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Protestors move indoors to avoid Taliban

Following the Taliban’s quasi-ban on demonstrations, Afghan protesters have found new ways to draw attention to their cause.


16 Nov 2021

In the last few weeks, multiple women-led protests took place in a number of locations in Afghanistan, continuing a trend seen in recent weeks. Protests took place for the first time in Bamiyan, with a video showing a small group of protestors calling for women to not be excluded from Afghan society and for the reopening of girls’ schools and colleges. Protests were also held at several sites in Kabul.

While the number of protesters remains relatively small, the Taliban still appear to be attempting to suppress women-led protests. Afghan Witness (AW) was able to verify an incident in Kabul where the Taliban used a large convoy to block the protesters, citing a security threat. Two short videos posted on social media show the convoy (Twitter) and forces at the protest (Twitter). AW has geolocated the protest to Darulaman Road, in front of the Cure Hospital and the Women’s Sanatorium of Kabul.

Figure 1: Verification of protest location; still from the protest video (left) compared to Facebook image of Cure Hospital (right).

Figure 2: Geolocation of Taliban convoy and female protesters blocked.

Following multiple incidents of the Taliban disrupting public protest, particularly those led by women, activists have started using a new tactic of holding protests indoors in private spaces, such as homes and offices, and sharing these images on social media to gather traction.

While the trend surfaced last week, this week saw more notable examples, including a protest by journalists in Kabul calling for freedom of speech, and a protest in Kabul calling for the reopening of girls' schools, part of a campaign by PenPath, a volunteer group focused on education. The PenPath Twitter account posted multiple images of campaigners holding small and individual protests in private spaces.

In September, the Taliban moved to tighten its regulations surrounding protests, and banned any demonstrations that have not had approval from the group. This includes the gathering itself, as well as any slogans used. The Taliban warned that those who fail to secure permission before any protests will face “severe legal consequences’”.

Since the fall of Kabul on 15 August, demonstrators have campaigned for women’s rights and greater freedoms more generally. However, they have often been met with violence and resistance from Taliban fighters, who according to a UN report, have used batons, whips, and live ammunition against protesters.

Despite the restrictions, protests show no sign of disappearing anytime soon in Afghanistan - they are simply being held in private spaces, as well as in public ones.

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