(CNN) – A group of Afghan activists staged a small protest in Kabul, controlled by the Taliban, on Friday to demand equal rights and the full participation of women in the political life of Afghanistan, as confirmed by CNN.
Despite the risk, a group called the Women’s Political Participation Network marched down the street in front of the Afghan Ministry of Finance, chanting slogans and holding banners demanding participation in the Government of Afghanistan, and demanding constitutional rights.
The footage showed a brief confrontation between a Taliban guard and some of the women, and a man’s voice was heard saying “Go away!” Before the chanting resumed.
The rally was relatively small, video of the scene – broadcast live by the group – showed a few dozen protesters, but it represented an unusual public challenge to the Taliban regime.
The extremist group is engaging in internal discussions about leadership formation in Afghanistan, but has already pointed out that working women must stay home, and jihadists have in some cases ordered women to leave their jobs.
Taliban leaders publicly insist that women will play a prominent role in society and have access to education. But the group’s public statements about adhering to its interpretation of Islamic values have stoked fears of a return to the harsh policies of the Taliban regime of two decades ago, when women virtually disappeared from public life.
Some Afghan women are already staying home out of fear for their safety, and some families are buying burqas that cover them completely for their relatives.
The rally in Kabul comes a day after women staged a similar rally in the western Afghan city of Herat. At that protest, the women held up a large poster that read: “No government can last without the support of women.” Our demands: the right to education and the right to work in all areas. “
Lina Haidari, one of the protesters at the Herat protest, said that “the rights and achievements of women, for which we have worked and fought for more than 20 years, should not be ignored” under the Taliban government, according to a video of the event from Getty Images.
“I mean 20 years ago I was forced to stay home for the crime of being a student,” Haidari said in the images collected by the agency. “And now, 20 years later, for the crime of being a teacher and a woman.”
The protests come amid growing fears about security under the Taliban regime. A prominent Afghan activist said she did not participate in the Herat rally due to a direct threat. He spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, fearing that even expressing interest in the rally could be subject to retaliation.
Last month, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that women should not go to work for their own safety, undermining the group’s efforts for convincing international observers that the group would be more tolerant of women than the last time they were in power.
Mujahid said the stay-at-home orientation would be temporary and allow the group to find ways to ensure that women are not “treated disrespectfully” or “God forbid, hurt.” He admitted that the move was necessary because Taliban soldiers “keep changing and are not trained.”
Concern for the fate of women led the World Bank to announce that same day the suspension of financial aid to the country, which is facing liquidity problems.
In the first months of the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, women became increasingly isolated from society and became targets of harassment and attacks, including the high-profile murder of three journalists in March.
In early July, insurgents entered the Azizi Bank offices in the southern city of Kandahar and ordered nine women who worked there to leave, Reuters reported. The cashiers were told that their male relatives would take their place.
Pashtana Durrani, Founder and CEO of Learn, a non-profit agency focused on education and women’s rights, said – last month– that she had no more tears for her country: “We have been crying over the fall of Afghanistan for a long time. So I don’t feel very well. On the contrary, I feel very hopeless.”