Taliban forces have fired pepper spray at a group of women protesting in Afghanistan’s capital to demand rights to work and education.
Since seizing control of the country by force in August, the Taliban authorities have imposed creeping restrictions on Afghans, especially on women.
About 20 women gathered in front of Kabul University on Sunday, chanting “equality and justice” and carrying banners that read “women’s rights, human rights”, an AFP correspondent reported.
The protest was later dispersed by the Taliban fighters, who arrived at the scene in several vehicles, three of the protesters told AFP.
“When we were near Kabul University three Taliban vehicles came, and fighters from one of the vehicles used pepper spray on us,” said one woman, who asked not to be named for security reasons. “My right eye started to burn. I told one of them: ‘Shame on you,’ and then he pointed his gun at me.”
Two other protesters said that one of the women had to be taken to hospital after the spray caused an allergic reaction in her eyes and face.
An AFP correspondent saw a fighter confiscate a mobile phone from a man who was filming the demonstration.
The hardline Islamist group have banned unsanctioned protests and have frequently intervened to forcefully break up rallies demanding rights for women.
The Taliban authorities have blocked female public sector employees from returning to work, many secondary schools have still not reopened for girls and public universities are shut. Long-distance trips for women who are not accompanied by a close male relative have been banned.
The authorities have also issued guidelines that prevent television channels from broadcasting serials featuring female actors.
Many women are living in hiding, fearful of a regime notorious for human rights abuses during the Taliban’s first stint in power between 1996 and 2001.