Afghanistan: Shots fired at women's protest march as Taliban break up demonstration

ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports on the latest developments in Afghanistan

A protest march by Afghan women through Kabul was brought to an abrupt end on Saturday after Taliban forces fired shots into the air.

The protesters are the latest to take to the street in the capital to demand equal rights from the new rules of Afghanistan.

The Taliban have promised an inclusive government and a more moderate form of Islamic rule than when they last ruled the country from 1996 to 2001.

But many Afghans, especially women, are deeply skeptical and ITV News has already heard reports of the Taliban torturing women in the streets.

The women’s march, the second in as many days in Kabul, began peacefully.

Demonstrators laid a wreath outside Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry to honour Afghan soldiers who died fighting the Taliban before marching on to the presidential palace.

As the group reached the presidential palace, however, a dozen Taliban special forces ran into the crowd, firing in the air and sending women fleeing.

One woman told The Associated Press, they also fired tear gas.

What next for Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban?

For much of the past two weeks, Taliban officials have been holding meetings among themselves, amid reports of differences among them emerging.

Early on Saturday, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence chief Gen. Faiez Hameed made a surprise visit to Kabul.

It wasn’t immediately clear what he had to say to the Taliban leadership but the Pakistani intelligence service has a strong influence on the Taliban.

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: AP

Faiez’ visit comes as the world waits to see what kind of government the Taliban will eventually announce, seeking one that is inclusive and ensures protection of women’s rights and the country’s minorities.

The Taliban have promised a broad-based government and have held talks with former president Hamid Karzai and the former government’s negotiation chief Abdullah Abdullah.

But the makeup of the new government is uncertain and it was unclear whether hard-line ideologues among the Taliban will win the day - and whether the rollbacks feared by the demonstrating women will occur.

How has Afghanistan changed already?

Taliban members have whitewashed murals in the country and boarded over beauty salons and shops.

Posters promoting health care have been painted over.

They have instead been replaced with slogans congratulating Afghans on their victory.

A Taliban cultural commission spokesman, Ahmadullah Muttaqi, tweeted that the murals were painted over “because they are against our values. They were spoiling the minds of the mujahedeen and instead we wrote slogans that will be useful to everyone.”