Kabul, Afghanistan-A small group of Afghan women protested near the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Friday, demanding that the Taliban obtain equal rights as the new Afghan ruler forms a government and seeks international recognition.
Last month, the Taliban occupied most of the country within a few days and celebrated the last U.S. withdrawal after 20 years of war. Now they face the urgent challenge of governing a war-torn country that is heavily dependent on international aid.
Compared with the last time they ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban promised to establish an inclusive government and a more moderate form of Islamic rule. But many Afghans, especially women, are deeply skeptical and worry that the rights gained in the past two decades will be reversed.
The Kabul protest was the second women’s protest in a few days, and another protest was held in the western city of Herat. About 20 women with microphones gathered under the watchful eyes of the Taliban gunmen, and they allowed the demonstration to continue.
Women demand education, the right to return to work, and play a role in governing the country. “Freedom is our motto. It makes us proud,” read one of their signs.
A Taliban fighter ventured into the crowd at one point, but witnesses said he was angry at the bystanders who stopped to watch the demonstration, rather than the protesters themselves.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Friday: “We are concerned about human rights issues in Afghanistan, especially women’s rights.” “Women must have the right to work and work in a safe environment. These are ours in Kabul. Some problems noticed by interlocutors elsewhere.”
The Taliban have stated that women will be able to continue to receive education and go out to work, and that women’s rights were denied when the militants took power for the last time. But the Taliban also vowed to implement Sharia law or Sharia law, but did not provide specific details.
The Muslim world’s interpretations of Islamic law vary widely, and are mainly in a more moderate way. The early rule of the Taliban was shaped by Afghanistan’s unique tribal traditions, under which women were not allowed to appear in public. These customs still existed even during the 20 years of the government supported by the West, especially in rural areas.
The Taliban’s perhaps more pressing concern is the economy in crisis. Civil servants have not received their wages for several months, ATMs have been shut down, and banks have restricted withdrawals to US$200 a week, causing a large crowd outside them. Aid organizations warn that hunger will prevail in severe drought conditions.
The Taliban said that Western Union, which ceased service after militants entered Kabul last month, will resume transfers, which may help Afghans obtain cash from relatives living abroad. But most of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves are abroad and are frozen, while Western countries are considering how to deal with the Taliban, putting pressure on the local currency.
Western Union did not immediately comment on resuming services.
At the same time, the fighting in the Panjshir Valley north of the capital Kabul has been brutal. This is the last resistance to the Taliban’s sweep. Late Friday, celebratory gunfire broke out in the capital because of rumors that the Taliban had occupied the valley, which was accepted in the UK by former Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmed Shah Masood Educated son Ahmed Masood defended, the latter was killed in suicide in the bombing that occurred two days before the US attack on September 11, 2001.
But Afghan’s popular TOLO TV broadcasted Saleh’s news. Saleh said that the fighting has been fierce and the soldiers on both sides have died, but he is still in the Panjshir Valley and he will stay to defend it.
The gunfire throughout the capital lasted for nearly 15 minutes, prompting Taliban spokesperson and head of the Culture and Information Committee Zabihullah Mujahid to warn his soldiers not to waste their ammunition.
“Avoid aerial shooting, but thank God,” Mujahid tweeted.
At the same time, the Taliban stated that they hope to establish good relations with all countries, even the United States, and have held a series of meetings with foreign envoys in Qatar, the Gulf country, where they have held political positions for a long time.
Western countries are expected to demand that the Taliban fulfill their promise to form an inclusive government and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorist organizations. They may also put pressure on the Taliban on women’s rights, although this may be more difficult to market for the organization’s hardline base because they are immersed in Afghanistan’s very conservative tribal culture.
Taliban Cultural Council spokesperson Ahmadullah Muttaqi said a senior official from the United Arab Emirates flew to Kabul International Airport on Friday to meet with Taliban officials, but did not reveal his name. Afghanistan’s TOLO TV reported that the plane also carried 60 tons of food and medical aid.
According to the Taliban, the senior Taliban official in Qatar, Sher Mohamed Stanikzai, recently met with the British and German delegations. Minister Wu Jianghao spoke on the phone.
In the days after the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, most Western embassies were evacuated and closed. The Taliban urged the diplomats to return.
Taliban political leaders said on television that the world is fearless. But many Afghans, as well as Western countries that have fought with the organization for two decades, still express deep suspicion.
Thousands of Afghans fled the country after the Taliban took over from Kabul International Airport in a mass airlift led by the United States. The chaotic scenes, from the Afghans clinging to the military plane before taking off and falling to their deaths, to the suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 American soldiers, marked the painful end of the longest war in the United States.
After the last U.S. troops withdrew, the Taliban took over the airport and are now working with technical experts from Qatar and Turkey to resume operations. The Taliban said they will allow anyone with appropriate documents to travel for free, but it remains to be seen whether any commercial airlines will provide services.
Pakistan International Airlines officials met with Afghanistan’s still independent Civil Aviation Authority. But the airline’s spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said it will take “some time” to clean up the debris and resume normal operations.
“There is still a lot of work to be done before international flights enter the airport,” he said.