incommunicado, while denying they had been detained.