Taliban fighters crush women's protest amid flickers of resistance

A Taliban fighter standing guard amid a women's protest march for their rights under the Taliban rule in Kabul on Sept 3, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (NYTIMES) - Taliban fighters violently suppressed a women's protest on Saturday (Sept 4) in Kabul, while 110km to the north former Afghan army and militia members battled the Islamist group in Panjshir province, as pockets of anti-Taliban resistance continued to flare up.

Several of the women, who were demanding inclusion in the yet-to-be named Taliban government, said they were beaten by Taliban fighters - some of the first concrete evidence of harsh treatment of women by the group.

Since they swept to power last month Taliban leaders have been on a "charm offensive" seeking to convince the world, aid groups and their own population that the harsh rule they imposed in their last stint in power, from 1996 to 2001, was a thing of the past.

But there was little restraint in evidence at the Kabul protest.

A 24-year-old participant said in a telephone interview that the Taliban tried to rout the gathering of about 100 women using tear gas, rifle butts and metal clubs or tools. She said she received five stitches to close a head wound after she was knocked unconscious with a blow from one of the metal objects.

"When I tried to resist and continue the march, one of the armed Taliban (members) pushed me and hit me with a sharp metal device," said the woman, who is being identified only by her first name, Nargis, to guard against retribution.

On Friday night, the Taliban pushed farther into the Panjshir Valley in an effort to crush resistance led by Mr Ahmad Massoud, son of legendary resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who held off the Taliban 25 years ago.

Reports that the Panjshir Valley had fallen touched off bursts of celebratory Taliban gunfire in the capital, killing at least two. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid later criticised the gunfire and called on fighters to "thank God instead".

Mr Mujahid is likely to be named information minister in a new Afghan government whose composition has been the subject of rumours for days.

The naming of the new ruling structure was delayed yet again on Saturday, but it appeared increasingly likely that it would include only figures from the Taliban movement. That would contradict early suggestions that the group would reach outside its ranks in an effort to appear inclusive.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.