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Taliban Beat Women Protesters With Whips And Sticks; Main Suspect Sets Defiant Tone On Trial's First Day; IOC Suspends North Korea Through End Of 2022; Mexico Reacts After Top Court Decriminalizes Abortion; 40 Percent Of Solar Could Come From Solar By 2035; Poaching On The Rise In Kenya Amid COVID Pandemic. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 09, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm John Vause. Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.

Day one for the new caretaker government in Afghanistan put a nationwide ban on protest. And those who did take to the streets were whipped and beaten by Taliban fighters.

The main suspect on trial for the 2015 Bataclan terror attack in Paris has complained about his poor treatment in prison, bringing disgust from some of the relatives of the 130 people who were killed.

Jimmy Carter and solar panels, no one's laughing now, especially not the current White House, which is betting big on our solar power future. The first full day on the job for Afghanistan's new government passed with no mention publicly about an economy in a death spiral. No talk about a pandemic raging out of control. There is deafening silence about an imminent food shortage and humanitarian crisis.

But the new Minister for the Interior, the one who's on the FBI's most wanted list for his role as a terrorist leader did issue a ban on protests, unless they receive prior approval, which would seem unlikely for recent demonstrations, which have seen women demanding a role in government, as well as the rights they gained over the past 20 years, like equal access to education and job, freedom to be in public without a male escort.

And in Kabul on Wednesday, the Taliban responded to one protest with brute force, protesters were whipped and beaten with sticks. And the journalists who were there to cover that story, they say they were detained and severely beaten.

So far, the world reaction has been mostly critical of this new government. European Union said the Taliban failed to honor their commitment to diversity. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, leading a virtual conference from Germany said legitimacy for the Taliban would have to be earned.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're assessing the announcement but despite professing that a new government would be inclusive. The announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals, or members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women.

We're also concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of those individuals.


VAUSE: Live now to CNN Anna Coren. She has covered Afghanistan extensively for years, she was recently in Kabul.

So, Anna, on the first day, the Taliban government has made no secret of their priorities, which is incredible considering the number of urgent issues this country is facing.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a government that will use brutality, John, to crush, dissent, and that is what we have been seeing on the streets of Kabul.

You know, a few days ago, hundreds of people gathered yesterday, it was dozens. But the way that the Taliban has reacted to these people taking to the streets is nothing short of brutality. Not only are they firing into the air, firing around them, they're also using truncheons and cables to beat people. They have detained at least 14 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which are demanding that the Taliban release these journalists who were just out there covering these protests.

They say that at least six of them were injured and beaten, flogged in custody. And two of those journalists had to be taken to hospital. We don't know how many still remain in custody.

And as you mentioned before, John, the Taliban has now deemed protests to be illegal, that they have to give permission for people to protest. Well, we know that is not going to happen.

We are also expecting, John, for hundreds of people to gather today on the streets of Kabul, perhaps around the country. This, of course, is Massoud Day. It is a national holiday, at least it was. It marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Ahmad Shah Massoud who was the leader of the Northern Alliance when the Taliban were in charge back in the 90s.

On this day, 20 years ago, he was assassinated by members of Al-Qaeda who disguised themselves as journalists and cameraman and they had a bomb in the camera and he was killed. This is just days before those 9/11 attacks.

So, this is a very important day in the calendar of Afghanistan and hence, we are hearing from many of the organizers of the protests thus far that there are at least a dozen meeting points, and this is just in Kabul, where people will be taking to the streets protesting against Taliban rule. [00:05:11]

COREN: We are also hearing, however, that the Taliban is planning on controlling this not just by brute force, but also by cutting the internet and there was a sign that's certain providers were cut last night, phone and internet providers. They seem to be back on now. But what we are hearing on the ground from Afghanistan is at the moment, connection is very slow.

This obviously would be a way for the Taliban to stop those images, those incredibly powerful images from getting out to the world.

