Activists say they change safe houses daily and regularly change their cell phone number
KABUL - Several Afghan women's rights activists said Thursday they are going into hiding to escape a Taliban crackdown, just days after the hardline Islamists used pepper spray to break up a rally in the capital.
Since storming back to power in August, the Taliban have gradually reintroduced some of the harsh restrictions that characterised their first stint in power, from 1996 to 2001.
At least one woman was arrested, in what appeared to be a series of raids Wednesday night, four women activists told AFP.
A self-shot video of a second woman in distress, warning of Taliban fighters at her door, circulated on social media.
The whereabouts of both women were unknown on Thursday.
"We cannot stay at our homes, even at night," one activist, who has asked not to be named for security reasons, told AFP.
Another activist said the Taliban went to her house looking for her, but she was away with a relative at the time.
Some of the activists, who communicate using WhatsApp and other social media, said they were changing safe houses daily and regularly changing their cell phone numbers.
"The video created a lot of panic... a lot of fear among the women," said one activist, who asked not to be named.
The small group of dedicated activists have been taking to the streets of Kabul frequently to demonstrate against the Taliban, which have slowly been squeezing women out of public life.
Taliban forces on Sunday fired pepper spray at a group of women protesters, and several said they were followed after they dispersed.
"Our last protest hit them hard, and it pushed them to launch the arrests," one activist said, referring to Sunday's rally of about 20 women.
Human Rights Watch has condemned what it called a "violent crackdown" on protest.
It "marks an alarming and unlawful escalation of efforts to suppress peaceful protest and free speech in Afghanistan", HRW said on Tuesday.
The Taliban have increasingly been crushing dissent, detaining several Afghan journalists and a prominent Afghan university professor who had spoken out on television against the new rulers.
He was released days later following a social media campaign condemning his arrest.
The Taliban have not responded to an AFP request for comment.
By Rouba El Husseini