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Angry crowd chases off women's rights protesters

Video by Nicolas GERMAIN

Latest update : 2009-04-15

A crowd of more than 500 Afghans in Kabul chased off protesters against a new Shiite marriage law, which says a husband can demand sex with his wife every four days unless she is ill. Critics of the law say it "insults the dignity of women".

AFP - An angry crowd of more than 500 Afghans chased off a few dozen protesters in Kabul on Wednesday who criticised a new law for imposing Taliban-style restrictions on Shiite women.

Up to 50 women lawmakers and rights activists marched outside a Kabul university demanding "justice" and distributing a declaration saying the Shiite Personal Status Law "insults the dignity of women", said an AFP reporter.

They were soon outnumbered by a rowdy group of 200 Shiite women and around 300 men who chanted slogans in favour of the law -- which regulates marriage, divorce and inheritance for the Shiite minority on their request.

President Hamid Karzai signed the law in March but it has yet to be published, despite changes that some parliamentarians say soften more severe drafts.

Karzai ordered a review after an outcry from Western allies, including Canada, the United Nations and the United States, who say it violates international regulations on the equality of women.

He has said anything that violates women's rights will be removed.

Critics allege, for example, that the law allows marital rape by stopping a wife from refusing sex and means she cannot leave her home without her husband's permission except on urgent business.

Defenders say these points have been removed although there may be others that harm women's rights.

"We don't want a Taliban law, we want a democratic law and we want a law that guarantees human dignity," protesters chanted outside a Kabul university headed by prominent, conservative Shiite cleric Mohammad Asif Mohseni.

They left without incident when the larger demonstration of Shiite men and women swarmed in, an AFP reporter said.

"Opposing this law is opposing Islam, the religion and the constitution," said participant Mohammad Hussain.

Afghan Shiites, who make up about 15 percent of the population, generally live in peace with the Sunni majority.

In western Kabul, protesters hurled stones at police and a teacher who reportedly spoke out to denounce the law.

"This teacher is an infidel. We are Muslims and we want our law based on our religious beliefs," said protester Kazim Ali.

Police cordoned off the area and firefighters scrambled ready to disperse the crowd in case violence broke out.

Police fired warning shots and Ali accused them of wounding two protesters.

Interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said the protest was peaceful and no one was wounded.

"We have arrested four people who wanted to turn the protest violent," he told AFP.

However, police official Abdul Mohammad told AFP one protester was wounded and officers were investigating how.


Date created : 2009-04-15