KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The United Nations sounded the alarm on Friday over the Taliban crackdown on peaceful protests, many by women demanding equal rights and journalists covering such events.
In one case, two Afghan video journalists were beaten with iron bars.
Tagi Daryabi said he and a colleague were covering a protest earlier this week of women demanding their rights from the new Afghan Taliban leadership. Taliban fighters arrested the two journalists, tied their hands and dragged them to a police station in Kabul’s Third District.
The 22-year-old photographer told The Associated Press the first thing he heard at the station were screams coming from a nearby room. Several fighters then started beating him and his colleague Neamatullah Naqdi, 28.
At one point, Daryabi said he was beaten continuously for 10 minutes. “I couldn’t think. I didn’t know if I was going to be killed or if I would survive, ”he said, his face and body still scarred.
“We call on the Taliban to immediately end the use of force and arbitrary detention of those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and of journalists covering the protests,” the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said. man in a statement. Friday.
He said there were reports of increased use of force by the Taliban “against those involved in or reporting on the protests.”
Discouraged, Daryabi said he would return to the streets to cover another protest.
“It’s very dangerous for me to stand up to them. The Taliban say the media is free, but how can they say that when they are beating me and my colleagues? he said. “We can’t just stop our work.”
Daryabi and Naqdi work for the small private newspaper Etilaat Roz, which also broadcasts video information on a YouTube channel.
In the chaotic days following the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, thousands of people, including women and young journalists, flocked to Kabul airport desperate to escape the militant rule.
In the weeks that followed, the women organized multiple protests for their rights, almost all violently dispersed by Taliban fighters. Two men were killed last week when the Taliban opened fire on a women’s rights protest in the western city of Herat. Journalists were harassed during the rallies, including another cameraman who was beaten.
Despite Taliban abuse, Duryabi said he was not ready to abandon his homeland.
“I will see if the Taliban continue like this, but if they change and bring a face that protects the media, I will live here. My life is in Afghanistan. But I don’t know, because today I can’t guarantee anything, ”he said.
Daryabi’s newspaper and other media say it is not clear whether the heaviness of some local police commanders is sanctioned by the Taliban media wing. This office showed a more engaging side, welcoming foreign journalists and allowing some female presenters to stay on the air on the country’s most popular television station, TOLO TV.
“My personal feeling is that there seems to be a disconnect between the leadership and (…) the base commanders, who do it on the ground,” said Saad Mohsini, executive director of Moby Media Group, owner of TOLO TV. “The way they behave may not reflect official Taliban media policy, but rather the attitude of this particular commander.”
Etilaat Roz editor-in-chief Khaadim Karimi, who went to the police station to rescue his reporters, said a Taliban fighter tried to prevent the beatings of the two journalists by his comrades.
“I saw his humanity. He tried to help, ”Karimi said. Daryabi and Naaqdi were released after about four hours.
Mohsini said the media need guarantees and protection. He called for a commission comprising both Taliban information ministry officials and media representatives to hear complaints from both sides.
Mohsini, of whom TOLO TV employs hundreds, says he has remained engaged with the Taliban leadership as they advance.
Governments around the world are deeply skeptical. In their eyes, the new all-Taliban interim cabinet defied the movement’s promises to be inclusive. Instead, activists seem to have embraced the leadership of the 1990s, when their harsh interpretation of Islam denied women’s rights and severely restricted the media.
One difference now is that these leaders have global exposure that they did not have during their pre-ruling period.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, for example, rarely left the old core of the movement, Kandahar in the south, when he last reigned. In recent years, he was the Taliban’s chief negotiator, stood on the same stage as world leaders, struck a heavily weighted deal with the United States in favor of the Taliban, and is now the Deputy Prime Minister.
It was Baradar who helped secure the departure from Kabul Thursday and Friday for US citizens and Afghan green card holders on the first commercial flights.
Yet hundreds of Afghans from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif are waiting to leave the country. But the Taliban refused to leave their planes, demanding their papers. The Taliban say only Afghans with proper travel documents will be allowed to leave.
The Afghans stranded in Mazar-e-Sharif, many of whom worked for the US and German military, fear they will be forgotten.