Taliban accused of ‘dismantling’ rights and protections in Afghanistan

Taliban’s attempt to portray itself as a reformed group ‘a cover’ for its repression

 Taliban fighters  keep watch at the Kabul zoo on September 17th: a new report details a  number of atrocities carried out by the Taliban. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP

Taliban fighters keep watch at the Kabul zoo on September 17th: a new report details a number of atrocities carried out by the Taliban. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP


Three human rights organisations have accused the Taliban of “systematically dismantling” rights and protections accorded by Afghanistan’s ousted government over the previous 20 years.

In the 29-page report released on Tuesday , to coincide with the opening of the UN General Assembly, Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture say the Taliban had promised “a general amnesty for all previous government workers, respect [for] women’s rights in accordance with their interpretation of Sharia law, and that journalists would be protected”.

Soon after the takeover of Kabul, in a bid to show the Taliban had evolved from the harsh policies adopted when it ruled between 1996-2001, a Taliban commander gave an interview to a Tolo news female anchor – “days later [she] fled Afghanistan fearing for her life”, the report reveals.

The Taliban “attempted to portray themselves as a reformed group that acknowledges a semblance of human rights and freedom of expression [but these assurances] are only a cover for a regression to their earlier regime of repression.”

Shot dead

“Human rights defenders, women politicians, former government workers and religious and ethnic minorities face heightened risks,” the report says.

It details a number of atrocities. Pregnant ex-police officer Banu Negar, popular comedian Nazar Mohammed, and folk singer Fawad Andarabi were shot dead. The country’s first female mayor, Zarifa Ghafari, “told the media that the Taliban had searched for her, confiscated her car and beaten up her guards. She has now left Afghanistan”.

Female judges and prosecutors have come under threat from both the Taliban and men imprisoned for murder or domestic violence and freed from prison by the Taliban, the report states. Women’s right to work is being denied in factories producing food, banks and elsewhere, while men are told to take their jobs. Co-education has been banned.

Although some girls have returned to primary schools and universities, “the Taliban announced that boys would begin secondary, high school and religious school [from September 18th] but made no mention of when girls would begin”. The report points out that girls were previously banned “from attending schools past the age of eight”.

Violently repressed

The report says that “while some protests were allowed to continue peacefully, some were violently repressed by the Taliban”, and protesters and journalists were injured. Aysha, a journalist who fled Afghanistan, “described how journalists who had been arrested and detained by the Taliban while covering protests, were beaten brutally, so much so that they were unable to walk”.

According to the report, “The Taliban and armed groups have engaged in large-scale door-to-door searches, forcing human rights defenders into hiding, and moving clandestinely from one place to another.”

The authors of the report conclude by saying, “The incidents of human rights violations documented in this report are merely a small selection of incidents taking place in Afghanistan.”

In response to criticism, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has urged the international community to recognise the current government before it addresses concerns over human rights.