Dozens of Afghan women stood face to face with Taliban fighters in a rare protest on Thursday to demand their right to work and seek education as the Islamist group is set to announce a new government.
The women, clad in burqa and headscarf, took to rally on streets of western city of Herat holding banners and posters while chanting “don’t be afraid, we are together.”
“No government is stable without the support of women,” a poster read as they attempted to march toward the office of the governor of Herat while Taliban fighters stood guard.
The women demanded more inclusivity, fearing similar restrictions to those of the previous Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001. Back then, the Taliban forced women to wear burqas, shut down schools, prevented them from working and enforced strict punishment like whipping or stoning if women went out in public with a man.
The Taliban this time had given assurances that they will allow women to work and pursue education as per Sharia law. But one of its senior leaders told the BBC in an interview that women will have no cabinet-level positions in the new government.
The protest came as the Taliban is poised to announce a new government in Afghanistan on Friday after seizing power from previous government led by Ashraf Ghani.
The women at the demonstration reportedly said that the group had not changed and they are already seeing signs of its potential repressive rule.
Mariam Ebram, who took part in the protest on Thursday, said she and her colleagues were asked to return when they reached their office and when they went to meet the Taliban officials in the city they received no answers, according to Al Jazeera.
“After weeks of trying to engage with the Taliban at all levels, the women decided to make their voices heard publicly,” Ebram said.
“We tried talking to them, but we saw that other than the Taliban of 20 years ago, there was no one there. There was no change.”
Taliban has been sending mixed messages since its first news conference on women’s rights.
A Taliban representative also asked women to stay at home and not leave for offices as their fighters are becoming more acclimatised to their presence in public. But they again asked the female workers last week to join their post at the Ministry of public health.
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