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Women Protesters Injured In Stampede After Taliban Militants Fire In The Air

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Taliban fighters reportedly used violence to disperse the women protesting on December 28.

A number of Afghan women have been injured in a stampede caused by Taliban guards firing in the air during a protest in Kabul against discriminatory measures including new travel restrictions on women.

The protest on December 28 came amid rising anger -- both within the country and internationally -- over the Taliban's moves to restrict the rights of women.

Participants told RFE/RL that up to 130 women attended the protest in Kabul, and shots fired in the air by Taliban militants trying to disperse the demonstration prompted fleeing protesters to fall and trample one another. Several women sustained injuries in the stampede, witnesses said.

It was not immediately clear how many women were injured in the incident.

Kabul Women Protesters Brave Taliban Shooting
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Afghanistan's Asvaka news agency reported that the incident occurred near the hospital of the Italian Emergency humanitarian organization. It gave no information on victims or wounded.

Reshmina, one of the protesters who suffered injuries while falling on a gas tank, told RFE/RL she was too scared to see a doctor for treatment.

"My face is injured so badly that even now when I speak with you, I am in much pain. We couldn't even go to a doctor because we don't feel safe, we are threatened. Even now, while speaking with you I am shaking [with fear]."

There was a second, much smaller protest in the western part of Kabul during which women accused the Taliban of killing soldiers who served under the previous government that was toppled by the militant group in mid-August, RFE/RL correspondents reported.

Taliban officials did not immediately respond to requests from RFE/RL for comment.

On December 26, officials said that women seeking to travel more than 72 kilometers should not be offered transport unless they were accompanied by a close male relative.

In the advisory distributed by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, all vehicle drivers also were directed to refrain from playing music in their cars, and not to pick up female passengers who do not wear an Islamic hijab.

Since taking over Afghanistan, the Taliban have named an all-male government that is dominated by veteran militants vowing a return to strict Shari'a law, a stark blow to Afghan and international hopes that the Taliban's second stint in power will prove less restrictive than two decades ago.

The hard-line Islamist group has shut down the former administration's Women's Affairs Ministry and significantly curtailed women's rights. The vast majority of women have been banned from working, while many girls and women have been deprived of the right to an education.

"Women can't travel alone or go to schools and colleges...this kind of retrogressive thinking is dangerous," Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said late on December 27 in a rare rebuke of the Taliban from neighboring Pakistan.

Last month, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ordered Afghanistan's television channels to stop showing dramas featuring women actors and said female television journalists must wear a hijab.

Women's rights were severely curtailed during the Taliban's previous rule in the 1990s, when they were then forced to wear the all-covering burqa, only allowed to leave home with a male chaperone, and banned from work, education, and sports.

This story includes reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.

With reporting by dpa
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