Hundreds of people demonstrated in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Tuesday against what they claim are Taliban orders for citizens to leave their homes on the eve of winter.
Protesters marched in front of the governor’s office in the city after 3,500 people living in a government-owned housing development were given three days to leave, according to two protesters who spoke with a local journalist over the phone.
The protesters, who are also locals, claimed they were not given reasons for the expulsion order.
“I have nowhere else to go,” one protester said, declining to give her name for fear of retaliation. She stated that she was impoverished as a result of the recent conflicts that had resulted in the deaths of many members of her family. The woman stated that all of the families in the area had built their homes with the little money they had and could not afford to move.
According to eyewitnesses, the Taliban harassed a number of protesting women carrying the red, black, and green Afghan national flag. Protesters, including women and children, are seen on local television blocking a road as they march down it.
According to Mohammad Ibrahim, a civil activist in Kandahar, the Ferqa-e Kohna area on the outskirts of the provincial capital is government-owned, and land was distributed to government employees under the previous government. According to Ibrahim, there were most likely irregularities and corruption involved in the transfer of properties, resulting in illegal sales of property to residents. He stated that some of the families had been residing in Ferqa-e Kohna for more than 20 years.
According to a local news station, the Taliban prevented a local journalist from doing his job and beaten another while he was covering the demonstration.
Protests against Taliban rule have erupted across Afghanistan since the militant group took control of the country last month, following the withdrawal of US troops. The Taliban has reacted violently to the protests, with reports of journalists and activists being detained and abused.
Last week, journalists from an Afghan online news outlet reported being detained while covering a protest by Afghan women in Kabul against Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan and for equal rights. The two men claimed they were taken inside and severely beaten after protesting outside a police station.
Following the announcement of a hardline, male-only interim government, Taliban fighters used whips and sticks against a group of women protesting in Kabul last week. Taliban leaders on Twitter dismissed videos of violence at women-led protests that were being circulated online. Muhammad Jalal, the head of the Cultural Commission, stated that these protests were “a deliberate attempt to cause problems,” adding that “these people don’t even represent 0.1 percent of Afghanistan.”
The Taliban have also attempted to limit protests, and a statement issued last week by the Taliban interior ministry set strict conditions for any future demonstrations, including prior approval from the Ministry of Justice. Last week, the United Nations urged the Taliban to “immediately cease use of force against, and arbitrary detention of, those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and journalists covering the protests.”
The Taliban’s response to peaceful marches in Afghanistan has been “increasingly violent,” including the use of live ammunition, batons, and whips, resulting in the deaths of at least four people, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani during a press briefing in Geneva on Friday.
Even before the Taliban retook power, protracted conflict, poverty, back-to-back droughts, economic decline, and the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated an already dire situation in which 18 million Afghans – nearly half the population – needed assistance, according to UN agencies.
With winter approaching, many people may run out of food by the end of the month, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned earlier this week, adding that poverty rates had risen dramatically since the Taliban’s re-election.