A dramatic photo showing a Taliban fighter pointing his gun at a woman at a female-led protest in Afghanistan has gone viral on social media.
The woman, who is seen carrying just a bottle of water, stands her ground, unfazed, in front of the Taliban fighter. Many other protestors can be seen holding placards behind her.
Several social media users praised the courage shown by the woman in the face of a direct, physical threat.
Many said the photo encapsulates the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, where women and other gender minorities stand to fare the worst under a regime that has a poor track record of enforcing basic freedoms for them.
Building a wall of resistance within weeks of the Taliban wresting control of the country, Afghan women have launched powerful protests in national capital Kabul, even as militant fighters stood guard every few kilometres and attempted to control the demonstrations.
Visuals from the conflict-torn country showed hundreds of women on Tuesday hitting the streets, protesting neighbouring country Pakistan’s alleged involvement in Afghanistan’s internal administrative affairs.
In some pockets of the city, Taliban fighters fired multiple rounds in the air to break up the protests and scare citizens from participating.
— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) September 7, 2021
“More power to Afghan women. They rejuvenated peaceful activism and demanded their rights despite guns pointed at them,” said one user on Twitter.
— Munaza Shaheed (@MunazaShaheed) September 7, 2021
Another user dubbed the Taliban fighter pointing the gun at the woman a “coward” and lauded how the force from the militant group has not stopped the public movement.
— Zahra Rahimi (@ZahraSRahimi) September 7, 2021
Photos from the protest showed the progress Afghanistan has made in the last 20 years, said journalist Malali Bashir.
“Amid arrests and the Taliban firing warning shots, Afghan women and men kept asking for ‘rights’ and ‘independence’. ‘We won’t back off,’ they said,” she said on Twitter.
Women participating alongside men in anti #Pakistan protest today shows the progress #Afghanistan have made in last 20 years.
Amid arrests and the Taliban firing warning shots, Afghan women and men kept asking for “rights” and “independence”. “We won’t back off,” they said.
— Malali Bashir (@MalaliBashir) September 7, 2021
Several women took to the streets knowing the possible risk of physical harm from the Taliban, a group that had not allowed women in public spaces during its last reign.
BBC anchor and correspondent Yalda Hakim, in a tweet, quoted a young woman who told her why she was protesting against the Taliban.
"Like me, hundreds, thousands of women & girls around #Afghanistan are ready to die. This is our destiny... they are not able to remove us, to take our rights, we will continue our protests even if we die" A young woman in Kabul tells me why she was out on the streets today. pic.twitter.com/Bt0N04h8dB
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) September 7, 2021
The protests are being viewed as the first instance of staunch opposition to the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, which announced the formation of its all-male cabinet on Tuesday, nearly a month after the US left Afghan soil, ending its 20 year war in the region. So far, no one was reported injured in the protests.
The all-male cabinet of militant fighters sparked further protests in the country on Wednesday.
In its previous rule, the ultra-religious Taliban barred girls and women from attending school and working. Taliban members would flog those breaking the rules, with many public executions taking place as well.
Shortly after capturing Kabul by force, a Taliban spokesperson said women should stay indoors as many Taliban fighters were not yet “trained” not to harm them.