International Demand

Afghan women demonstrate in Kabul, demand education and work

About two dozen Afghan women chanting “bread, work, freedom” demonstrated in the capital on Sunday against harsh Taliban restrictions on their rights.

Since taking power in August, the Taliban have reversed the marginal gains made by women during the two decades of US intervention in Afghanistan.

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“Education is my right! Reopen the schools! chanted protesters, many of whom wore face veils, as they gathered outside the Ministry of Education.

Protesters marched a few hundred meters before ending the rally as authorities deployed Taliban fighters in civilian clothes, an AFP correspondent reported.

“We wanted to read a statement but the Taliban didn’t allow it,” said protester Zholia Parsi.

“They took some girls’ cell phones and also stopped us from taking pictures or videos of our protest.”

After taking power, the Taliban promised a softer version of the hardline Islamist rule that characterized their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001. But many restrictions have already been imposed.

Tens of thousands of girls have been excluded from secondary schools, while women have been prevented from returning to many government jobs.

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

This month, the country’s supreme leader and leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, said women should generally stay at home.

They were ordered to completely conceal themselves, including their faces, if they were to go out in public.

The decree, which sparked international outrage, echoed the early rule of the Taliban, when they made the burqa compulsory for women.

The Taliban have also banned protests calling for women’s rights and rejected calls from the United Nations to roll back their restrictions.

Some Afghan women initially pushed back from the sidewalks, staging small protests.

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

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