Brave Afghan woman stands up to the Taliban with solo protest

Afghanistan: Water cannons used on women in Herat

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A video has emerged showing women in the city of Herat, in western Afghanistan, being sprayed with water cannons at a protest against the Taliban’s banning of female students from the country’s universities. The footage captures the moment a woman is blown to the ground by the force of the jet as fellow protestors huddle behind a wall for safety. 

In a separate video posted online today, female students can be seen entering a classroom to encourage their male counterparts to walk out of exams in protest at the Taliban’s ban.

Despite initially promising a more moderate rule respecting rights for women and minorities when they took power last year, the Taliban have widely implemented their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

They have banned girls from middle school and high school, restricted women from most employment and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public.

Women are also banned from parks and gyms.

On Saturday, the Taliban announced the exclusion of women from NGO work, a move that already has prompted four major international aid agencies to suspend operations in Afghanistan.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said: “No country can develop — indeed survive — socially and economically with half its population excluded.

“These unfathomable restrictions placed on women and girls will not only increase the suffering of all Afghans but, I fear, pose a risk beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

“This latest decree by the de facto authorities will have terrible consequences for women and for all Afghan people.”

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He added: “The ban will significantly impair, if not destroy, the capacity of these NGOs to deliver the essential services on which so many vulnerable Afghans depend.

“Women and girls cannot be denied their inherent rights.

“Attempts by the de facto authorities to relegate them to silence and invisibility will not succeed — it will merely harm all Afghans, compound their suffering, and impede the country’s development.”

Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and Care had been providing essential services and support amid plummeting living conditions before the ban.

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David Miliband, the former foreign secretary who leads the International Rescue Committee, said its female staff were “a lifeline for millions of clients and we cannot work without them”.

Christian Aid said it had paused work while it sought clarity over the announcement, and urged the Taliban to reverse the ban.

“Imposing a ban on female aid workers will only curtail our ability to help the growing number of people in need, and risks compounding the dire humanitarian crisis that women and girls face,” Ray Hasan from Christian Aid said.

Islamic Relief said its female staff were vital in providing essential healthcare, food and supporting widows and orphans.

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