Hundreds of people protested in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar Tuesday, against what they say are Taliban orders for citizens to leave their homes on the eve of winter.
Protesters marched in front of the governor’s office in the city after 3,500 people living in a government-owned residential area were given three days to leave, two protesters told a local journalist working for CNN over the phone.
The protesters, who are also residents of the area, said they were not given reasons for the expulsion order.
“I have nowhere else to go,” said one protester, who did not want to give her name out of fear of reprisal. She said she was poor after losing many members of her family in recent conflicts.
All the families in the area built up their houses with the little money they had, and could not afford to move, the woman said.
A number of protesting women carrying the red, black and green Afghan national flag were harassed by the Taliban, according to eyewitnesses. Local television footage shows protesters, including women and children, blocking a road as they marched down it.
Mohammad Ibrahim, a civil activist in Kandahar, said the Ferqa-e Kohna area, on the edge of the provincial capital, was a government-owned area and land was distributed to government employees under the previous government. Ibrahim said there were likely irregularities and corruption involved in the transfer of properties, resulting in the illegal sales of property to residents. Some of the families had been living in Ferqa-e Kohna for more than 20 years, he said.
Taliban spokesmen could not be reached for comment on the evictions.
There were reports the Taliban had stopped a local journalist from doing his work and beaten another while he was covering the demonstration, according to local news station, Millat Zagh Radio. CNN cannot independently verify the incidents.
Protests against Taliban rule have broken out in several parts of Afghanistan since the militant group took control of the country last month, following the US withdrawal of troops. The Taliban has cracked down on the protests, often violently, with reports of journalists and activists being detained and abused.
Last week, journalists from the Afghan online news outlet EtilaatRoz told CNN they were detained while covering a protest by Afghan women against Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan and demanding equal rights in the capital Kabul. The protest was outside a police station and the two men said they were taken inside and severely beaten.
During another protest last week, Taliban fighters used whips and sticks against a group of women protesting in Kabul, following the announcement of a hardline, male-only interim government.
Taliban leaders on Twitter dismissed videos being shared online of violence at the women-led protests. The head of the Cultural Commission, Muhammad Jalal, said that these demonstrations were “a deliberate attempt to cause problems,” adding that “these people don’t even represent 0.1% of Afghanistan.”
The Taliban have also sought to curtail protests, and a statement issued by the Taliban interior ministry last week set out strict conditions for any future demonstrations, including prior approval from the Ministry of Justice.
The United Nations last week called on the Taliban “to immediately cease the use of force towards, and the arbitrary detention of, those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the journalists covering the protests.”
Taliban response to peaceful marches in Afghanistan has been “increasingly violent” and has included the use of live ammunition, batons and whips, causing the death of at least four people, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani said Friday during a press briefing in Geneva.
Even before the Taliban’s return to power, protracted conflict, poverty, back-to-back droughts, economic decline and the coronavirus pandemic had worsened an already dire situation in which 18 million Afghans – almost half of the population – were in need of aid, according to UN agencies.
With winter now approaching, many people could run out of food by the end of the month, UN Secretary General António Guterres said earlier this week, adding that poverty rates had spiraled since the Taliban’s return to power.
CNN is not naming the Afghan journalist who contributed to this story for security reasons.