Taliban forces fired on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally in the Afghan capital supporting protests in Iran over the death of a woman in morality police custody.
Both Afghanistan and Iran are ruled by hardline Islamist governments that enforce strict dress codes for women.
About 25 women protested with the same mantra “Women, Life, Freedom” used in Iran outside the Iranian embassy in Kabul before Taliban troops shot up the air, an AFP correspondent reported.
Dozens of people have been killed in neighboring Iran since demonstrations erupted over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for allegedly breaking hijab and modest dress rules.
Women in headscarves carried banners in Kabul on Thursday reading: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn!” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!”
“We must end these terrible governments,” said one protester, who did not reveal her name for security reasons.
“The people here are also fed up with the crimes of the Taliban. We are sure that one day our people will rise up just like the Iranian people,” she said.
Taliban troops quickly grabbed the banners and tore them up in front of the protesters.
They also ordered some journalists to delete videos of the rally.
An organizer, who spoke anonymously, told AFP the rally was held “to show our support and solidarity with the Iranian people and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
– “Severe Restrictions” –
Protests staged by women in Afghanistan have become increasingly rare following the jailing of core activists earlier this year.
As in Iran, women risk arrest, violence and stigma when they take part in demonstrations demanding their rights.
Since returning to power last year, the Taliban have imposed a series of restrictions controlling the lives of women based on their interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Many of the rules – including dress codes, segregation of men and traveling with a male guardian – are enforced by the Taliban Vice and Virtue Police, who roam the streets dressed in white.
Women are required to cover themselves fully in public, preferably with the all-encompassing burqa, according to rules, which are enforced with varying degrees of severity across the country.
The Taliban have also barred girls from attending secondary school and barred women from many government jobs, although some senior Taliban are divided on the issue of education.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said at an event earlier this week, “Education is compulsory for both men and women”.
“If we want national unity, the doors of educational institutions must be open to everyone,” he said live on television.
The situation of women’s rights in Afghanistan remains a major concern for Western nations, as no country yet officially recognizes the Taliban government.
Earlier this week, a United Nations report denounced the “tight restrictions” on women and called for them to be reversed.
“The international community has not and will not forget Afghan women and girls,” the report said.