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‘Even if you decapitate us, we will grow again’

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Dozens of people, including many women, took to the streets of Kabul on Tuesday September 7 to protest against Pakistan’s involvement in the restoration of the Taliban. Pakistan has been accused of helping the Taliban take control of the Panjshir valley, the last bastion of opposition in Afghanistan. Taliban soldiers fired in the air to try to disperse protesters. Two female Observers overcame their fear to take part in the demonstration.

The Taliban announced on September 6 that they had taken control of Panjshir valley in the east of the country, the stronghold of the resistance group National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA). The opposition movement did however claim to still hold ‘strategic positions’ in the valley.

video © Youtube

A group of protesters head towards the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul on September 7. ‘Down with Pakistan, down with terrorists!” they chanted. Video sent to us by one of our Observers in Kabul. 

Many Afghans accuse neighbouring Pakistan of having carried out drone strikes on Panjshir to help Taliban leaders occupy the valley and kill opposition fighters.  

On Tuesday, dozens of journalists and activists, men and women, organised a protest march that ended up in front of the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul.

‘When we were together and singing together, we felt strong, we weren’t afraid anymore’

Our Observer Shamila (not her real name) took part in the demonstration:

A group of female activists planned this protest yesterday in support of the national resistance movement led by Ahmad Massoud in Panjshir province. There were also protesters from Panjshir who were condemning the attacks on their region.

More and more people joined us as we started going towards the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul.

Photos and videos of the protest were shared on social media, and that encouraged more people to join us. At the beginning there were only about 20-30 of us, but at one point there were around a thousand men and women marching [The FRANCE 24 Observers team wasn’t able to independently verify this figure].

We were chanting slogans like ‘Long live Afghanistan!’, ‘Down with Pakistan!’, ‘We want freedom!’ and ‘Even if you decapitate us, we will grow again!’

video © YouTube

Taliban soldiers fire in the air to disperse protesters, September 7. Video sent to us by one of our Observers in Kabul.

The Taliban soldiers’ reactions were violent. They beat us with iron rods. They fired in the air with their rifles to try to make us disperse. But despite this violence, protesters continued to demonstrate in smaller groups in different areas in Kabul.

video © YouTube

A Taliban soldier hits a female protester with an iron rod, September 7. Video sent to us by one of our Observers in Kabul.

We, the female protesters, were obviously horrified by the Taliban’s reaction. But when we were together and we were chanting together, we felt strong; we weren’t afraid any more – even though they were hitting us.

There’s something else that we want Western countries to understand: they shouldn’t recognise the Taliban regime.

‘Afghans have woken up – it’s not the same as 25 years ago’

Baran (not her real name), who also lives in Kabul, says:

A Taliban soldier beat me, an Afghan woman, with an iron rod – why? To defend Pakistanis? They arrested men and women – I don’t know how many exactly – who were with us and we don’t know where they are now. They arrested some journalists too and deleted the photos and videos that they’d taken. They confiscated a lot of people’s mobile phones, and even some protesters’ cars.

The Afghan people have woken up. Afghan women in particular are not the same as 25 years ago. They will no longer accept being submissive and forced to stay cloistered at home. This is our country, and Pakistan has no right to be here. They can’t declare a jihad against Panjshiris, it’s not their business.

The international community has to know that the residents of Panjshir are living in a state of siege. It’s difficult to survive.

Similar demonstrations also took place in other cities in Afghanistan, notably in Herat, in the west of the country.

video © Youtube

‘Down with Pakistan, down with terrorists!’ chant protesters in Herat on September 7. Video sent to us by one of our Observers.

The Taliban has promised that they will allow Afghans who want to leave the country to leave, according to the American Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking during a visit to Qatar on Tuesday.

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The Groucho

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