The United Nations on Friday condemned the Taliban for its crackdown on protesters and journalists covering the agitations against the insurgent group in Afghanistan.

“We call on the Taliban to immediately cease the use of force towards, and the arbitrary detention of, those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the journalists covering the protests,” Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

The human rights body said that protests had been taking place in Afghanistan since August 15, when the Taliban seized control of Kabul, but the insurgent group banned “unlawful assemblies” on Wednesday.

The insurgent group has banned all protests and slogans against it.

The UN said that the peaceful protesters faced an “increasingly violent response” by the Taliban, including the use of live ammunition, batons and whips.

Shamdasani noted several incidents in which the insurgent group responded to protests with violence.

She said that between August 15 and August 19, the Taliban reportedly killed a man and a boy and injured eight others when it opened fire on protesters to disperse the crowd.

“On Tuesday, this week [September 7], during a protest in Herat, the Taliban reportedly shot and killed two men and wounded seven more,” the statement said. “That same day in Kabul, credible reports indicate that the Taliban beat and detained protesters, including several women and up to 15 journalists.”

Shamdasani said that on Wednesday, at least five journalists were arrested and two severely beaten while covering a protest, mostly consisting of female demonstrators.

The two journalists, Tagi Daryabi and Neamatullah Naqdi, were beaten with iron rods as they were covering the women’s protest. Daryabi told AP that he was beaten for 10 minutes straight.

“I could not think,” he told AP. “I did not know if I would be killed or if I would live.”

The journalist, who has scars on his body, said he would not be deterred by the beatings and will continue to cover protests.

The UN statement also noted the Taliban fired in the air and allegedly beat several protestors in Faizabad city in Badakhshan province on Wednesday. The insurgent group also “violently dispersed” a women’s protest in Kabul and Kapisa and Takhar provinces on the same day.

“We recall that peaceful protests are protected under international human rights law, including under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Afghanistan is a State Party,” the statement said.

The UN said that Afghanistan should have a “safe, enabling and non-discriminatory environment” for human rights to be exercised. These freedoms include the right to assemble peacefully, it added.

It said that journalists reporting on assemblies should not face reprisals or harassment even if the gathering is declared unlawful or is dispersed.

“Rather than banning peaceful protests, the Taliban should cease the use of force and ensure the freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, including as a means for people to voice their concerns and exercise their right to participate in public affairs,” the UN body advised.

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