United Nations says it documented the deaths of four protesters from gunfire, as well as house-to-house searching of protesters.

A member of Taliban security forces stands among crowds of people walking past in a street in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 4, 2021.
A member of Taliban security forces stands among crowds of people walking past in a street in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 4, 2021. (Reuters)

The UN rights office has said that the Taliban response to peaceful marches in Afghanistan has been increasingly violent, with authorities using live ammunition, batons and whips and causing the deaths of at least four protesters.

Protests and demonstrations, some led by women, pose a challenge to the new Taliban government as it seeks to consolidate control after seizing the capital Kabul nearly a month ago.

"We have seen a reaction from the Taliban which has unfortunately been severe," Ravina Shamdasani, UN rights spokesperson, told a briefing in Geneva on Friday, saying the United Nations had documented four protester deaths from gunfire.

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She said that some or all may have resulted from efforts to disperse protesters with firing.

She added that the United Nations had also received reports of house-to-house searches for those who participated in the protests. 

Journalists covering the protests have also been intimidated.

"In one case, one journalist was reported to have been told, as he was being kicked in the head, 'You are lucky you haven't been beheaded'," Shamdasani said. 

"Really, there has been lots of intimidation of journalists simply trying to do their job."

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On Wednesday, two Afghan journalists were beaten in police custody after covering a protest by women in Kabul where they were detained by the Taliban, their editor said.

Zaki Daryabi, founder and editor-in-chief of the Etilaat Roz newspaper, shared images on social media of two male reporters, one with large, red welts across his lower back and legs and the other with similar marks on his shoulder and arm.

Both men's faces were also bruised and cut in the pictures, which were verified by Reuters.

When asked about the incident, an acting Taliban minister, who was named in his post when the new government was announced on Tuesday, said that any attack on journalists would be investigated. He declined to be identified.

Daryabi said the beatings sent a chilling message to the media in Afghanistan, where an independent press, much of it funded by Western donors, has flourished in the last 20 years.

"Five colleagues were kept in a detention centre for more than 4 hours, and during these four hours two of our colleagues were beaten and tortured brutally," he told Reuters on Thursday.

The Taliban, who swept into the capital Kabul on August 15 and now rule Afghanistan again after fighting a 20-year insurgency against foreign and Afghan forces, have vowed to allow the media to operate and respect people's human rights.

But incidents of abuse since they came to power have raised doubts among some Afghans.

Taqi Daryabi, one of the two Etilaat Roz journalists, said seven or eight people beat them for about 10 minutes.

"They would raise sticks and beat us with all of their strength. After they beat us, they saw that we had passed out. They took us to lock us up in a cell with a few others," he said. Reuters could not independently verify his account.

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Source: Reuters