Screenshot from UN Web TV

UN Human Rights Council Discusses Taliban’s Human Rights Abuses in Afghanistan

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva discussed the state of human rights in Afghanistan under the Taliban on Monday.

As well representatives from member states, the council meeting was attended by several human rights organisations, and activists from Afghanistan.

Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, briefed the council on his recent report. The report covers the situation of human rights in the country, particularly women and girls.

The report documents 50 edicts by the Taliban against women and girls between September 2021 and May 2023, including repressive measures aimed at banning girls’ education beyond the sixth grade, barring women’s access to higher education and employment, including working for UN agencies, forbidding women in public spaces such as restaurants, gyms, and parks, curtailing women’s rights to peaceful assembly and political and civil participation, and imposing other limitations on women’s public life and freedoms.

Bennett presented key highlights of the report on the worsening human rights situation since the Taliban take over in August 2021 and the resilience and strength of women in the face of repressive conditions.

Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the council that no country in the world had imposed more restrictions on women and girls than the Taliban.

Abbasi said: ” Women are being dismissed from all leadership posts and need to be accompanied by a male guardian while traveling in most provinces of Afghanistan. Women also do not have the right to most employment and are barred from working with international NGOs (except in health care, nutrition, and primary education). 

“Human Rights Watch calls upon governments to continue to express their collective outrage at the denial of fundamental rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and support the local voices of Afghan women inside the country who are still bravely chanting “Bread, Work, Freedom.” 

Shaharzad Akbar, the former chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said the report was a “comprehensive overview of the widespread systematic discrimination facing women and girls in Afghanistan.”

Akbar said that women in Afghanistan are “breathing but not able to do much else without facing restrictions and punishment. Their lives halt still while the lives of men around them move forward. Taliban have turned Afghanistan into a mass graveyard of Afghan women’s and girls’ ambitions, dreams, and potentials.”

“The international community is either passively watching this mass graveyard, at most issuing some statements, or in some cases actively assisting and complying with this,” she added.

Richard Bennett reiterated that the council’s to do everything it can to promote the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Bennett said: “Grave, systematic, and institutionalised discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule which also gives rise to concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid,” Richard noted in his remarks. While Akbar emphasized in her recommendation that the Council and other international bodies should “refrain from any interactions that further normalise Taliban’s gender apartheid.”

He further added that the situation for other marginalised groups, people who resist, former associates under the previous government, and even those who disagree with the Taliban’s ideology, have also deteriorated.

Nasir Andisha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN in Geneva, highlighted that the Taliban regime bans women and girls because of their gender identity and this is an “assault on the fundamental international law”.