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Women Protest For Rights In Northern Afghanistan Despite Militant Threats

Taliban Militants Use Tear Gas, Fire Warning Shots As Women Demand Equal Rights
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Afghan women again took to the streets to call for their rights be preserved under Taliban rule -- this time in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.

A group of women gathered in the city center on September 6, holding placards reading slogans such as “Violation of women’s rights = Violation of human’s rights” and “We want political participation at all levels,” according to photos shared on social media.

Protest organizer Shakourieh Rahimi told RFE/RL that Taliban militants stopped journalists trying to cover the demonstration and beat some of them.

Witnesses said that those who took part in the ally were also threatened by Taliban fighters and insulted.

The hard-line militant group did not immediately comment on the situation.

Paris Rally Pledges Solidarity With Afghan Women
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Similar rallies advocating for women’s rights and demanding equality, justice, and democracy took place in the capital, Kabul, and the western city of Herat in recent days.

On September 4, Taliban militants used tear gas and fired warning gunshots into the air as dozens of women held a protest in central Kabul to demand equal rights.

At least one woman suffered injuries in what was the second such demonstration in Kabul in as many days.

Samira Khairkhawa, who participated in recent protests in Kabul, talked to RFE/RL about the uncertainty that Afghan women are currently experiencing.

"It's been a few weeks since women don’t know if they will keep their jobs or not. They don’t even know if women will still have fundamental and civil rights,” she said.

“That's why we feel the need to start a movement to enable women to speak up for their fundamental rights and for what they have achieved over the last 20 years."

The Taliban seized control of most of Afghanistan three weeks ago, and have yet to announce their new government.

Women, whose freedoms were sharply curtailed under the Taliban's 1996-2001 rule, are unlikely to be appointed to any top positions.

Asked on September 6 about the Taliban's treatment of women, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reiterated previous statements that women's rights will be respected under the framework of Islamic law, but he did not elaborate on what that will mean in practice.

The Taliban's education authority said in a document issued on September 5 that they will be allowed to attend university as long as classes are segregated by sex or at least divided by a curtain.

Female students must also wear a niqab, an Islamic veil that covers the face, and abaya -- a loose-fitting and all-covering robe -- as opposed to the even more conservative burqa covering the whole body, which was mandatory under the previous Taliban regime.

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

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    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi is one of the most popular and trusted media outlets in Afghanistan. Nearly half of the country's adult audience accesses Azadi's reporting on a weekly basis.