Kabul: Taliban special forces threw their weapons into the air on Saturday, bringing an abrupt and horrific end to the latest protest march in the capital by Afghan women demanding equal rights from the new rulers.
The women’s march “second in so many days” in Kabul began peacefully. Protesters lay wreaths outside Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry to honor Afghan soldiers who died fighting the Taliban before marching towards Rashtrapati Bhavan. “We are here in Afghanistan to gain human rights,” said 20-year-old protester Maryam Nabi. “I love my country. I will always be here.”
As the protesters shouted louder, several Taliban officials broke into the crowd and asked what they wanted to say.
Along with fellow protesters, 24-year-old university student Sudaba Kabiri told her Taliban interlocutor that the prophet of Islam gave women rights and he wanted them. The Taliban official had promised that women would be given their rights, but all the women, who were in their early 20s, were skeptical.
As the demonstrators reached the presidential palace, a dozen Taliban special forces ran into the crowd, opened fire in the air and sent the protesters to flee. Kabiri, who spoke to the Associated Press, said they also fired tear gas shells.
The Taliban have promised an inclusive government and a more liberal form of Islamic rule than the last time they ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. But many Afghans, especially women, are deeply skeptical and fear a return to the rights enjoyed in the past two decades. .
For the past two weeks, Taliban officials have been holding meetings among themselves, reports of differences are surfacing between them. In the early hours of Saturday, the powerful intelligence chief of neighboring Pakistan, General Faiz Hameed, made a surprise visit to Kabul. It was not immediately clear what he had to say to the Taliban leadership, but the Pakistani intelligence service has a strong influence on the Taliban.
The Taliban leadership was headquartered in Pakistan and was often said to be in direct contact with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. Although Pakistan routinely denied providing military aid to the Taliban, accusations were often made by the Afghan government and Washington.
Faiz’s visit comes as the world waits to see what kind of government the Taliban will eventually announce, one that is inclusive and ensures the rights of women and the protection of the country’s minorities.
The Taliban have promised a broad-based government and held talks with former President Hamid Karzai and former government talks chief Abdullah Abdullah. But the form of the new government is uncertain and it was unclear whether hardline ideologues among the Taliban would win the day and whether fears would be quelled by the protesting women.
Taliban members whitewashed murals on Saturday that promoted health care, warned of the dangers of HIV and even paid tribute to some of Afghanistan’s eminent foreign contributors, such as anthropologist Nancy Dupree, who single-handedly He described the rich cultural heritage of Afghanistan. It was a worrying sign of efforts to erase the reminder of the past 20 years.
Instead of murals, slogans congratulating the Afghans on their victory were raised.
Taliban Cultural Commission spokesman, Ahmadullah Muttaki, tweeted that the murals were painted “because they are against our values. They were spoiling the mind of the Mujahideen and instead we wrote slogans that would be useful to all.” ” Meanwhile, young female protesters said they had to defy worried families to escalate their protests, even stepping out of their homes to take on their demands for equal rights for the new rulers. .
Farhat Popalzai, another 24-year-old university student, said she wanted to be the voice of the voiceless women of Afghanistan, who are too afraid to hit the streets.
“I am the voice of women who cannot speak.” he said. “They think it’s a man’s country but it’s not, it’s also a woman’s country.” Popalzai and his fellow protesters are too young to remember the Taliban regime that ended with a US-led invasion in 2001. He says his fear is based on stories he’s heard about women not being allowed to go to school and work.
Nabi, 20, has already run a women’s organization and is a spokesperson for the Paralympics of Afghanistan. He told of the thousands of Afghans who arrived at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the capital on August 15.
“They were afraid,” but for that he said, the battle is in Afghanistan.