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Afghan women protest Taliban’s policies on International Women’s Day

Afghan Witness has seen a downturn in street protests, with many women taking their protests indoors and online in an attempt to avoid suppression or violence.


10 Apr 2024

Photo: © Afghan Witness Afghan Witness has redacted some links for privacy reasons. 

On March 1 2024, Afghan women’s rights activists and groups began posting online in commemoration of International Women’s Day, and protesting against the Taliban’s policies towards women.

That same day, the Afghanistan Women’s Political Participation Network (AWPN) posted a video on its Facebook page. The video showed a woman with her face entirely covered, holding a placard that read: “I am a woman. I am a human. We have [the] right to live. 8 March, Happy Women’s Day.” 

On 8 March and the days following, videos began to circulate online, containing protests and speeches by individuals and groups both inside and outside the country.

Indoor Protests

Inside Afghanistan, almost all protests were held in closed spaces. Videos circulating online show women protesting indoors, with their faces covered by scarves, face masks, sunglasses and placards. 

AW recorded indoor protests that reportedly took place in Kabul, Takhar, and Balkh provinces. Protesters’ messages and demands mainly called for the recognition of “gender apartheid,” the end of Taliban rule, and the prosecution of Taliban officials. They also demanded the release of Manizha Siddiqi, a female protester who was detained by the Taliban in October 2023 and sentenced to a year and a half in prison in February 2024.

AW recorded protests held by 10 different protest movements in total. Despite these protests, on 9 March 2024, the media outlet Hasht-e-Subh reported that a number of women in Herat, Ghor, Badghis, Farah, and Nimruz claimed that Taliban authorities had verbally warned them against any kind of IWD celebration. The women quoted in the report told the outlet that their families stopped them from marking the occasion, as they feared repercussions from the Taliban.

Outdoor protests

AW noted only one outdoor protest held in Afghanistan this IWD. On 8 March 2024, a video posted on X (formerly Twitter) showed women marching on a road chanting slogans and holding placards. According to media reports, members of the Independent Coalition of Afghanistan Women’s Protest Movement held the protest in Taloqan City, Takhar. AW was unable to geolocate the protest, as the video did not reveal details about the location in which it was held. 

Although the group was protesting outdoors, no other people or cars could be seen in the footage. The women in the video seemed vigilant of their surroundings and chanted: “Death to the misogynist state: Taliban, the enemy of the young generation. The Taliban regime must be annihilated. Manizha Sidiqi must be freed. We will stand until we are alive. We will die but will not surrender.”

Women's outdoor protests have experienced a downturn amid Taliban suppression and detention of female protesters. AW records show that the Taliban detained at least 21 female protesters between March and November 2023, including Wahida Mahrami, Neda Parwani, Zholia Parsi, Bahara Karimi, Parisa Azada, and Manizha Siddiqi. AW could not independently verify these detentions, due to a lack of supporting visual evidence.

With the Taliban's crackdown on women's protests inside Afghanistan, female activists who left the country often hold demonstrations abroad. AW recorded several such protests and gatherings in Pakistan, Germany, and Canada on IWD. 

On 8 March 2024, for instance, the Independent Coalition of Afghanistan Women’s Protest Movement reportedly convened a gathering in Islamabad, Pakistan. The protest denounced the Taliban's violation of women's rights and asked the international community not to recognise the Taliban. AW also noted several indoor protests that purportedly took place in Iran.

A number of men also attended IWD protests and gatherings abroad, in support of Afghan women.

Taliban’s reaction

The Taliban did not officially ban the commemoration of IWD 2024. However, there are claims and media reports that the group verbally warned women in Herat, Ghor, Badghis, Farah and Nimruz against any gathering for the occasion.

On 7 March 2024, the former General Director of the Crime Investigation Department (CID), Bismillah Taban, posted on X that the Taliban's Interior Ministry had ordered its offshoots in Kabul and other provinces to prevent any gatherings on 8 March 2024. Taban also mentioned that the Taliban's cyber team was on a mission to disrupt online events on X. 

On 8 March 2024, Radio Azadi reported that a number of female protesters claimed they were prevented from gathering indoors to celebrate IWD, due to Taliban surveillance.

Despite these reports, on 8 March 2024, in a video shared by Tolo News, Taliban Spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said that the Taliban were committed to women’s rights within the framework of Islam. Mujahid alluded to a decree on women's rights issued by the Taliban's Supreme Leader in December 2021, adding: “courts have been seriously advised to deal with women's cases with utter accuracy and without any discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Hurriyat Radio, a Taliban-run media company, posted a video on its social media channels that shows a gathering of women in Kabul, marking the occasion of IWD. In the video, the female speaker says: “Those [women] who left the country do not represent us.” The speaker also expresses appreciation for the Taliban's decree on women's rights. The women seen in the video wear moderate clothing, which makes it different from other pro-Taliban gatherings in the past, where women appeared in top-to-toe black coverings.

Also on 8 March 2024, Taliban supporters held an X space, titled “The celebration of women’s day in the world and massacre of women in Palestine,” where they condemned the commemoration of IWD as an invention of “infidels,” and claimed that women celebrating the day were indifferent to the suffering of women in Palestine. AW also observed several pro-Taliban accounts spreading this same narrative about IWD and the oppressed Palestinian women in Gaza.

Overall, however, there does not appear to have been a coordinated Taliban or pro-Taliban campaign to highlight IWD online activity in 2024. 


With the Taliban’s suppression of women’s protests, and more female activists leaving the country and living in exile, women’s protests, particularly outdoor protests and marches, appear to be losing their momentum within Afghanistan. Similarly, IWD-related protests seem to be fading out, compared with the past two years, as female protesters increasingly fear identification and persecution by the Taliban. They now protest indoors, cover their faces, and obscure their identities more than in the past.

This situation, however, has led to diversification, and the formation of more women’s groups within Afghanistan and abroad. This could potentially translate into new faces taking over the protests inside the country, although with less visibility than before.

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