Taliban bans unapproved protests in bid to quell budding demonstrations

Taliban bans unapproved protests in bid to quell budding demonstrations Demonstrators will need prior authorisations from the interim Justice Ministry and violators “will face severe legal action”, says a new order, which does not clarify an end period to the decree.

Afghan women protest to demand their rights in front of presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on  September 3, 2021.
Afghan women protest to demand their rights in front of presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 3, 2021. (Reuters)

Taliban has banned civilian protests across the country and warned violators of “severe legal action” after days of demonstrations that have brought heavy-handed assaults on protesters, especially women who have marched to seek equal rights and opportunities.

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The Interior Ministry of the new Taliban government issued an order on Wednesday to end all protests in the country — unless demonstrators get prior permission, including approval of slogans and banners.

“Timings and other details must be shared with the relevant authorities at least three hours in advance and approval must be obtained,” the ministry said in a statement, adding the protesters will then be provided with security.

According to the order prior authorisation will be needed from the Justice Ministry –– and violators “will face severe legal action”.

And “for the time being”, demonstrations are not allowed –– at all.

The announcement of the government on Tuesday night was a key step in the Taliban’s consolidation of power over Afghanistan, following a stunning military victory that saw them oust the US-backed administration on August 15.

Since then small groups of women have staged rallies in three cities, including Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul, demanding that their rights be protected.

After the Taliban seized Panjshir province on Monday, demonstrations were held in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

It’s unlikely the women who have been leading near daily protest demanding their rights from the country’s new rulers will be allowed to protest under the new rules.

In the words of the ministry’s statement: “It i s announced to all citizens not to attempt at the present time to hold any demonstrations under any name whatsoever.”

‘Rollbacks on women’s rights’

In the capital Kabul, a small rally on Wednesday was quickly dispersed by armed Taliban security, while Afghan media reported a protest in the northeastern city of Faizabad was also broken up.

Hundreds protested on Tuesday, both in the capital and in the city of Herat, where two people at the demonstration site were shot dead.

The United Nations women’s agency in Afghanistan has said every day it is receiving reports of “rollbacks on women’s rights”.

The complaints range from women barred from going to work without a male guardian or even leaving their homes to attacks on centers helping women who flee violence and on girls’ and coeducational schools.

Alison Davidian, deputy Afghan representative for UN Women, said in a video briefing from Kabul that “the lack of clarity of the Taliban’s position on women’s rights has generated incredible fear –– and this fear is palpable across the country.”

The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, women were banned from work and girls from school.

The group carried out public executions and its religious police enforced a harsh rule.

Taliban leaders have vowed to respect people’s rights, including those of women, in accordance with sharia, but those who have won greater freedoms over the past two decades are worried about losing them.

Journalists allegedly tortured

Meanwhile, the Editor-in-Chief of the Kabul newspaper Etilaatroz Zaki Daryabi, said their five of his journalists were arrested by Taliban.

Daryabi in a tweet claimed that the Taliban tortured the arrested journalists.

“The Taliban is quickly proving that earlier promises to allow Afghanistan’s independent media to continue operating freely and safely are worthless,” said Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator, Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“We urge the Taliban to live up to those earlier promises, to stop beating and detaining reporters doing their job, and allow the media to work freely without fear of reprisal.”

Self-censorship

The Taliban have yet to issue any formal directives to the media, and outlets have mainly relied on self-censorship to avoid upsetting the new rulers.

Some are also planning for contingencies.

The Moby Group is considering options to operate from overseas if there is a crackdown on Tolo News.

CEO Saad Mohseni has said orders such as a ban on women journalists or censorship would be a “red line”.

Meanwhile, the company is on a hiring spree to try and fill the gap left by the dozens of staff who left after the fall of Kabul.

“The sad thing is to lose this much capacity, to see a generation of people who we’ve invested in, who could have done so much for the country, being forced to leave,” Mohseni told CPJ.

“This brain drain will take us another two decades to build that sort of capacity, sadly.”

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