‘We will not surrender’
More than a dozen Afghan women protested briefly in Kabul yesterday, calling for their rights to be recognised on the eve of the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Afghan women have been squeezed out of public life since the Taliban's return to power in August last year, but small groups have staged flash protests that are usually quickly shut down, sometimes violently.
"We will fight for our rights to the end and we will not surrender," read a sign in the Dari language carried by one of the protesters. They chanted "women, life, solidarity" as they marched.
Most of the group wore dark sunglasses, their heads covered with a veil and a surgical mask obscuring their face.
Taliban fighters kept a close eye on proceedings, while cars carrying intelligence service officials circled the neighbourhood.
Organisers said later that the Taliban had briefly detained three of the protesters, releasing them after they were "humiliated and insulted".
"The Taliban are very afraid of women's actions, even small ones... so they try to scare women into staying at home by arresting and imprisoning them," one organiser, who asked not to be identified, told AFP.
"Under Taliban rule, Afghan women are not recognised as human beings. Today, women cannot go to work, study, or even breathe easily."
Most women government workers have lost their jobs -- or are being paid a pittance to stay at home -- since the Taliban returned to power. Women have also been barred from travelling without a male relative, and must cover up with a burqa or hijab when outside the home.
This month the Taliban barred women from entering parks, funfairs, gyms and public baths.
Schools for teenage girls have also been shuttered across most of the country.
On Wednesday, telecoms officials in the central province of Uruzgan said women were no longer allowed to buy mobile phone SIM cards because shops did not have segregated areas for them to be served.
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is usually marked around the world on November 25.
According to the UN, violence against women and girls remains the most widespread human rights violation in the world, affecting one in three women -- a figure largely unchanged over the past 10 years.