VAUSE: Anna, thank you. Anna Coren live for us there in Hong Kong.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani vowed to fight to the death against the Taliban, but then fled the country the next day.

Blinken says the U.S. knew nothing of Gandhi's plans and did not help his helicopter escape.


BLINKEN: In our conversation, we were talking about work that was being done in Doha on transfer power. And in the absence of that succeeding, what he told me in that conversation the night before he fled, is that as he put it, he was prepared to fight to the death.

In less than 24 hours, he left Afghanistan. So, no, I certainly didn't know about it, and we certainly did nothing to facilitate it.


VAUSE: Ghani now living in exile in the UAE issued a lengthy statement Wednesday about his hasty exit, claiming leaving was the most difficult decision of his life.

But after the Taliban entered Kabul, he believed it was the only way to "Keep the guns silent". And once again, he denied stealing millions of dollars in government money.

And the tight security, the trial of the 2015 terror attacks in Paris is now underway with the main suspect already setting a defiant tone.

Salah Abdeslam has been silent for years but when the judge asked his profession on Wednesday, his answer was chilling.

Cyril Vanier has details now on the trials' first day.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: France's mega trials saw hundreds of victims of the Paris terror attacks file into the courtroom behind me on day one, survivors and relatives of the deceased. More will come in the next few days with 1,800 victims total involved in the trial. We expect to hear their testimonies over the course of several weeks what they saw, what they heard during those three hours of carnage that left 130 people dead. Victims being executed at point blank range in the streets of Paris.

Facing them today in courts were 14 alleged terrorists accused of planning, assisting or executing the attacks. The most high profile name in this case French national Salah Abdeslam. He is the lone surviving member of the commandos, once Europe's Most Wanted fugitive, he appeared unrepentant. Dressed in black from head to toe, the colors of the Islamic State group and defiance from the very beginning asked what his job was before the attacks he answered, "I gave up my profession to become a fighter for the Islamic State."

Also complaining of mistreatment. We're all dogs here, he said. I've been treated like a dog for six years.

Abdeslam apparently signaling that he will attempt to engage with the court on his own terms. He and multiple other defendants risk a life sentence in jail. The verdict expected eight to nine months from now.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, Paris.


VAUSE: North Korea's no show at the Tokyo Olympics has ended with a ban on participation in the Beijing Winter Games this February. The International Olympic Committee suspended North Korea until the end of next year.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is following this story live for us in Seoul. They can't say they were not warned.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, John. I mean, according to Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, he had said that they had consistently pointed out what the repercussions would be if North Korea was not going to be involved in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Now, North Korea itself had decided earlier this year that it wasn't going to participate saying that it want to protect its athletes from COVID-19.

So, quoting the pandemic as a reason that it wasn't going to be part of it. But the IOC said North Korea was the only country to make that decision.

Thomas Bach also pointing out or at least in a statement pointing out that they had done everything they could to try and provide additional assurances and other indications saying that they even offered vaccines at one point but they did this up until the last minute where they say it was "Systematically rejected by the North Koreans."

So, what this means is that at this point, North Korea will not be participating in the Beijing Olympics. The IOC says that if there are individual athletes that do qualify, then they can look at an individual case by case basis.

But he also did point out that they do reserve the right to change their minds effectively.

[00:10:07 ]

Now, what this means, certainly from a South Korean point of view, they were hoping to have some kind of diplomacy with North Korea at these Olympics similar to what you saw in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

I suspect there will be some lobbying behind the scenes to try and reverse this decision, so that they can at least try and push those negotiations forward.

But at this point, we haven't had any kind of response from North Korea. South Korea, saying that they will find other ways to try and negotiate with the South.

Now, on a separate note, as well, we've just seen a parade from the North Korea, it was the 73rd anniversary of the founding of North Korea.

And it was a different kind of parade to what we have seen over the past year, the past two were very military heavy, showing off the missiles and capabilities of Pyongyang. This time was more about the security forces.

