Afghanistan

Afghanistan: More pro-democracy demonstrations

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KABUL, 15 July (IRIN) - Afghans in the capital Kabul have again been exercising their right to protest. Chanting pro-democracy slogans, around a hundred people marched through the city on Tuesday morning. The demonstrators called for the implementation of the Bonn agreement - a road map for Afghanistan's peaceful development - and urged the Afghan government not to bow to extremists.
"We don't want fundamentalism," one participant told IRIN. Others said they wanted a constitution based on democracy and the rule of law.

The crowd also called for equal rights for men and women. "For survival and restoration of women's rights the international community and Afghan government defeated the Taliban regime, but unfortunately women are still deprived of their participation in government, and political development is limited," Freba Charkhi, a member of the Freedom and Democracy Movement of Afghanistan, told IRIN.

The demonstrators gathered in front of the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) office and delivered an 11-point statement urging justice for war criminals and changes in local government.

"We want an elected mayor to get rid of administrative fraud, the civil servants salary is very low, we want the government to collect the national revenues from the provinces and share it with the whole nation, we support President [Hamid] Karzai's speech and condemn neighbors invasion," the statement read.

According to Charkhi, the demonstration was organised by the Freedom and Democracy Movement of Afghanistan, a new moderate political party, made up of the Afghan Civil Society Forum, students from Kabul University and Afghan journalists.

Democracy and the right to peaceful assembly appear to be taking root in parts of Afghanistan following decades of conflict and totalitarian rule. Over the past week, Kabul has experienced a number of rallies and demonstrations. Last week, several were held in Kabul protesting against alleged recent border incursions by Pakistani forces. Last Tuesday, one protest turned violent when a group broke into the Pakistani embassy compound in Kabul, smashing windows and burning furniture and equipment.

However, the latest demonstration was peaceful, with a large number of local police overseeing it. The protest, which started from the centre of Kabul, lasted for about two hours and ended in front of the UNAMA office.

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