Taliban arrest education campaigner in Kabul
Photo: Social Media

Taliban arrest of education activist draws widespread reactions

The Taliban arrest of education activist and campaigner, Matiullah Wesa, has drawn widespread reactions, mainly from UN agencies and European Union (EU). The UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennet and Afghanistan’s head of UN mission also reacted to his arrest.

The education activist has been reportedly arrested by the Taliban on Monday. Early on Monday’s morning he and his Pen Path organization posted a video on Twitter in which a large group of women are standing in three rows and chant slogans for women’s education while holding banners in hands.

Wesa is the founder of the Pen Path, an organization comprised of volunteer education activists which was established in 2009. In addition to creating public libraries, collecting books, and launching mobile schools, the organization has been actively campaigning for girls education ever since the Taliban banned secondary education for girls in March 2022.

Richard Bennet said on Tuesday he was “alarmed” by reports that the Taliban have arrested Matiullah Wesa, an education campaigner who has actively raised voices for reopening girls schools in Afghanistan. “His safety is paramount & all his legal rights must be respected,” Bennet said in a tweet.

Wesa’s brother told TOLONews that he was arrested by the Taliban but the group has denied his arrest.

Raffaella Iodice, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Afghanistan, expressed Wesa’s arrest as “shocking” adding that he must be released. “He is a man loving his country and transparently working for education,” she said about the education campaigner, posting a photo of her meeting with Wesa in January.

Chargé d’Affaires of Afghanistan Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Naseer Ahmad Fayeeq, called on the UN mission in the country, UNAMA, to spare no efforts for his release. “He is a true patriot serving his people through advocacy & supporting education for all,” he asserted.

The UNAMA called on the Taliban to clarify his whereabouts and the reasons for his arrest.

Human Rights Watch’s Afghanistan Researcher, Fereshta Abbasi, called for the immediate release of Wesa and urged the Taliban to stop arbitrary detention of activists.

The Taliban’s bans on women’s education and work sparked protests in Afghanistan but the group has only responded with the arrest of protesters and education activists.

In latest case, the Taliban forces arrested three women on Sunday after dispersing a women protest who were marching the street in Kabul calling for women’s right to education, work, and freedom.

Previously, the group had arrested Ismail Mashal, a university lecturer, on charges of encouraging the people against its government while he was campaigning for women’s education on Kabul streets. He was, however, released a month later.