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Afghan women taken from their homes after speaking out

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The Taliban can threaten with a whisper. After 20 years of violent struggle, and the loss of tens of thousands of civilian lives, they took power here using brutal force.

Even so, Afghan women refuse to be intimidated.

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Tamana Zaryabi Paryani is one of those women. It takes raw courage to stand up to armed men who want to take away almost everything you have achieved in life.

Last weekend, she joined dozens of others to demand the right to work and the right to an education. The protesters were pepper-sprayed by Taliban fighters, and a number said they had been stunned by electric shocks.

After making their voices heard, they returned home. Some feared they had been followed.

On Wednesday night, at 20:00, armed men entered Tamana Paryani’s apartment block in Kabul’s Parwan 2 neighbourhood. She was alone at home with her sisters. The men began to kick the door.

“Please help, the Taliban have come to my house, my sisters are at home,” Ms Paryani pleaded on a video posted to social media.

“We don’t want you here now,” she screamed. “Come back tomorrow, we can speak tomorrow,” she pleaded.

“You can’t see these girls at this time of night. Help, the Taliban have come to my house,” she said before the video ended.

Since the Taliban took power on 15 August, women have complained that they are now prisoners in their own homes.

And even there they are not safe. It is a violation of Afghan culture to enter a home that contains only women.

But having dismissed women police officers, the Taliban do not have female personnel available to question women.

Tamana Paryani has been missing for two days now. I went to her apartment to try and trace her.

There was no-one inside the home. A large muddy boot-print was still visible on the front door.

Neighbours said Ms Paryani had been taken away along with two of her sisters, and no-one has been to the apartment since. They would say only that “an armed group” had taken the sisters.

Other women protesters were targeted that night. Another, Parawana Ibrahimkhel, is also missing. Still, the Taliban denied taking them.

In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, Suhai Shaheen, who hopes to become the Taliban’s ambassador to the UN, said: “If [the Taliban] had detained them, they would say they have detained them, and if that is the allegation they will go to court and they will defend themselves… This is something legal, but if they are not detained, and they are making such fake scenes and shooting films in order to seek asylum abroad.”

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One of Miss Paryani’s friends told a different story.

From a safe location, in an interview with the BBC, she said, “I told her as soon as possible, leave your home, take this more seriously you are in danger… When I got home, a friend, also a protester – I don’t want to mention her name – she was crying that Tamana had been arrested by the Taliban and that she had released a video on social media.”

It is not known if the authorities are looking for the women.

Most of the world refuses to recognise the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan. More than half the population is going hungry because of Western-imposed sanctions.

Under Taliban rule Afghanistan has become the only country in the world which publicly limits education on the basis of gender, which is a major sticking point in the Taliban’s quest for legitimacy, and in the lifting of sanctions. The regular protests by women highlighting the issue are a source of embarrassment to the group.

Regardless of who has Tamara Paryani, her sisters and her friends, the Taliban are collectively punishing Afghan women.

Over the past 20 years women here have cast off cultural and family prejudice to live more freely – decades of progress the Taliban appear determined to destroy.

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