A small group of Afghan women protested near the presidential palace in Kabul on Friday, demanding equal rights from the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new rulers work on forming a government and seeking international recognition.
The Taliban captured most of the country in a matter of days last month and celebrated the departure of the last US forces after 20 years of war. Now they face the urgent challenge of governing a war-ravaged country that is heavily reliant on international aid.
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The Taliban have promised an inclusive government and a more moderate form of Islamic rule than when they last ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. But many Afghans, especially women, are deeply skeptical and fear a rollback of rights gained over the last two decades.
The protest in Kabul was the second women’s protest in as many days, with the other held in the western city of Herat. Around 20 women with microphones gathered under the watchful eyes of Taliban gunmen, who allowed the demonstration to proceed.
The women demanded access to education, the right to return to work and 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 had stopped to watch the demonstration and not the protesters themselves.
The Taliban have said women will be able to continue their education and work outside the home, rights denied to women when the militants were last in power. But the Taliban have also vowed to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, without providing specifics.