We saw fire trucks, for example, we saw the security apparatus, there was some military arsenal, but it was very minimal compared to what we're used to.

And what we also saw was the - what they call the emergency disease prevention unit. So, a unit of individuals gasmasked, showing how they were fighting against COVID-19. Keeping with that theme, although I should point out, John, that there were thousands of people involved in this parade and there wasn't a mask to be seen,

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul.

Well, a watershed moment for women's rights in Mexico.

Up next, reactions to a Supreme Court ruling that decriminalizes abortion.

Also ahead, why the U.S. Senate plays a key role in a solar powered future for the United States.


VAUSE: First, came that watershed moment. An unexpected but unanimous ruling by Mexico Supreme Court decriminalizing abortion.

And while Mexico's president said that decision should be respected by all, now comes the hard part, making it the law of the land and followed by all.

CNN's Rafael Romo reports.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Earlier this year, the very same day the Mexican Supreme Court legalized abortion, the ground shook in Mexico.

The earthquake was felt for about a minute, but the shockwaves sent across the nation by the court's ruling will be felt for years to come.

A woman shouldn't be deprived of her right to decide for herself and much less be incarcerated for something she decides about her own body, this Mexico City resident said.

I agree that women should do whatever they want with their body, but not on this issue. We're talking about a human being. Things shouldn't be done that way by having an abortion, said another.


ROMO: Chief Justice Arturo Zaldivar said it was a historic day for the rights of all Mexican women.

Ana Margarita Rios, one of only three women on a court of 11 justices said she's against stigmatizing those who seek an abortion.

Nobody gets voluntarily pregnant thinking about getting an abortion later, she said.

ROMO: The fact that the Mexican Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional sets a precedent that will be applied in the country's 32 states. The ruling comes from a law enacted in the northern state of Coahuila, which said that women who get an abortion may get punished with up to three years in prison and a fine.

MARIA ANTONIETA ALCALDE, DIRECTOR, IPAS/CENTRAL AMERICA AND MEXICO: The ruling of the court applies to the states of Coahuila specifically, but it sends a message to all the state saying that it is important that you change the law.

ROMO: Maria Antonieta Alcalde, the director of a women's rights group in Mexico and Central America says the ruling may also have repercussions beyond the Mexican border.

ALCALDE: Texas in moving on the other right direction. So what could happen is that more women may decide to travel to Mexico, what is like kind of the opposite what it used to happen. Like a lot of women used to travel to the U.S. to have a safe legal abortion.

ROMO: Even before the ruling, the Mexican Catholic Church issued a statement saying we would like to remind you all that a human being conceived by a father and a mother, whose life begins at the moment of conception should be recognized in his or her dignity in all stages of life and deserves the same protection under the law in the face of actions that could put this person in jeopardy. In spite of the ruling, the country remains polarized. Polling conducted before the decision but published by a national newspaper after the ruling says 53 percent of Mexicans oppose abortion, while 45 percent agreed that the law should allow the procedure.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


VAUSE: The World Health Organization is once again calling on wealthy nations to help improve access to vaccines in the developing world. It comes as COVAX the global vaccine sharing program is on course to fall 25 percent short of its goal of two billion doses this year, just a little over one billion COVID vaccine shots are expected to be made available globally between now and the end of 2021.

As you can see on this map, some parts of the world are way behind when it comes to vaccinations.

The WHO chief is also urging wealthy nations to refrain or hold off on booster shots until at least the end of the year. (INAUDIBLE) doses are available to low income countries.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We have been calling for vaccine equity from the beginning, not after the richest countries have been taken care of.

Low and lower middle income countries are not the second or third priority. Their health workers, older people and other at risk groups have the same right to be protected.

I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world's poor should be satisfied with left overs.


VAUSE: The WHO hopes to enable every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of their population by the end of the year.

