A hundred veiled women demonstrated in Kabul on Wednesday to express their support for the Taliban regime and demand the release of assets frozen by Western countries, at a time when Afghanistan is sinking into a deep humanitarian crisis.
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During this rally organized by the Taliban, most of the demonstrators wore the burqa, a full mesh veil at eye level, or the niqab, which also covers the face, but reveals the eyes, noted a journalist from the AFP.
Gathered in front of the former American embassy, they waved banners in English, Pashtun and Dari, to affirm their “support for the Islamic Emirate”, the name given by the Taliban to their regime, and to demand “the unblocking of the frozen money”.
Since taking power in August following the withdrawal of American troops, the Taliban have reigned over an Afghanistan facing a serious humanitarian crisis.
International aid, which represented about 80% of the budget, suddenly stopped and the United States froze $9.5 billion in Afghan Central Bank assets. Famine now threatens 55% of the population, according to the UN.
“The United States should immediately release the money from Afghanistan,” said Basri Deedar, a private school principal leading the rally.
“The international community should not use women’s rights as a pretext to harass Afghans,” she added.
This gathering, framed by armed fighters, took place the day after the unprecedented and controversial visit of a Taliban delegation to Norway.
During this first trip of the Islamists to Europe, Western diplomats linked the resumption of international aid to respect for human rights, in particular those of women.
No state has yet recognized the Taliban regime and the international community is waiting to see how the Islamists will govern the country, after having largely trampled on human rights during their previous rule between 1996 and 2001.
The Taliban claim to have modernized, but women are largely excluded from civil service jobs and secondary schools for girls remain mostly closed.
Last week, two women’s rights activists were kidnapped in Kabul. The regime denies being involved in these disappearances.
These activists “who act against Islamic and national values (…) are not representative of Afghan women,” said Ms. Deedar.
Since August, the Taliban have dispersed all demonstrations that are not favorable to them in the Afghan capital.