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PEN International demands unconditional release of poet from Taliban detention

PEN International, a UK-based association of writers, has raised concerns over the detention of Haseeb Ahrari, a poet from Panjshir province, by the Taliban.

In a statement on Thursday, Pen International demanded Haseeb Ahrari’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as all individuals who have been detained for exercising their rights.

“We call for Haseeb Ahrari’s immediate and unconditional release, along with all those detained for their peaceful expression,” the organisation said.

“Ahrari’s detention is the latest example of the Taliban’s ongoing arbitrary detention of women’s rights activists, journalists, academics and cultural figures.”

The association also cited the cases of Matiullah Wesa, an advocate for girls’ education and the head of the Pen Path organization, and Mortaza Behdoudi, an Afghanistan-born French journalist, as further examples of arbitrary detentions by the Taliban.

Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, Ma Thida, called for Ahrari’s release and an end to the Taliban’s repression of civil society, and said that “In a country with such a rich literary tradition, where poets are cherished by Afghans of all ages, Ahrari’s arrest is a tragic example of how the Taliban’s rule by repression threatens to undermine Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.”

Haseeb Ahrari was arrested by the Taliban at his home in Kabul on June 1, 2023, shortly after returning from Iran.

The motives behind his arrest remain unclear. And the Taliban has not commented.