KABUL: Demonstrations without permission have become illegal in Afghanistan after the appointment of an interim Taliban government, which on Wednesday night cited the security of protesters as the main reason for the ban.
The Taliban unveiled their Cabinet on Tuesday, ending weeks of a power vacuum after the previous administration collapsed when the group took control of Afghanistan and seized Kabul on Aug. 15.
Despite assurances last month of their aim to form an inclusive government, the list of caretaker Cabinet members announced by the Taliban was dominated by the group’s old guard. Some of its members, including Prime Minister Mohammed Hasan Akhund, are on a UN sanctions list. No women have been included in the Cabinet.
Unthinkable during the previous Taliban regime in 1996-2001 when most freedoms were curtailed, demonstrations against their rule have continued since last month, attracting many women protesters. The protests have turned violent in recent days.
While demonstrators and journalists have accused Taliban security forces of violence, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the new interior minister, said that “some groups” were threatening the security of protesters and issued a decree making demonstrations illegal unless permission had been granted by the Justice Ministry.
“The Ministry of Interior of the Islamic Emirate informs all citizens that unless the entire legal process has been completed, no one should protest and disturb citizens,” Haqqani said. “Some groups are threatening the security of protesters to achieve their nefarious political goals.”
Journalists covering the protests said, however, that the violence had come from Taliban security forces. Two Etilaat Roz reporters covering a protest in western Kabul on Wednesday by women demanding the right to work and education said that they had been arrested by the Taliban and beaten.
“Yesterday, our colleagues went to the third district to cover the women’s protest in Karte Char,” Etilaat Roz chief editor, Zaki Daryabi, told Arab News on Thursday. “The Taliban arrested them for this issue (of) covering this protest. Two of my colleagues, Taqi Daryabi and Nemat Naqdi, were beaten. When I sent our senior editor they also detained him.”
No large protests were seen in Kabul on Thursday as internet services were cut off in parts of the city.
Those planning to take to the streets despite the ban said that the partial blackout was to prevent them from mobilizing.
“Today is September 9, the day when Afghans lost Ahmad Shah Massoud. People were planning to hold a mass protest,” Atifa Mohammadi, one of the protesters, told Arab News.
Massoud was a famed Afghan commander from Panjshir who defended the region from Soviet forces, and in the 1990s led an offensive against the first Taliban regime. He was assassinated on Sept. 9, 2001.
Massoud’s son, Ahmad Massoud, was leading anti-Taliban forces in Panjshir until the region’s fall earlier this week.
While Taliban spokesmen Ahmadullah Wasiq, Bilal Karimi and Enamullah Samangani declined to comment on whether the Internet block was related to the planned protest, telecommunications provider Roshan said that the partial blackout was due to a technical glitch.
There are some technical problems with the Internet,” said Roshan customer service officer, Hekmatullah Halimi. “Our teams are working to fix it. This problem will be solved tonight.”