At least four killed in Taliban crackdown on protests, says UN

Human rights official says group conducting house-to-house searches and threatening journalists

The Taliban’s violent crackdown on protests against their hardline rule has already led to four documented deaths, according to a UN human rights official who said the group had used live ammunition, whips and batons to break up demonstrations.

Ravina Shamdasani, the UN’s rights spokesperson, told a briefing in Geneva that it had also received reports of house-to-house searches for those who participated in the protests.

The protests against the Taliban’s return to power, many of which have been led by women fearful of their status under the Islamist group, have been the target of violence in a number of locations and were formally banned this week without prior authorisation by the Taliban’s new interior ministry.

Intimidation

Describing the crackdown on dissent as “severe”, Shamdasani also described how journalists covering the demonstrations had faced intimidation, including in one case the threat of “beheading”, apparently a reference to an incident in which two Afghan journalists were detained, flogged and threatened earlier this week.

“We have seen a reaction from the Taliban, which has unfortunately been severe,” Shamdasani said. “In one case, one journalist was reported to have been told, as he was being kicked in the head, ‘You are lucky you haven’t been beheaded’. Really there has been lots of intimidation of journalists simply trying to do their job.

“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,” Shamdasani said.

The UN's comments follow increasing concern over the deteriorating human rights environment in Afghanistan since the Taliban swept to power last month in the midst of the US-led withdrawal of foreign forces.

Despite public assurances on media freedom, women’s rights and freedom of expression, the Taliban have rapidly moved to crack down on burgeoning opposition to their return, not least demonstrations that have sprung up in a number of cities. – Guardian