Anti-Taliban protests have broken out in Afghanistan as the radical Islamist military organization works to establish a new government, having overthrown the one backed by the United States. At least three people were reportedly killed in the eastern city of Jalalabad when Taliban militants opened fire at a protest against the removal of the Afghan national flag.
Reports indicate hundreds of protesters also took to the streets in Khost province, according to Al Jazeera.
In Jalalabad, street demonstrators and journalists were beaten by Taliban soldiers, who squashed the public display of dissent. The Taliban seized control of the city, which is about 80 miles east of the capital Kabul, four days ago after negotiating a surrender from local leaders. Taliban soldiers are patrolling the city streets with pickup trucks seized from the police force, which has been disbanded, the New York Times reports.
The protesters were carrying large flags of the Afghan Republic and shouting their defiance at the new government. Taliban soldiers first fired warning shots into the air, but the protesters would not disperse. Then the Taliban used violence, reportedly killing at least three people and injuring dozens more.
Publicly, spokesmen for the Taliban maintain that the reinstated Islamist regime will not have the same despotic character as the last Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan. The new government will be an "inclusive, Islamic government," one that will respect women's rights and invite them to participate in government as long as they follow Sharia law, the Taliban claims. But Afghans who remember the old regime, which carried out public executions by stoning at a soccer stadium; barred women from work and girls from school; and banned television, videos, and music; those Afghans have sought to flee the country.
Images and video of the Taliban violently breaking up public dissent has undermined their claims of forming a new, peaceful government.
The violent response to these protests follows reports of executions and forced marriages in parts of Afghanistan the Taliban seized before taking control of Kabul. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has denied the accuracy of these reports, claiming that if such atrocities are happening, they are "not Taliban."
Taliban leaders are reportedly meeting with former Afghanistan officials, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the deposed government, to negotiate the establishment of a new Islamic government, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Afghan citizens are still flocking to the international airport in Kabul, seeking to leave the country. The Taliban has established a checkpoint and is demanding that would-be evacuees show documents before being let inside the airport. When a passenger is let through, which happens rarely, dozens of people attempt to rush through the gate, which provokes more warning shots from Taliban soldiers to disperse the crowds.