Well, the Philippines is now bracing for a super typhoon Chanthu just days after being hit by a tropical storm. Chanthu has winds up to 250 kilometers per hour and could strengthen before brushing by Luzon on Friday, and then heading towards Taiwan and Southern China.

The Philippine capital is still recovering from a tropical storm, which made landfall on Tuesday. The storm could also become a typhoon before approaching Southern China and Vietnam this coming weekend.

The Biden administration says that by 2035, solar energy has potential to produce enough energy to power every home in America, all without rising costs to consumers.

A new report from the Department of Energy outlines a blueprint for a future powered by the sun. A move which could mean a million and a half new jobs.

But reaching those goals may depend on Congress passing the $3.5 trillion spending bill. Congressional Democrats are negotiating that bill right now.

More on to Sacramento, California and Bernadette Del Chiaro, the Executive Director of the California Solar and Storage Association. Bernadette, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: Again, to reach that goal, the U.S. will need to increase the amount of electricity it gets right now from solar power. It stands about three percent, it needs to have some more than 40 percent. That will require a lot of moving parts beyond just that public investment.

So, how do we get from here to there? How does this actually happen?DEL CHIARO: Well, I mean, it's very clear that solar power is what America needs and wants. It's the most popular form of energy across the political spectrum. It's cheaper than fossil fuels. It's more reliable than other forms of energy and is the most abundant energy resource in the United States.


DEL CHIARO: So, the question isn't so much, should we or how can we reach this ambitious goals? But, you know, what's the pathway to get there.

And I think the clear thing is, is every government from City Council's all the way to Congress, need to make solar energy more affordable and accessible for average, everyday Americans, and we need to promote its use.

So, we can do that through Congress, like a promotion of incentives for solar energy. And we can do that through local governments removing barriers to the adoption of this technology.VAUSE: This report from the Department of Energy was very detailed like when it comes to that part of the equation.

But at least there is now a declaration in a way of intent. So, like, this is our moonshot if you like. This is what we will be doing over the next coming decades.

How important is that in of itself?

DEL CHIARO: It's incredibly important. I can't tell you how many thousands of decisions are made every single month in California alone and across the United States that affect our path toward a clean energy future.

You know, from Hurricane Ida to the ice storms of Texas, to the heat storms in California and Oregon, our use of energy, traditional energy is not working for Americans anymore.

We need clean and affordable and reliable energy to keep the lights on and solar energy is the pathway toward that.

It's gonna take everybody all hands on deck to get there. And I think what the Biden administration is putting out is that vision, and also that confidence that we can do this in America and we can do this across the globe as well.

VAUSE: And when it comes to cutting global emissions and slowing the impact of climate change, perhaps the best time to invest in solar energy was, I don't know, four decades ago? Maybe install solar panels on the roof of the White House, like President Carter. Here's a reminder.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken. Or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Unfortunately, it was the road not taken. Reagan apparently took delight in removing the panels when he was sworn in.

The U.S. during the 1970s was a world leader in solar technology. If that then continued with government leadership and investment, how different would the world look right now?

DEL CHIARO: Well, there's no question we missed some opportunities over the course of a couple of decades. But we can move very quickly. We can power America with solar energy and other forms of energy, like energy storage, combined with also wind energy, we can get there quickly and on par with what scientists say climate change needs.

But what's key is that we don't miss a beat, and that we take action today. And this happens that - has to happen at all levels of government.

What's good is that consumers are embracing this technology from homeowners and apartment buildings to farmers and industrial facilities all across the United States.

So, we can get there, we just need to be committed to it.VAUSE: Switching to renewable energy is only part of the equation when it comes to fighting climate change. The other part is ending the use of fossil fuels.

And this White House is on track to hand out oil and gas drilling permits as fast or faster than the previous Trump administration.

