A new United Nations report said Wednesday that the erosion of women’s rights in Afghanistan had been one of the most notable aspects of the Taliban takeover of the country last August.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, released the report at a news conference in Kabul, saying it was “deeply concerned about the apparent impunity with which human rights violations have been carried out to date” since the country’s abrupt transition to the insurgent-turned-Taliban rule.
“Since 15 August, women and girls have progressively had their rights to fully participate in education, the workplace and other aspects of public and daily life restricted and in many cases completely taken away,” the report lamented.
“The decision not to allow girls to return to secondary school means that a generation of girls will not complete their full 12 years of basic education.”
The Taliban have significantly rolled back women’s rights to work and education, and barred most teenage girls from resuming secondary school, defending their policies as in line with Afghan culture and Shariah or Islamic law. Women working in the public sector have been told to stay at home barring education, health and a couple of other ministries.
“The education and participation of women and girls in public life is fundamental to any modern society. The relegation of women and girls to the home denies Afghanistan the benefit of the significant contributions they have to offer,” said UNAMA Chief Markus Potzel.
Just days after seizing power, the Taliban announced a general amnesty for former Afghan government and security officials in a bid to bring a permanent end to years of hostilities in the country.
“This amnesty does not, however, appear to have been consistently upheld, with UNAMA recording at least 160 extrajudicial killings of former government and security officials by members of the de facto authorities between 15 August 2021 and 15 June 2022,” said Fiona Frazer, the UNAMA chief of human rights.
She added that the Taliban had limited dissent by cracking down on protests and curbing media freedoms, including by arbitrarily arresting journalists, protestors and civil society activists and issuing restrictions on media outlets.
“Human rights violations must be investigated by the de facto authorities, perpetrators held accountable, and ultimately, incidents should be prevented from reoccurring in the future,” Frazer said.
The report largely blamed rights abuses on Taliban intelligence operatives. It said directives issued by the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which interprets and enforces Islamic law, have limited human rights, particularly those of women.
“Although such directives are said to be recommendatory in nature, at times members of the de facto authorities have taken a harsh stance on their implementation, including carrying out physical punishments for alleged infringements of their directives.”
The Taliban have consistently denied allegations of rights abuses against their forces, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. They also dismiss as propaganda charges the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has forced Afghans, including women, to do anything.
“The UNAMA report on human rights in Afghanistan is not true,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted in response to Wednesday’s U.N. findings.
“There is no arbitrarily kill or arrest in the country. If someone kills or arrests arbitrarily, the one is considered criminal and will face the Sharia law. The UNAMA report on this matter is not true, but propaganda.”
The UNAMA report also noted that the armed conflict significantly declined in Afghanistan and so are civilian casualties since the Taliban takeover. However, it noted with concern that continued attacks by Islamic State-linked armed groups have killed 700 civilians and wounded more than 1,400 others since August.