Afghan women protested in Kabul on Saturday, defying a crackdown on dissent to urge foreign nations not to formally recognise the Taliban government ahead of a UN summit next week.
Since the Taliban surged back to power in 2021, protesters voicing opposition against creeping curbs on women’s rights have been beaten or detained, and security forces have fired in the air to disperse some rallies.
But small groups of women have continued to stage sporadic gatherings.
On Saturday, around 25 marched through a residential area in the Afghan capital ahead of a summit in Doha that the UN says will discuss a “durable way forward” for the country.
“Recognition of Taliban — violation of women’s rights,” the women chanted during the march, which lasted no longer than 10 minutes and passed off without confrontation with security forces.
Other chants included “Afghan people, hostages of Taliban” and “We will fight, we will die, we will take our rights”.
No nation has yet acknowledged the government as legitimate since the Taliban returned to power on the heels of a withdrawal from Afghanistan by US forces in 2021.
A previous Taliban government that ruled from 1996 to 2001 was only granted formal recognition by three nations — Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Diplomats, NGOs and aid agencies are currently deeply divided over the issue.
Some believe the international community might cajole the Taliban into reversing curbs on women’s rights by dangling the prospect of recognition.
Others say even discussing it grants the Taliban some legitimacy at a time when they are squeezing women out of public life.
Last week UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said the Doha meeting starting Monday could see envoys discuss “baby steps” on a path to recognition, albeit with conditions.
“There are some who believe this can never happen. There are others that say, well, it has to happen,” Mohammed said in a talk at Princeton University.
“The Taliban clearly want recognition… and that’s the leverage we have.”
The UN has announced that the “de facto authorities” of Afghanistan have not been invited to the Doha conference.
“Recognition is not an issue,” a spokesman for the world body said Friday.
Protester Shamail Tawana Nasiri, 26, told AFP that any discussion of formal recognition “will give the Taliban motivation”.
“For those of us who are oppressed, and our rights taken away, it increases our concerns.”