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Live Rounds, Batons, Whips: Taliban Violence Against Protesters, Journalists Rising

Taliban soldiers stand in front of demonstrators during a protest in Kabul on September 7.

The United Nations has condemned the Taliban's "increasingly violent" response to peaceful protests -- including its use of live ammunition, batons, and whips -- while also urging the international community to continue talks with Afghanistan's new government as the war-torn country nears "an economic collapse."

The UN's human rights office said on September 10 that there had been credible reports of armed militants killing at least four people in recent days while dispersing crowds of people demonstrating against the Taliban-led administration, which it says has been moving to limit human rights and freedoms.

Since the Taliban issued an order banning protests "under any circumstances" earlier this week, protesters have also been beaten and detained, according to the UN's human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani, while Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said “incidents involving media personnel have been on the rise in both Kabul and provincial cities,” with Afghan journalists being “harassed by the Taliban, arrested, and beaten with cables.”

"We call on the Taliban to immediately cease the use of force towards, and the arbitrary detention of, those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the journalists covering the protests," Shamdasani said in Geneva, adding that the UN had documented the deaths of four protesters by gunfire.

The comments came on the same day that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged nations to help prevent a looming economic downturn that could throw millions of Afghans into poverty and hunger.

Despite Gunfire And Lashings, Afghan Women's Protests Grow
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"We must maintain a dialogue with the Taliban, where we affirm our principles directly -- a dialogue with a feeling of solidarity with the Afghan people," Guterres told AFP.

"Our duty is to extend our solidarity to a people who suffer greatly, where millions and millions risk dying of hunger," he added.

An estimated 200 foreigners, including Americans, left Afghanistan on a commercial flight out of Kabul on September 9 with the cooperation of the Taliban — the first such large-scale departure since U.S. forces completed their frantic withdrawal over a week ago.

The passengers were said to include 10 Americans, as well as citizens from Canada, Hungary, Ukraine, Germany, and Britain.

Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani said a second flight was due on September 10.

U.S. National-Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said the Taliban had been "businesslike and professional" in helping the American citizens fly out.

U.S. officials have been in regular contact with the Taliban and “have stressed that additional steps such as these will be similarly positively viewed by the international community,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The White House has said there were roughly 100 U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan said it had evacuated a group of 35 ethnic-Kazakh Afghan nationals from Kabul to the Central Asian nation late on September 9.

The Foreign Ministry said a military cargo plane also brought four Kazakh citizens, one Kyrgyz national, and one Afghan citizen who holds a Kazakh permanent residence permit.

At least 200 ethnic-Kazakh are living in Afghanistan; they are mostly relatives of Kazakhs who fled the Soviets in the 1920-1930s.

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said 10 of its correspondents in Afghanistan left the country for neighboring Pakistan on September 9.

The statement didn’t detail how exactly they got out of Afghanistan, but said that “due to a variety of reasons” an evacuation by air had not worked out.

Afghanistan faced drought, displacement, and a humanitarian crisis even before the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul in August as U.S.-led international forces prepared to withdraw.

Days after the Taliban named an all-male government dominated by veteran militants vowing a return to strict Shari'a law -- in a stark blow to Afghan and international hopes that the Taliban’s second reign will prove less restrictive than two decades ago -- the group is still grappling with a hollowed-out bureaucracy and worsening economic crisis.

Most of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves and international aid was frozen after the Taliban's takeover of the country, which faced drought, displacement, and a humanitarian crisis even before the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Without calling for the lifting of international sanctions or the release of Afghan funds frozen abroad, Guterres predicted that "financial instruments" would allow Afghanistan's economy "to breathe."

He said there were "no guarantees" about what might come out of talks but that discussions are a must "if we want Afghanistan not to be a center of terrorism, if we want women and girls to not lose all the rights acquired during the previous period, if we want different ethnic groups to be able to feel represented."

He said the UN wishes is "an inclusive government," where all components of Afghan society are represented, and "this first preliminary government" announced a few days ago "does not give that impression."

Guterres noted that the Taliban wants recognition, financial support, and sanctions to be abolished, adding: "That gives a certain leverage to the international community."

Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN -- a member of the ousted government -- urged nations not to recognize the Taliban government and to enforce existing UN sanctions on leaders named in the cabinet, including restrictions on their travel.

Ghulam Isaczai, still the country's UN representative, said that recent street protests in Afghanistan were "a strong message to the Taliban that Afghans of all backgrounds and creeds would not accept a totalitarian system imposed on them.”

During a visit to Pakistan, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares expressed concern about “the situation of women and human rights and freedom of movement” in Afghanistan.

Albares asked for Pakistan's cooperation to secure a safe passage for all those who had worked with Spanish forces or other organizations in Afghanistan during NATO’s 20-year presence.

Spain says it has already evacuated more than 2,200 people from Afghanistan, most of them Afghans at risk of reprisals from the new Taliban rulers.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet in Paris on September 16 to discuss various issues including the situation in Afghanistan, the Elysee palace said.

Blinken is to testify before U.S. lawmakers on September 13-14 as the House and Senate foreign relations committees promised "aggressive investigations" into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, the BBC, and DW
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