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AFGHANISTAN: Taliban use water cannon on women protesting against university ban

TALIBAN security forces have used a water cannon to disperse crowds protesting against the ban on university education for women, witnesses said, as the decision by the government continued to cause anger in Afghanistan and beyond.

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Tuesday banned female students from attending universities effective immediately. Women have since demonstrated in major cities in a rare sign of domestic protest since the Taliban seized power last year.

According to witnesses in the western city of Herat, about two dozen women were heading to the provincial governor’s house on Saturday to protest against the ban, chanting: “Education is our right,” when they were pushed back by security forces firing the water cannon.

Video shared with the Associated Press shows the women screaming and hiding in a side street to escape the water cannon. They then resume their protest, with chants of “Disgraceful!”

One of the protest organisers, Maryam, said between 100 and 150 women took part in the protest, moving in small groups from different parts of the city toward a central meeting point. She did not give her last name for fear of reprisals.

“There was security on every street, every square, armoured vehicles and armed men,” she said.

“When we started our protest, in Tariqi Park, the Taliban took branches from the trees and beat us. But we continued our protest. They increased their security presence. Around 11am they brought out the water cannon.”

A spokesman for the provincial governor, Hamidullah Mutawakil, claimed there were only four or five protesters. “They had no agenda, they just came here to make a film,” he said, without mentioning the violence against the women or the use of the water cannon.

There has been widespread international condemnation of the university ban, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as warnings from the US and the G7 that the policy will have consequences for the Taliban.

An official in the Taliban government, minister of higher education Nida Mohammad Nadim, spoke about the ban for the first time on Thursday in an interview with Afghan state television.

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Naija Times