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Kabul women’s protest disrupted by Taliban, prominent campaigner detained

In late October, women showcased their academic documents in a Kabul park to protest the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s access to education and work. The women claim the Taliban intimidated them and tore their papers, and journalists were reportedly dispersed and temporarily detained. On November 3, it was reported that the Taliban detained one of the women protesters during a press conference.


4 Nov 2022

On October 31, 2022, a group of around 20 women gathered in Shahr-e-Naw Park, located in PD 10 of Kabul, to exhibit their academic certificates and papers in protest of women’s lack of access to work and education. They claimed to be members of a women's protest group called ‘The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan.’ Women held academic certificates, and several children held placards in front of a banner that showed the name and logo of the protest group.

Figure (left): Women protesters holding academic documents and two children in a rally in Shahr-e-Naw Park, Kabul, October 31, 2022. Figure (right): Women protesters holding documents and standing in front of a banner with the logo and title of 'The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan'.

‘The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan’ or ‘جنبش اصلی زنان مقتدر افغانستان’, previously known as the ‘Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan’, was created by a group of women protesters in December 2021, in tandem with the emergence of at least three other women’s groups: 'The Spontaneous Movement of Women Warriors of Afghanistan', 'Afghan Women's Movement for Justice' and ‘Women's Unity and Solidarity Team’.

In a video, one of the women introduces herself as the former gender specialist of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, saying that she has been jobless for the last year. The protesters say they gathered to show that despite being educated and qualified, they have been denied access to work.

The protester claimed that they had informed the Taliban authorities of the gathering beforehand and that several national and international journalists came to cover it. In several videos and images, women protesters interact with the media.

Another video surfaced on social media showing the presence of Taliban fighters in the location. The fighters can be heard telling the women “To collect these things.” Another armed Taliban member is seen next to a group of women, apparently collecting their documents. Women protesters claimed that the Taliban disrupted their gathering by tearing their papers and threatening them by firing into the air. They said the Taliban's head of PD10 threatened them at gunpoint. Afghan Witness did not find any footage of images of the Taliban’s violence, however, a video shows an armed Taliban member throwing the women’s documents.

According to the women protesters and media reports, the Taliban dispersed and detained journalists who came to cover the gathering and deleted their recordings. In another video, one of the protesters claims that the Taliban fighters followed them on their way home with their vehicles and motorcycles.

According to Azadi, a radio station covering Afghanistan, Kabul Police Spokesperson Khalid Zadran said they prevented the gathering due to security threats.

Figure: Geolocation of the women’s gathering and protest in Shahr-e-Naw Park, Kabul, on October 31, 2022

On November 3, 2022, claims on social media and news reports said that the Taliban detained Zarifa Yaqoubi - a protester and a member of 'The Main Movement of Powerful Women of Afghanistan’ - at a press conference in western Kabul. Yaqoubi had taken part in the protest in the park on October 31. Yaqoubi and her team convened a press conference to announce the formation of a new movement called ‘Afghanistan’s Women Movement for Equality’ on November 3. The Taliban reportedly ousted media from the conference room and collected the mobile phones of the attendees before taking Yaqoubi and four of her male colleagues with them.

Members of ‘The Main Movement of the Powerful Women of Afghanistan’ have been seen in numerous indoor and outdoor protests, especially since there has been a drawdown in demonstrations held by other women’s groups due to the Taliban’s restrictions and alleged detentions of the women protesters. Well-known women protesters, including those previously detained by the Taliban, have left the country. Tamana Zaryab Paryan, who appeared in a video claiming the Taliban had raided her house in January this year, arrived in Germany in early October.

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