Hundreds of women, wearing full-length burqas, marched in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, holding signs in support of the Taliban, Afghan media videos showed on Saturday.
Dozens of women, covered from head to toe and their faces veiled, demonstrated outside and inside Shaheed Rabbani Education University, holding pro-Taliban banners and the group's flag.
The Taliban had recently instituted gender segregation at educational facilities where male and female students were separated by curtains.
Women demonstrators on the street were surrounded by Taliban fighters armed with automatic rifles and did not allow bystanders to talk to the women.
The demonstration came on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US which prompted the “war on terror” and the American invasion of Afghanistan.
The female protestors’ appearance brings back to mind the Taliban hardline era of 1996-2001, when women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male escort, had to be veiled, and were not allowed to work at most jobs except in healthcare.
Since seizing control of Afghanistan on August 15, the Taliban launched a charm offensive to rehabilitate their hardline image, promising amnesty to foreign government employees and vowing to protect the rights of women, as allowed within the limits of Islamic law, Sharia.
However, women activists and former female political leaders said they expected to be treated as “second class” citizens at best.
The Taliban’s newly announced cabinet also doesn’t include a single woman and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was apparently disbanded.
The pro-Taliban women’s march comes days after women protested in the streets demanding their rights be protected, to be allowed to return to their jobs and to be treated as equals.
A pro-Taliban female protestor told AFP: “We are against those women who are protesting on the streets, claiming they are representative of women. Is it freedom to like the last government? No, it is not freedom. The last government were misusing women. They were recruiting women just by their beauty.”
The hardline group banned protests it did not approve of, and the UN said that the Taliban used violence to disperse protests it didn’t authorize.