The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in a lightning-fast blitzkrieg and the subsequent protests by a citizenry opposed to a hardline regime are already being regarded by many political commentators as one of the defining moments of 21st-century geopolitics. As such, a photo that has emerged from one such protest in Kabul – portraying the candid spirit of defiance – has now awed the world, with several calling it an 'iconic' photograph that will go down in history.
The photograph, clicked by the Reuters news agency, was shared by Afghan journalist Zahra Rahimi, a correspondent for Tolo News. Hailing the unidentified Afghan woman for "fearlessly" standing face-to-face against a Taliban armed man who pointed a gun to her chest, Rahimi shared the photograph from her official handle on Twitter on Tuesday.
Several netizens commenting below the photograph saluted the woman for her "bravery", but also expressed concern over the fact that any attempts at identifying the woman might lead to potential retribution from the Taliban.
The Taliban announced the constitution of its new regime in the war-torn nation of Afghanistan on Tuesday, a cabinet from which women were conveniently left out, despite earlier promises from the group that will play a "prominent role" in the new Afghan society. There was no mention of a ministry for women either, and Taliban spokespersons only said that the matter is under further consideration.
Meanwhile, as the Taliban transition from militant force to governing power, they face a growing number of protests against their rule, that have emerged across the country over the past week with many Afghans fearful of a repeat of the Taliban's previous brutal and oppressive reign from 1996 to 2001.
Hundreds gathered at several rallies in Kabul on Tuesday, where Taliban guards fired shots to disperse the crowds.
In Herat, hundreds marched, unfurling banners and waving the Afghan flag - a black, red, and green vertical tricolour with the national emblem overlaid in white - with some chanting "freedom". Later, two bodies were brought to the city's central hospital from the site of the protest, a doctor in Herat told AFP on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
"They all have bullet wounds," he said.
Demonstrations have also been held in smaller cities in recent days, where women have demanded to be part of a new government.
The Taliban, on its part, has warned the public against taking to the streets, adding that journalists should not cover any demonstrations. The group - which executed people in stadiums and chopped the hands of thieves in the 1990s - has said it would not stand for any resistance against its rule.