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Taliban Detain Human Rights Activists Planning Protest of Pakistan Official's Visit

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Azeem Azeemi, a detained human rights activist in Kabul, is seen in this undated photo provided by his family. (Courtesy photo)

Human rights activist Azeem Azeemi and three other activists were detained by the Taliban for organizing a protest against Pakistani national security adviser Moeed Yusuf's visit Tuesday to Kabul.

Yusuf's visit was subsequently postponed due to weather conditions, according to the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.

Azeemi publicized the scheduled demonstration Monday on Twitter, asking Taliban leaders to provide them with protection.

The three activists who were detained with Azeemi are Ahmad Shah, Abdul Karim Bilal and Hayatullah Raufi.

"Our friends saw (the) Taliban arresting and assaulting Azeem and other activists in Shash-Darak district 2 Kabul," activist Inayatullah Qazizada told VOA Deewa in a phone interview.

General Mobin Khan, media chief of the Taliban's police headquarters, responded on Twitter to VOA Deewa, saying, "I will gather information and get back to you." No further response has been provided.

Habib Khan, head of Afghan Peace Watch, told VOA Deewa that he was in contact with Azeemi and his friends moments before their arrest.

"We are calling on (the) Taliban to release the arrested human rights activists," Khan said in a phone interview. "Azeemi had made it clear that the protest was not against the Taliban; it was against Pakistan. But because (the) Taliban are Pakistan's proxies, they cannot tolerate these kinds of protests."

The top trending hashtag and topic on Twitter in Afghanistan was #releaseAzeem.

On Twitter, protest organizers said more than 150 people were ready to protest the Pakistani delegation's visit to Kabul in front of the international airport.

More Afghan protests

Zainab Abdullahi, an employee for FINCA International, a non-profit microfinance organization, is seen in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Mohammad Abdullahi)
Zainab Abdullahi, an employee for FINCA International, a non-profit microfinance organization, is seen in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Mohammad Abdullahi)

Afghan women protested on January 15 the killing two days earlier of 25-year-old Zainab Abdullahi, an employee of international microfinance nonprofit organization, as she returned home from a wedding. They also protested the disappearance of Alia Azizi, a former Afghan government police officer, demanding her release. According to the protesters, Azizi has been in the Taliban's custody about four months.

Mohammad Abdullahi, Zainab's brother, told VOA that his sister was shot during a search at a security checkpoint in western Kabul's Dasht-e-barchi area.

"We were all in the car with family and kids when the Taliban stopped us at a security checkpoint. We were told to move on, and then they fired a bullet that went straight through my sister's heart," Mohammad Abdullahi said.

Afghans have held anti-Pakistan protests and condemned senior Pakistani officials' frequent visits to Kabul, calling them an intrusion in Afghanistan's internal affairs. Pakistani officials have denied any involvement in Afghanistan's affairs or providing support to the Taliban.

In December, Pakistan hosted an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in which humanitarian aid for Afghanistan was mobilized.

Human rights breaches in Afghanistan have been repeatedly highlighted in recent reports by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the description of Zainab Abdullahi's occupation. She was an employee for FINCA International, a non-profit microfinance organization.

This story originated in VOA's Deewa Service.

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