A female Afghan human rights activist, her two sisters and another activist have been taken from their homes after recent protests in Kabul, friends and activists say, prompting suspicions they were detained by the Taliban.
Shafi Karimi, a freelance journalist, told VOA that Tamana Paryani and her two sisters have been missing since Wednesday night.
"Tamana's father went to all the Taliban offices today and found no clues about his daughters," Karimi said.
The Associated Press, citing eyewitnesses, said the Taliban "stormed" an apartment in Kabul, "smashing the door in" and arresting Paryani and her sisters.
Another woman who took part in Sunday's protest against a Taliban directive making wearing hijabs, or Islamic headscarves, compulsory for women is also believed to have been detained.
The Taliban denied arresting the women, however. "This news is baseless, and no women [have been] arrested in Kabul," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told the BBC.
Despite the Taliban government's denials, activists are preparing for more detentions.
A women's rights activist and friend of Paryani's who asked not to be named for security reasons told VOA via telephone, "We have reports that the Taliban will conduct more raids tonight. We are not safe at our homes. We are changing our homes and numbers. The Taliban have access to our phone numbers and other information through our arrested friends' phones."
Human Rights Watch condemned the Taliban's treatment of the protesters, calling it a "violent crackdown." Heather Bar, the associate director of the women's rights division of Human Rights Watch, told VOA the suspected detentions were "deeply alarming."
"This looks to be a serious escalation in the Taliban's desire to crush women's rights protests. The international immunity should urgently defend the protesters," she said.
An Afghan media outlet has broadcast a video that it says Paryani recorded on her phone. The video, which VOA has not independently verified, was broadcast on Aamaj News and appears to show Taliban security forces banging on her door while she calls out for help.
"Help, please, the Taliban have come to our home … only my sisters are home," Paryani is saying in the footage, according to AP. In the background, other women are heard saying, "I can't open the door. Please … help!"
The Taliban's detention of female protesters has faced widespread criticism from politicians and civil society activists.
Afrasiab Khattak, a human rights activist and a former member of Pakistan's Senate, denounced the detention of the activists. It shows the "brutality of the lawless militia in a country without constitution and law-based state system," he said. "Afghans are thrown to wolves. Silence of the U.N. and international community is deafening."
Fawzia Koofi, a former deputy speaker of parliament in Afghanistan — the first female to hold the post — and a former chairperson of Afghanistan's Women, Civil Society and Human Rights Commission, condemned the arrests, calling them extrajudicial detentions.
Koofi tweeted Thursday: "Many women activists live under tremendous fear & horror. Women of Afg. deserve to live in safety and enjoy every right that is granted for them in the laws. Extra judiciary arrest must stop."
On Tuesday, the Taliban detained four activists — Azeem Azeemi, Ahmad Shah, Abdul Karim Bilal and Hayatullah Raufi — for organizing a protest against Pakistani national security adviser Moeed Yusuf's visit to Kabul.
Inayatullah Qazizada, an activist, told VOA Deewa in a phone interview that his friends were still in Taliban detention and that no one had been allowed to talk to them.
From time to time, women's rights activists in Afghanistan have staged demonstrations demanding their rights to education and employment.
Human rights violations in Afghanistan have been repeatedly highlighted in recent reports by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
This report originated in VOA's Deewa Service. Some information came from The Associated Press.