Human Rights Watch
Photo: KabulNow

Human Rights Watch: Taliban rules through abuse, arbitrary detentions, torture, and summary executions

Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its World Report 2023 on the state of human rights in the world in 2022 has said that, in Afghanistan, the Taliban “continued to impose numerous rules and policies violating a wide range of fundamental rights of women and girls,” and “carried out arbitrary detentions, torture, and summary executions of former security officers and perceived enemies, including security personnel in the former government.”

The report, launched on Wednesday at a press conference in London, focuses on 6 areas in Afghanistan:

·      Women and girls 

·      Economic and humanitarian crises

·      Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and war crimes

·      Attacks by Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP)

·      Freedom of speech and media

·      Key International actors

Women and girls have lost most of the rights they enjoyed before the group’s return to power. From being prohibited to travel without a male companion to being banned from most public and private sector jobs to being banned from secondary and higher education, they are bearing the brunt of Taliban’s repressive rule. 

Furthermore, the HRW reports, that the Taliban has “used excessive force to disperse women engaged in public protests against Taliban policies or rules, arbitrarily detained some protesters and their family members, and allegedly subjected some to torture or beatings.”

With a collapsed economy, Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the Taliban leadership’s recent ban on women aid workers, resulting in aid agencies suspending operations, worsened in 2022, the report states. With the country’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, being unable to carry out its functions providing liquidity into the economy, and the largescale loss of jobs and income for workers and their families, and high inflation were key factors in pushing millions into aid dependency, and made worse “due to a major drought and lack of affordable access to fertilizer, fuel, and other agricultural inputs.” 

In 2022, the HRW says, the Taliban “carried out revenge killings and enforced disappearances of former government officials and security force personnel. They have also summarily executed people they claim are members of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP).” And that those targeted “were forcibly disappeared or killed, in some cases by beheading. In some provinces, Taliban authorities dumped bodies in public areas or hung bodies on streets or intersections as warnings,” the report adds.

In Panjshir, the HRW reports, “the Taliban carried out search operations targeting communities they alleged were supporting the armed opposition group, the National Resistance Front (NRF), detaining and torturing local residents. Authorities also imposed collective punishment and disregarded protections to which detainees are entitled.” 

The HRW report further details the ISKP-claimed attacks across Afghanistan, particularly the deadly attacks on schools and education centres in Hazara areas, which “killed and injured at least 700 people.”

The Taliban, the report says, failed “to provide security to at-risk populations and medical and other assistance to survivors and affected families exacerbated the harm caused by the attacks.”

According to HRW, hundreds of media outlets were forced to close in Afghanistan due to “extensive censorship and violence against Afghan media in Kabul and provinces,” with 80 percent of female journalists losing their jobs or leaving the profession. And the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) “engaged in a pattern of threats, intimidation, and violence against members of the media, and were responsible for targeted killings of journalists.”

The Taliban’s media repression extended to international media outlets too, with Voice of America, BBC and others being banned from operating in the country. 

In March 2022, the UN Security Council passed a resolution extending the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) mandate to continue reporting on human rights conditions in Afghanistan. And the HRW reports that international actors, including the US, the EU, the UK and Japan, “failed to adopt a common and sustained multilateral position and strategy for pressuring the Taliban to change its conduct.”

HRW’s acting Executive Director, Tirana Hassan, told KabulNow that “What we have seen since the fall of Kabul has been a sliding human rights disaster. We are seeing the largest assault on women’s rights in the world. The Taliban are trying to erase women from the visible social fabric of Afghanistan’s society.”

Tirana Hassan speaking to KabulNow at Human Rights Watch World Report 2023 launch press conference in London.

Tirana Hassan said that “There should be accountability and justice for each of the Taliban leaders involved in creating this architecture of oppression. We are calling on the international community to keep the pressure on the Taliban and ensure that we continue to document all the abuses that are taking place.

“The targeted abuse towards particular groups, is actually one of the abuses that continued through 2022 that Human Rights Watch documented. Attacks on minorities, including the Hazara people. We have documented the abuses and persecution and the shutting down of journalists and media institutions across Afghanistan.”

Fereshta Abbasi, the HRW’s Afghanistan researcher, told KabulNow that “By banning women and girls from universities and work, the Taliban are making it clear they have no intention of respecting international commitments on women’s rights. This despicable move confirms what has been clear for months– the Taliban’s intention to erase women from public life. There is no other country in the world in which women’s rights are under greater attack.” 

Fereshta Abbasi talking to the media at Human Rights Watch World Report 2023 launch press conference.

Fereshta Abbasi added that “The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s rights now contribute to Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. We can see that the regulations are causing humanitarian organisations to cease activities. Responsibility here lies with the Taliban. It is the Taliban leadership that is causing Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis to continue, not anyone else.”