Afghan Women Stage Protest Outside Government Office, Ask for Roles in New Cabinet

In the wake of a speedy takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the U.S. withdrawal, Afghan women are asking for conservation of their rights and inclusion in the future of the country, the Associated Press reported. Dozens of women from the country staged a protest Thursday outside the governor's office in Herat, shouting slogans and calling for women to be included in the new Cabinet the Taliban has said they plan to establish.

When the Taliban held power over the country in the 1990s, Afghan women lived under repressive restrictions enforced by the group and were subject to severe punishments and separation from public life, the AP reported. Taliban fighters present at the Herat protest didn't heed the demonstrators' request to see the governor, but they didn't disband the protest either.

Since taking back power in the past few weeks, the Taliban looked to calm concerns of a regression of rights for women, including vowing to allow women and girls to get educations and people to travel freely. But some are skeptical of their promises.

"The Taliban leadership is announcing [women's] rights, but they should show it in action," said Friba Kabrzani, who helped organize the Herat protest. "We want the world to hear us and we want our rights to be saved."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Afghan Women Protest in Herat
Dozens of Afghan women protested outside a government office in Herat asking for their rights to be protected and for inclusion in the nation's Cabinet to be established by the Taliban. Afghan women hold placards as they take part in a protest in Herat on Thursday. AFP via Getty Images

Qatar's top diplomat said Thursday that experts are racing to reopen Kabul's airport but warned it was not clear when flights would resume, with many still desperate to flee Afghanistan's new Taliban leaders amid concerns over what their rule will hold.

Amid uncertainty about Afghanistan's future, tens of thousands raced to flee the country in a frantic U.S.-run airlift that ended ahead of the final American withdrawal earlier this week. A suicide bomber targeted the evacuation efforts at one point, killing 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.

Kabul's airport, a major way out of the country, is now in Taliban hands but is closed, and Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani warned Thursday that there's still "no clear indication" of when it will reopen.

A team of Qatari and Turkish technicians flew to Kabul on Wednesday to help restart operations at the facility, which the U.N. said is crucial to providing the country with humanitarian assistance. It remains to be seen, however, whether any commercial airlines will be willing to offer service.

"We remain hopeful we will be able to operate it as soon as possible," Al Thani told reporters in Doha. "We are still in the evaluation process. We are working very hard and engaging with the Taliban to identify what are the gaps and the risks for having the airport back up and running."

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu suggested that military flights—which could be used to evacuate more people—could potentially resume first.

Qatar, a tiny Gulf Arab sheikhdom that has played an outsized role in American efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan, said it remains in talks with other world powers to enable the capital's airport to resume commercial flights.

Appearing alongside Al Thani, U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab touched on concerns over how diplomatic and aid efforts will proceed as foreign powers confront a leadership whose members remain on terrorist watch lists around the world.

Although the United Kingdom won't formally recognize the Taliban "anytime in the foreseeable future," Raab said, "there is an important scope for engagement and dialogue to test the intentions and indeed the assurances that have already been made by the Taliban."

Those assurances range from creating a more inclusive government to protecting the rights of women to preventing international terrorist groups from using the war-scarred country as a base.

"In all of these areas," Raab said, "we will judge them by what they do, not just by what they say."

In Herat, the protesters had a similar message for the Taliban.

One participant, Maryam Ebram, warned that "anything can be expected from the Taliban," but that Afghan women would continue to protest for their rights nonetheless.

"Our rights were not gifted to us and we will not let them fade easily," she said.

Taliban Assumes Control of Kabul Airport
The Taliban were in full control of Kabul's airport on Tuesday, after the last U.S. plane left its runway, marking the end of America's longest war. Taliban fighters arrive inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military's withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday. Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP Photo