Taliban fire into air to disperse women's rally backing Iran protests

September 29, 2022 08:18 pm | Updated 08:18 pm IST - Kabul

Iranian pro-government demonstrators hold posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country’s flags during their rally condemning recent anti-government protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the nation’s morality police, in Tehran, Iran

Iranian pro-government demonstrators hold posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country’s flags during their rally condemning recent anti-government protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the nation’s morality police, in Tehran, Iran

Taliban forces on Thursday used gunfire to disperse a women's rally in the Afghan capital in support of protests in Iran over the death of a woman in morality police custody.

Neighbours Afghanistan and Iran are both run by hardline Islamist governments that use religious police to enforce strict dress codes on women.

Dozens of people have been killed in demonstrations that have erupted over 22-year-old Mahsa Amini's death in Tehran after she was arrested for allegedly breaching rules on hijabs and modest clothing.

Chanting the same "Women, life, freedom" mantra used in Iran, about 25 women protested in front of Kabul's Iranian embassy before Taliban forces fired into the air, an AFP correspondent reported.

"The message of today's demonstration in Kabul is that women are not alone in the world and are demanding their rights from the international community," a woman activist who took part in the protest told AFP by phone later.

Another protester in Kabul, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told AFP by phone that "we need to end these horrific governments".

"People here are also tired of the Taliban's crimes. We are sure that one day our people will rise in the same way as the Iranian people," she said.

Women in headscarves carried banners that read: "Iran has risen, now it's our turn!" and "From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!"

Taliban forces swiftly snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters.

They also threatened to beat the protesters with their rifle butts, and ordered some journalists to delete videos of the rally.

Protests staged by women in Afghanistan have become increasingly rare after the detention of core activists at the start of the year.

Like in Iran, Afghan women risk arrest, violence and stigma for taking part in demonstrations calling for their rights.

Since returning to power, the Taliban have issued a slew of restrictions controlling women's lives based on their strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Many of the rules including dress code, segregation from men and travelling with a male guardian -- are monitored by the Taliban's vice and virtue police, who roam the streets dressed in white.

Women must fully cover themselves in public, preferably with the all-encompassing burqa, according to the rules, which are enforced with varying rigour across the country.

The Taliban have also blocked girls from returning to secondary schools and barred women from many government jobs, although some senior Taliban officials are divided on the issue of education.

Deputy foreign minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai at a function earlier this week said "education is obligatory for men and women".

"If we want national unity then doors of educational institutions must be open for all," he said on live television. The state of women's rights in Afghanistan remains a top concern for Western nations, with no country yet officially recognising the Taliban government.

Earlier this week, a United Nations report denounced the "severe restrictions" on women and called for them to be reversed. "The international community has not and will not forget Afghan women and girls," the report said.

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