That is an area which - that needs to be looked at, I guess, at least for the, you know, if there has to be any kind of serious way of looking at the problem moving forward.DEL CHIARO: Yes, I mean, there's no question. We can move beyond fossil fuels. And in fact, American needs - American consumers demand that.

We are not - our fossil fuel industry and our fossil fuel energy infrastructure is not delivering the quality and the reliable energy and the affordable energy that Americans need. So, we should leave this in the ground, the fossil fuels in the ground, and we should mind the sky for pollution free, affordable and reliable solar energy.

It is not a question anymore of whether this technology works. This is not something that is disputable anymore. It is the more reliable, the more affordable and the more to abundant form of energy, and we should move in that direction. And that's what this blueprint lays out.BAUSE: It is a blueprint. It is a blueprint for the future, and we'll see where it goes. Bernadette, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

DEL CHIARO: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, three young women made a difficult choice to flee Afghanistan after realizing there'll be no future for them under a Taliban rule.

When we come back, we will hear their stories and their struggles.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought Kenya's tourism industry to a halt and the country's wildlife is now paying a hefty price. The economic fallout has been so severe that protective wildlife is now being killed by many just for food.

CNN's Scott McLean has details.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Savannah of Southern Kenya is a tough place to survive. It's hot, dry, and there's the constant threat of predators planning their next meal. Lions, leopards and lately a lot of humans too.

DONART MWAKIO, TAITA HILLS WILDLIFE SANCTUARY: Currently the situation is worse because most people have lost their jobs and they're resorting to poaching.

MCLEAN: Twice a day, Donart Mwakio and his team of rangers from the sprawling Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary go hunting for poachers.

On this day, they find a crudely butchered giraffe carcass killed by poachers in the last two weeks.

MWAKIO: It weighs about one tonne.

MCLEAN: Down the dirt road, the footprints are much fresher. They lead to a homemade snare fashion from the electric fence meant to keep poachers out. They find two more traps the last one attached to the hood of an eland, the largest antelope on Earth.

New figures from the Kenya Wildlife Service show that seizures of bushmeat mostly antelope, zebras and dik-diks are on pace to hit a record high.

JOHN MIGUI WAWERU, KENYA WILDFIRE SERVICE DIRECTOR GENERAL: The problem is it's not looking very good at the moment. Poverty is something that was - that came through with COVID because jobs are lost.

MCLEAN: People are desperate.

WAWERU: People are desperate, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sit in the village, morning to evening. They don't have a cent, they don't have food.

MCLEAN: Willie Muadelo (PH) was the general manager of Taita Hills and the two hotels inside the sanctuary. That pre-pandemic we're almost always near capacity.

But in the past 18 months, he says they've scarcely topped 20 percent.

People are asking you for jobs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So many people, so many people.

MCLEAN: You don't have jobs to give them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have jobs to give them.

MCLEAN: In the village next to the sanctuary, poverty is the rule, not the exception.

Wildlife is the most precious resource but without tourism, animals are worth a lot more dead.

This village was struggling even before the pandemic only some of the houses are hooked up to electricity. Nobody has indoor plumbing and the pandemic has made life just that much harder.

People here say they don't have enough to eat and so, it's pretty hard to blame them for poaching.

Ebrahim Chumbo (PH) takes any odd job he can to earn the $7.00 a day that ensures his wife and two small kids have enough to eat.

But since the pandemic took hold, his kids eat just once a day.

They become weak because there's nothing to eat. They don't complain. They know when their parents get money they will get to eat, he says.

Djambo (ph) says he doesn't poach bushmeat, but like many, he buys it. He can't afford beef. It's at least four times the price.

[00:3013] The local butcher works on commission. Pre-pandemic, his display case would be filled with 20 or 25 kilograms of beef. Now, there's just one. Almost no one can afford it.

Ask around, and bushmeat is not hard to find. This man, who agreed to speak with us anonymously, says he's the middleman who buys the meat from poachers and takes it to town to re-sell at a small profit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to take care of my family. So I have to risk this to go back to the bush.

