The United Nations has condemned the Taliban’s increasingly violent response against peaceful demonstrators in Afghanistan, as members of the armed group used live ammunitions, batons and whips, resulting in the killing of at least four protesters.
“We call on the Taliban to immediately cease the use of force towards, and the arbitrary detention of those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the journalists covering the protests,” Ravina Shamdasani, UN rights spokeswoman, told a briefing in Geneva on Friday, adding that reports show house-to-house searches for those who participated in the protests.
Shamdasani also said journalists have faced intimidation. “One journalist was reported to have been told, as he was being kicked in the head that you are lucky you have not been beheaded,” she said.
A growing number of demonstrations have emerged across the country since the Taliban seized power on August 15 in a lightning-fast offensive that removed the Western-backed government of former President Ashraf Ghani as US troops withdrew from the country after nearly 20 years of war.
The group – which executed people in stadiums and chopped off the hands of thieves in their previous stint of power from 1996 to 2001 – has repeatedly pledged a more moderate brand of rule. But they have shown clear signs that they will not stand for any resistance against their rule.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, hundreds of protesters took to the street of the capital Kabul chanting anti-Pakistan slogans and calling for “freedom” as many Afghans fear that the new government will mark a swift U-turn on women’s rights and freedom of the press.
The last lot of demonstrators came after the Taliban announced the composition of an interim government dominated by members of the group’s old guard, without any women.
Shamdasani referred to reports that the Taliban beat and detained protesters in Kabul this week, including several women and up to 15 journalists.
Pictures posted by local newspaper Etilaatroz showed physical evidence of floggings and beatings with cables that two of its journalists – Taqi Daryabi and Nematullah Naqdi – were subject to after being arrested while covering a women’s protest.
Daryabi’s lower back, upper legs, and face were covered with deep red lesions. Naqdi’s left arm, upper back, upper legs, and face were also covered in red welts. Two witnesses, who spoke to Al Jazeera on Thursday, said a male protester also left one of the cells “barely” walking.
Following a demonstration of hundreds in Herat, two bodies were brought to the city’s central hospital from the site of the protest, a doctor told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“They all have bullet wounds,” he reportedly said.
The Taliban moved to snuff out any further civil unrest late on Wednesday, saying protests would need prior authorisation from the justice ministry.
Such ruling stood in stark contrast to previous statements made by the ruling group pledging that private media would have continued to be free and independent.
The following day, they ordered telecommunications companies to block internet on mobile phone service in some areas of Kabul, Shamdasani said.