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Blood drive to mark Women’s Day halted, Afghan activists say

Organizers say the event was viewed as a protest by Taliban authorities
Afghan parents carry their children, as they leave the malnutrition ward floor, at the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The Taliban halted a blood donation drive by women activists to mark International Women’s Day on Tuesday, activists said.

Speaking outside a Kabul hospital with seven other activists, Monesa Mubarez, the head of a women’s rights movement, said the group had intended to stage a protest. Because of the Taliban’s brutal crackdown on women’s rights protesters, they decided to donate blood instead.

The campaign had been thwarted by the Taliban-appointed hospital director at Jumhuriat Hospital in Kabul when hospital staff learned it was to mark women’s day, she said.

“They saw it as a protest,” Mubarez said.

She said coordination had been made beforehand, but “when we came here to start our campaign, the head of the hospital, who is one of the (Taliban) didn’t give us permission,” she said.

Attempts to convince the city’s central blood bank were also futile. “They also didn’t give us permission, so our campaign was stopped,” she said.

The Taliban did not respond to requests for comment.

The blood campaign was a symbolic gesture, Mubarez said, to show solidarity with Afghan women, many of whom have limited access to health facilities. “We wanted to send a message, we will not be silent,” she said.

The Taliban has maintained it is committed to upholding the rights of women according to their interpretation of Islam. Their policies and pressure from the international community have afforded some freedoms compared to the first time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

The Taliban said girls will be able to return to high-school later this month. Women are also permitted to attend university and work in some sectors, chiefly education and health.

But they also face restrictions. Activists protesting in favor of women’s rights have been beaten and arrested. The Taliban leadership has not appointed women to the executive leadership.

“The Islamic Emirate is committed to upholding the Sharia rights of all Afghan women. International Women’s Day is a great opportunity for our Afghan women to demand their legitimate rights,” tweeted Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. “We protect and defend the rights of our Afghan women, God willing.”

—Rahim Faiez And Samya Kullab, The Associated Press

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