MCLEAN: He's well aware of the risk: jail time or a fine he could never afford if he was caught.

(on camera): So what's the lesson in all this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need employment.

MCLEAN: If you could feed your family some other way, you wouldn't do this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I cannot do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That root of the problem is we now must look for alternatives. We must first educate the people to tell them the problem of why bushmeat is not the alternative.

MCLEAN: But that, perhaps, is a tough sell, considering tourism has all but dried up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has, but recent numbers are beginning to show that it's beginning to pick up.

MCLEAN: A glimmer of light that cannot come soon enough.

Scott McLean, CNN, Salvo, Kenya.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: In the coming hours, U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to unveil a new 6-point plan to combat the Delta variant. Officials say he will push for a new vaccine mandate, enhanced COVID testing, and getting (ph) students in classrooms.

This comes as his approval ratings are falling. Officials say President Biden is also encouraging the private sector to encourage more people to get their vaccine shots.

The White House press secretary says the plan builds on established policy.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life. That's what our objective is. So we want to be specific about what we're trying to achieve.

But I would just note that what you're going to hear from the president tomorrow is going to build on some of the steps that the president announced over the course of the last few months.


VAUSE: New cases are three times higher now compared to a year ago in the United States. Johns Hopkins University reports more than 40 million COVID-19 infections in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.

And with that, we'll take a short break. Back in a moment. You're watching CNN.


VAUSE: For the past two decades, the future was looking increasingly hopeful for Afghan women. But that's all come to an end with the Taliban's rise to power and a return to their medieval interpretation of Islam.

Three young women decided that's not the future they want. And like so many others, they decided to flee. Now they're in the UAE, on their way to Canada, where they hope to find the freedoms they have lost while facing an uncertain future.


CNN's Becky Anderson has their stories.



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shekiba was one of Afghanistan's rising stars. Her warm voice and colorful wardrobe a regular feature on Afghan TV.

It was a dream come true for this 23-year-old. Well, now, that dream has turned into a nightmare.

Earlier this month, she fled Afghanistan as life under Taliban rule is no longer safe. Alongside 33 other women, she was evacuated to Abu Dhabi, where she waits before starting a new life in Canada.

TEIMORI: We felt that we have to come out of the country because of our actions. Because we knew Taliban. They have problems with music and especially with women who sing. We just knew that we have to hide ourselves to be saved (ph).

ANDERSON: She is not alone. Zara is a professional cyclist. It's not her real name. She hides her face out of fear for the safety of loved ones left behind. ZARA, CYCLIST: As a girl cyclist, as an athlete, as I grew in my

country (ph), we used to practice. We used to have competitions. And we were happy we were doing our sport. But nowadays, it is really disappointing. It is -- it hurts us, actually.

ANDERSON: She says she and her teammates were at risk back home. She feels lucky, but leaving wasn't easy.

ZARA: My -- I can't reveal my family. And my relatives, my people, they're out there. This is really difficult.

ANDERSON: Rodabe is a member of Afghanistan's prize-winning girls robotic team and an inspiring doctor. For her, leaving home is an opportunity.

The team was a success story of women's empowerment before the Taliban takeover. Now their only hope for success is to make a fresh start outside Afghanistan.

RODABE NOORI, MEMBER OF AFGHAN ALL-GIRL ROBOTICS TEAM: I plan when I get to Canada just to get to university and study STEAM again. So that's my dream. And I wish that we could have a better future.

ANDERSON: In recent days, Afghan women have been bravely and publicly protesting, standing up to Taliban rule. They've been met with violence.

Rodabe, Zara and Shakiba all hope to go back to Afghanistan one day. For now, they represent what the oppressive Taliban regime fear the most: empowered women with a voice.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


VAUSE: Zakira Rasooli fled Afghanistan as the Taliban took control. She is a human rights advocate, co-founder of Afghanistan Unites. And Zakira, thank you so much for being with us.


