Women on Saturday marched out in their numbers in Kabul, Afghanistan capital, to demand inclusion in the Taliban government.
Gatekeepers News reports that the protest started with about 50 women who headed towards the presidential palace, demanding their right to work, a role in any future government, and a seat at the table in discussions with the Taliban.
They were, however, stopped near the entrance to the finance ministry, where the Taliban “surrounded” them and prevented them from getting to the palace entrance, according to a 26-year-old Razia Barakzai.
She said the Taliban had used both pepper spray and tear gas to try and disperse the crowd.
“We were calm and peaceful the entire time, but they just wanted to stop us at any cost,” she told reporters.
Gatekeepers News reports that Saturday’s protest is not the first time women in Kabul and the western city of Herat have gathered to demand their rights in a future Taliban-led government.
Barakzai noted that the Taliban which tried to surround the protesters were wearing red banners and armed.
“These weren’t ordinary Taliban forces,” she said.
The crowd was surrounded on all four sides by the Taliban, who told them, according to Barakzai, “Go home, each of you one by one.” However, getting out proved to be just as difficult, since the Taliban continued to surround them.
“It was strange, they didn’t want us to stay, but they also wouldn’t let us leave.”
The Taliban also struck one of the women, according to Barakzai.
Barakzai, who formerly worked at a government office, said the latest action was due to a statement made by senior Taliban leader, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who in an interview said there “may not” be a place for women in the higher echelons of a future Taliban-led government.
“How are we supposed to have the rights they promised us if we’re not in decision-making roles of the government or involved in talks with the Taliban,” said Barakzai.
The Taliban had at an August 17 news conference, said the group “is committed to the rights of women within the framework of Sharia (Islamic law). Our sisters, our men have the same rights; they will be able to benefit from their rights. They can have activities in different sectors and different areas on the basis of our rules and regulations: educational, health and other areas. They are going to be working with us, shoulder to shoulder with us.”
However, Barakzai said women are yet to see any proof of that commitment to their participation or an explanation of the limits the Taliban will place on women’s role in the workplace and society as a whole.
Barakzai said when she and her comrades tried to meet the Taliban to address the issues of women’s rights and participation, they were turned away.
“They would make an excuse that we didn’t have the right paperwork or that we weren’t there at the right time, but it just seems like they don’t want to talk to us,” she said, adding women will continue to protest until the Taliban gives them a better response.
Gatekeepers News reports that the Taliban have recently sent confusing signals about the place of women in Afghan society. In late August, the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said women who work with the government should stay at home until they can guarantee their safety on the streets and in offices.
“We are worried our forces who are new and have not been yet trained very well may mistreat women … We don’t want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women,” Mujahid said at an August 24 press briefing.
He added that women should stay at home and would be paid their salaries until a time that it would be considered safe for them to return to work.