Taliban lets women attend universities, but journalists & protesters are beaten

Female students in Afghanistan may continue to attend universities, including at the postgraduate level, but classrooms will be segregated by sex and head coverings will be compulsory for women.

Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani laid out the new policies at a news conference on Sunday, a day after the Taliban raised their flag over the presidential palace, signaling the start of work of the new, all-male government announced last week.

The Taliban’s return to power has stoked fears that the fundamentalists would revert to the kind of draconian rule that defined its leadership in Afghanistan 20 years ago.

The Taliban–which denied education for girls and women, executed people in stadiums and chopped off the hands of thieves during their previous stint of power from 1996 to 2001–has repeatedly pledged a more moderate brand of rule.

But they have shown clear signs that they will not stand for any resistance against their rule.

“We will start building on what exists today,” said Haqqani, who maintained that the Taliban’s attitude towards women has shifted in the past 20 years.

The new Afghanistan government has sought international legitimacy following its lightning-fast offensive across the country during the weeks ahead of the withdraw of United States’ troops in accordance with the February 2020 agreement from former President Donald Trump and an August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden.

The Taliban took over Kabul on August 15 in a lightning-fast offensive that removed the Western-backed government of former President Ashraf Ghani while US troops withdrew from the country after nearly 20 years of war.

Despite the Taliban’s posturing, women have been banned from sports and the government has used violence in recent days against female protesters demanding equal rights.

The United Nations has condemned the Taliban’s increasingly violent response against peaceful demonstrators in Afghanistan, as members of the armed group used live ammunitions, batons and whips, resulting in the killing of at least four protesters.

“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,” said UN Human Rights Office Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, who added that reports show house-to-house searches for those who participated in the protests and claimed journalists have faced intimidation.

“One journalist was reported to have been told, as he was being kicked in the head that you are lucky you have not been beheaded,” said Shamdasani.

Afghan journalists Nematullah Naqdi and Taqi Daryabi display the wounds sustained while they were beaten by the Taliban after being arrested while covering a women’s protest.

Pictures posted by local newspaper Etilaatroz showed physical evidence of floggings and beatings with cables that two of its journalists – Taqi Daryabi and Nematullah Naqdi – were subjected to after being arrested while covering a women’s protest.

The editor-in-chief and four reporters of the daily Etilaat-Roz, were detained by the Taliban while covering a women’s protest in Kabul. The Taliban have banned protests unless authorized by the justice ministry.

In the latest demonstration, protesters chanting “we want freedom” were dispersed outside the Pakistan embassy. Taliban gunfire also rang out at a protest in Parwan, Aamaj news reports. Marchers shouted: “No-one can silence our voice by force of arms, death to Pakistan and the United States.”

Dozens of women in Kabul and the north-eastern province of Badakhshan protested on Wednesday against the formation of an all-male interim Taliban government.

Shabnam Khan Dawran, an anchor at RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan) said that the Taliban has not allowed her to enter her office to continue her work.

“I wanted to return to work, but unfortunately they did not allow me to work. They told me that the regime has changed and you cannot work,” said Dawran.

Khadija, another RTA journalist, was also banned by the Taliban from working.

“I went to the office but I was not allowed in. Later other colleagues were banned, too. We talked with our new director who has been appointed by the Taliban,” said Khadija.

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