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Afghan Women Stage Protest In Herat, Call For Their Rights To Be Preserved

Afghan women hold placards as they take part in a protest in Herat on September 2.

KABUL -- About three dozen women in the western Afghan city of Herat have protested to demand the new Taliban leadership preserves the rights and advances women have made in the country since the militants were ousted two decades ago.

“Education, security and work is our fundamental right, “ the women chanted, according to amateur videos posted online.

“Don’t be afraid; we are all together,” they added at the September 1 protest held in front of the Herat governor's office.

Since taking back power after the fall of Kabul on August 14, Taliban leaders have repeatedly said they want peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

During its 1996-2001 rule, also guided by Islamic Shari'a law, the Taliban stopped women from working. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear all-enveloping burqas to go out and then only when accompanied by a male relative.

Many still remember that period and don't trust the militants' pledge.

Friba Kabrzani, an organizer of the rally, said women should be allowed to participate in the new government, including the Cabinet and Loya Jirga, or elders' council.

Afghan women have made many sacrifices over the past 20 years to achieve what they have, she said, adding, “We want the world to hear us, and we want our rights to be saved.”

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Kabrzani says some families did not allow other women to join the march out of fear for their safety.

Another organizer, Basira Taheri, told AFP that the Taliban should consult women on important decisions.

"We don't see any women in their gatherings and meetings," she said.

Shortly after the Taliban takeover, the European Union said it would only cooperate with a new Afghan government if it respected fundamental rights, including those of women.

The United Nations and many human rights groups have also expressed concerns, especially after local media reports surfaced claiming the actions of the militants differed sharply from the moderate image the group's leaders were trying to project.

The French media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, for example, warned on September 1 that hundreds of women have been forced to stay home since the hard-line group took control of the country.

“We have witnessed them beating women again,” one of the protesters, Maryam Ebram, said adding that her group planned to continue to demand their rights.

“We will not sit quiet as the Taliban wants us to,” Ebram said.

This story is based reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.

With additional reporting by AP and AFP
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