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Afghan Activists Protest In Kabul Against Taliban Decree On Women's Rights

A woman wearing a niqab enters a beauty salon where the ads of women have been defaced in Kabul.

Afghan women's rights activists held a protest in Kabul on December 5, insisting they will continue to fight for their right to education, employment, and participation in politics after the Taliban-led government issued a decree on women's rights that they say is inadequate.

Writer and women's rights activist Huda Khamosh said women are "a key part of the community," and denying them the right to work and participate in Afghanistan’s political and economic life "is tantamount to a denial of women in society."

Khamosh said the women involved in the protest want their voices to be heard at the United Nations and by the Taliban.

The government decree issued on December 3 calls for the enforcement of certain women's rights that are already enshrined in Shari'a law, and it failed to mention key areas of concern for rights groups and Western governments.

The decree calls on leaders throughout Afghan society "to take serious action to enforce women's rights." It then focuses on marriage and widow's rights. "No one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure," the decree says, but it does not specifically mention underage marriage.

It also does not mention secondary education for girls, which has been suspended, or the employment of women, who have been barred from returning to jobs in the public sector since the Taliban seized power in August.

The protesters said the decree did not address the needs of all Afghan women and that Afghan women and girls need more work and education.

Marjan Ibrahimi, a protester and women's rights activist, said the decree "implies that our only problem is forced marriage, which is not the only issue. Right now, we have lost our jobs and our right to study."

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Social rights activist Farida Akbari told reporters the new Taliban government should permit women access to education and employment.

Akbari said the decree would not have any particular benefit to women living in cities, where the practice of forced marriage is rarer.

"It is not acceptable for us to get married, eat, and stay at home," she said. "We want our role in politics, economics, jobs, education and social activities where they can't limit us."

RFE/RL asked the Taliban-led government for comment, but none of its spokesmen responded.

Poverty has surged in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August amid the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops. Foreign governments have sharply curtained aid donations to the country since then.

The decree appeared to be aimed at addressing criteria the international community considers a precondition to recognizing their government and restoring aid.

With reporting by AP
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