Rallies in Kabul called off after Taliban outlaws protests

Protesters flee as Taliban forces fire their weapons into the air in Kabul, on Sept 7, 2021.
Protesters flee as Taliban forces fire their weapons into the air in Kabul, on Sept 7, 2021.PHOTO: NYTIMES

KABUL (AFP) - Protest organisers cancelled rallies in Kabul on Thursday (Sept 9) after the Taliban effectively banned demonstrations and warned that violators "will face severe legal action".

Earlier this week, armed fighters dispersed hundreds of protesters in cities across Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, Faizabad in the north-east and in Herat in the west, where two people were shot dead.

Late on Wednesday, the Taliban moved to snuff out any further civil unrest, saying protests would need prior authorisation from the justice ministry, adding that "for the time being", no demonstrations were allowed.

There was a noticeably stronger Taliban presence on the streets of Kabul on Thursday morning as armed fighters - including special forces in military fatigues - stood guard on street corners and manned checkpoints, according to AFP journalists.

An organiser of a protest outside the Pakistan embassy - where gunmen sprayed shots into the air on Tuesday to disperse a rally - told AFP on Thursday it had been cancelled because of the overnight ban.

At the site of another planned protest in the city, there were no signs of a demonstration.

A Taliban interim government, drawn exclusively from loyalist ranks, formally began work this week with established hardliners in all key posts and no women - despite previous promises of an inclusive administration for all Afghans.

Tuesday night's announcement of the Cabinet was a key step in the Taliban's consolidation of power, following a stunning military victory that saw them oust the US-backed administration on Aug 15.