Afghanistan women protesting for right to go to school & work pepper-sprayed by Taliban

Unsanctioned protests have been banned by the Taliban.

Jean Chien Tay | January 17, 2022, 05:50 PM

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The Taliban pepper-sprayed a group of women who took to the streets to demand for the right to work and education in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, AFP reported.

About 20 women joined the protest on Jan. 16, which took place in front of the Kabul University.

The protestors, who reportedly carried banners that read "women's rights, human rights", chanted slogans such as "equality and justice" at the demonstration.

Subsequently, three vehicles carrying Taliban fighters arrived at the scene and dispersed the group of protestors.

One of the protestors had a gun pointed at her

A woman from the group told AFP that fighters from one of the vehicles used pepper spray on the protestors when they were near Kabul University.

The woman, who did not wish to be named due to security reasons, said that her right eye "started to burn" after being sprayed at.

"I told one of them (Taliban fighters): ‘Shame on you,’ and then he pointed his gun at me," she added.

One of the women had an allergic reaction in her eyes and face from the pepper spray, and was taken to the hospital, according to two protestors.

Meanwhile, an AFP correspondent said they saw a Taliban fighter confiscate a mobile phone from a man who was recording the protest.

Unsanctioned protests have been banned by the Taliban, and the group also frequently intervenes in protests that call for women's rights, according to AFP.

Promised to respect rights of women previously

When the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, they pledged to "respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law", Reuters reported.

The militant group had also suggested "a softer" approach compared to their rule 20 years ago.

However, this was not upheld as the Taliban continues to enforce harsh versions of Islamic law.

According to AFP, the Taliban have blocked female employees in the public sector from going back to work, and many secondary schools have not reopened for girls.

In November 2021, the militant group banned women from appearing in television dramas, and ordered female journalists and presenters to wear headscarves on screen, the BBC reported.

A month later, the Taliban issued a directive that said women in Afghanistan should be accompanied by a male relative when travelling long distances that are more than 72 km.

The associate director of women's rights at Human Rights Watch reportedly said the move "shuts off opportunities for (women) to be able to move about freely", adding that women who face domestic violence will not be able to flee.

Vehicle owners were also urged to refuse rides to women who were not wearing Islamic head or face coverings. Playing music in vehicles was also banned.

On Jan. 3, the Taliban government also announced that women will no longer be allowed to use public bathhouses in the northern provinces of Balkh and Herat.

According to The Guardian, only 39 per cent of neighbourhoods have adequate access to water and sanitation in the city of Herat.

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Top image via Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images