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Taliban allow protest calling for Afghan assets to be released

By AFP
21 December 2021   |   11:07 am
Around 200 Afghans marched in Kabul Tuesday to demand the release of billions of dollars of assets frozen by the international community -- a rare protest allowed by the Taliban as the country battles a major economic crisis.

People hold a banner reading ‘Let us eat’ before marching on the street during a protest in Kabul on December 21, 2021, as the country struggles with a deep economic crisis. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

Around 200 Afghans marched in Kabul Tuesday to demand the release of billions of dollars of assets frozen by the international community — a rare protest allowed by the Taliban as the country battles a major economic crisis.

There were no women in Tuesday’s march, organised by a little-known group called the Afghan People’s Movement which in the past has held peace rallies in the capital.

The Taliban have outlawed protests unless approved, cracking down hard on several demonstrations held by women clamouring for the right to jobs and education.

Tuesday’s march clearly had the blessing of Afghanistan’s new rulers, with Taliban social media accounts featuring multiple images and video clips saying participants spoke for ordinary citizens.

“Let us eat” read one banner carried by a marcher near a square in central Kabul.

“Our main demand is that the United States should release our assets as soon as possible,” organiser Shafiq Ahmad Rahimi told AFP.

“This is the wealth of the nation, not of any single person, group or government,” he said.

Since the Taliban’s August 15 return to power, nearly $10 billion of assets have been frozen by an international community loathe to give access to the funds directly to the hardline Islamists.

But the country is in the grip of a major humanitarian crisis and the United Nations says more than half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people face hunger this winter.

Western countries have tied the unfreezing of assets to the Taliban respecting human rights — especially with regard to women being allowed to work and girls to attend school.

Tuesday’s march comes two days after the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met in Pakistan and agreed to establish new ways of getting aid to Afghanistan.

The country’s economy, already battered by decades of war, went into freefall after the Taliban’s return.

Banks have also placed severe restrictions on withdrawals by private customers, and many in the capital have resorted to selling household possessions to buy food for their families.

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