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IANS

Security forces in Kabul fired shots in the air and beat up women protesting Taliban rule on Saturday, as dozens demanded the right to education, work and political participation on the eve of the first anniversary of the Islamist groups takeover of Afghanistan, media reports said.

Rally participants chanted "we want work, bread, and freedom" as they marched toward the Education Ministry in the Afghan capital before Taliban forces responded violently to the rare anti-government rally, VOA reported.

"August 15 is a black day," read a banner protesters were carrying as they demanded the right to work and political participation, chanting "Justice, justice".

Witness accounts and social media documented many women at the rally not wearing face veils, VOA reported.

Some of the female protesters who took refuge in nearby shops were chased and beaten by security forces with their rifle butts, witnesses said.

Heavy gunfire could be heard in social media video of the rally, with Taliban men assaulting female protesters. They also violently prevented Afghan journalists from covering the rally, VOA reported.

Amnesty international expressed concern on Twitter about reported use of "excessive force" by the Taliban to disperse women who were protesting peacefully.

Taliban officials did not immediately comment on the allegations.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August 15 from the internationally backed Afghan government as US-led and NATO allies withdrew their troops from the country after almost 20 years of war with the Taliban.

The hardline group's all-male interim government in Kabul has since significantly rolled back women's rights to work and education, barring most teenage girls from resuming secondary school in a breach of promises the Taliban made to respect rights of all Afghans.

Women employed in the public sector have been told to stay at home, except for those who work for the ministries of education, health and a few others, and must use face coverings in public.

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