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‘We are not afraid’

Speculation is rife about the make-up of a new government, although a senior official said Wednesday that women were unlikely to be included.

Senior leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai—a hardliner in the first Taliban administration—told BBC Pashto in an interview that while women could continue working, there “may not” be a place for them in the cabinet of any future government or any other top post.

In the western city of Herat, some 50 women took to the streets in a rare, defiant protest for the right to work and over the lack of women’s participation in the new government.

“It is our right to have education, work and security,” the protesters chanted in unison, said an AFP journalist who witnessed the protest.

“We are not afraid, we are united,” they added.

Herat is a relatively cosmopolitan city on the ancient silk road near the Iranian border. It is one of the more prosperous in Afghanistan and girls have already returned to school there.

One of the organisers of the protest, Basira Taheri, told AFP she wanted the Taliban to include women in the new cabinet.

“We want the Taliban to hold consultations with us,” Taheri said. “We don’t see any women in their gatherings and meetings.”

Among the 122,000 people who fled Afghanistan in a frenzied US-led airlift that ended on Monday was the first female Afghan journalist to interview a Taliban official live on television.

Speaking to AFP in Qatar, the former anchor for the Tolo News media group said women in Afghanistan were “in a very bad situation”.

“I want to say to the international community—please do anything (you can) for Afghan women,” Beheshta Arghand said.

‘Business below zero’

Women’s rights were not the only major concern in the lead-up to the Taliban’s announcement of a new government.

In Kabul, residents voiced worry over the country’s long-running economic difficulties, now seriously compounded by the militant movement’s takeover.

“With the arrival of the Taliban, it’s right to say that there is security, but business has gone down below zero,” Karim Jan, an electronic goods shop owner, told AFP.

The United Nations warned earlier this week of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan, as it called to ensure that those wanting to flee the new regime still have a way out.

On Wednesday, a Qatar Airways flight landed at the trashed airport in Kabul—a first step towards getting the facility back up and running as a crucial lifeline for aid.

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