VAUSE: OK. Well, from Kabul to Herat and across the country, the message and the demand from women is the same. I want you to listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are for this protesting for our human rights. We are here to stop the killing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We demand the international community to respond to the demands of women, and that the voice of each and every Afghan woman and young person is heard all over the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: This is an act of defiance which comes with incredible risk. I wonder, what have your thoughts been in recent days as you've seen women and men protesting across Afghanistan in defiance of the Taliban?

RASOOLI: These protests are led by women, Afghan women actually leading this resistance, leading the way toward freedom, demanding their rights, freedom for the country. Exposing war crimes and -- and the sponsors of these human rights violations in Afghanistan.

Firstly, it's mind-blowing for me. I mean, women, despite knowing that they will not return alive back from these protests, that they will be beaten, they will be shot or kidnapped by the Taliban, they still go out. They still speak. They are not scared of the Taliban.

This shows that women, the gains that they have had in the past 20 years, this is so hard gains. And they are empowered today. And this shows strength in women's leadership, in that you cannot abandon and exclude them.


And I salute to all these men who joined women and join the protests to -- to support, to raise women's voice to protest for women's rights and demanding freedom.

This shows people's stance, that Afghans were not pro-Taliban. This is not a reason that Afghanistan fell into the Taliban's control. People chose their stance, that they're against them and that they want freedom, and dignity, and respect, and their rights.

VAUSE: Here's how the Taliban responded to one protest. CNN reporting Taliban fighters used whips and sticks against a group of women protesting in Kabul on Wednesday, following the announcement of the hardline male-only interim government.

Will whips, sticks, brutality be enough to end these demands that a-- coming from women in Afghanistan? Will it break their spirit?

RASOOLI: I think that is very clear that they -- women, Afghans will not -- will not be scared. And -- and this actually shows Taliban's lack of governance, lack of capability to govern Afghanistan.

How they took over the country using terror, they cannot go on with terror and terrifying people with sticks and gunshots. And -- and slashing women and beating people.

Torture, it only have led to people disrespecting them. And lose belief and trust in their leadership. And that response coming from them is very ridiculous. I mean, for our government, now, I mean, they're in power. Them responding to protests in such manner, using sticks to behave and suppress people?

VAUSE: Yes. You know, like many other countries, the United States says it's closely watching the actions of this Taliban government. Here's the U.S. secretary of state. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The world is determined to see that they make good on that commitment. They've told the world that they intend to uphold the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and girls. We'll be looking very, very carefully at that.


VAUSE: Just very quickly -- we're almost out of time -- but what are -- what's not being seen publicly? What is not being seen across the country?



VAUSE: Just very quickly, what is happening behind closed doors? What's not happening in front of the TV cameras? What is the Taliban doing out of sight? Do you have any reports from the people you know there? Where are they telling you?

RASOOLI: I'm closely in contact with a lot of people in the country. And the situation is very critical, from every aspect.

What you see on the TV, I think right now, at least by now, it's clear to everyone, if this is how they're responding to protests, if this is how they -- I mean, the bombing that happened in Panjshir and how they treat civilians, torture and execute the ones who stand against them.

So -- and also this vacuum of -- of a government that can protect and defend people. There are a lot of people suffering from Taliban's -- how they are, you know, trying -- I mean, they will be doing everything that they want to do. And that will include taking people's property --

VAUSE: Zakira.

RASOOLI: And treating them inhumanely.

VAUSE: Sorry, I just need to jump in, Zakira.

RASOOLI: And doing everything to -- yes.

VAUSE: Thank you so much. I have a hard wrap here. So we appreciate you being with us. We appreciate your thoughts and everything that you have been doing, as well. So thank you so much for taking the time.

RASOOLI: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. I'll be back at the top of the hour. WORLD SPORT is next.