September 12, 2021 11:16:29 am
Hundreds of women, many wearing full-length robes, their faces obscured by black veils, filled the auditorium of a university in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday holding signs — many of them in English — in support of the Taliban and its strict interpretation of Islam, including separate education for men and women.
The Taliban said the demonstration at Shaheed Rabbani Education University, which followed anti-Taliban protests last week by Afghan women demanding equal rights, was organized by female university lecturers and students.
Since the United States and its allies departed Kabul on Aug. 30, leaving Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban, the country’s women have been at the forefront of protests demanding that their rights continue to be respected.
Taliban leaders have responded to those protests with violence, beating participants, including women, and insisting that anyone taking to the streets for a public demonstration must first be granted approval from their caretaker government.
The Ministry of Education of the acting Taliban government said that the women at Saturday’s pro-Islamist demonstration had asked for and received their permission to hold the event.
“Unlike other demonstrations in Kabul, this is the second all-women protest which was nonviolent and the journalists were allowed to cover the protest freely,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The women also welcomed the scheme of separate classes for boys and girls in all universities and institutes and pledged that they would be working for strengthening the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan,” the ministry said.
But the presence of Taliban fighters, the efficiency with which images of the event and official statements were disseminated and its timing — on Sept. 11 — suggest that the demonstration was not just approved by the Taliban but potentially orchestrated by it.
Standing at a podium decorated with large white flags, some of the women taking part in Saturday’s demonstration criticized the recent anti-Taliban protests, insisting that women should go along with the Taliban’s strict policy that women wear a full-body covering.
One woman said anti-Taliban protesters joined last week’s marches just to become famous in the West.