Several hundred women, many holding aloft pictures of relatives killed by drug lords or Taliban militants, held a loud but nonviolent street protest today, demanding that President Hamid Karzai purge from his government anyone connected to corruption, war crimes or the Taliban.
Afghan police, in riot gear, monitored the rally as it worked its way slowly through muddy streets to the United Nations building here, but they did nothing to disrupt the event.
The unusual display of political activism by women comes as Karzai is under increasing pressure to remove from his cabinet anyone connected to rampant corruption, including links to the flourishing drug trade. His own finance minister says corruption is the biggest threat to the future of Afghanistan.
The protest group, under the banner Social Association of Afghan Justice Seekers, said that “our people have gone into a nightmare of unbelieving” because of the disputed election and the fact that “the culture of impunity” still exists despite Karzai’s vow to eliminate it.
While the women took the lead in the protest, about 500 men followed them in support, an unusual display in Afghan culture of men allowing women to take a leadership role.
The group spokeswoman, who gave her name as Lakifa, said many women are still afraid to demand an accounting of the death or disappearance of family members during the three decades of war that have ripped Afghanistan.
“We need to know about all of our martyrs, and the government needs to find the mass graves and the killers, not give them jobs and protect them,” she said.