Prioritise human rights in Afghanistan, HRW urges the UN

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the UN Security Council to prioritise human rights, particularly those of women and girls, in its independent assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.

In a letter to Feridun Sinirlioğlu, the UN Special Coordinator on Afghanistan, who is also leading the assessment, HRW emphasized the need to ensure that the voices of survivors of human rights violations are heard during the assessment process.

The UN Security Council in a resolution in March, requested an integrated and independent assessment of the situation in Afghanistan to be conducted and submitted to the council by November 17 of this year. Feridun Sinirlioğlu was appointed as the Special Coordinator to carry out the assessment.

Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director of HRW, highlighted in the letter that the current situation in Afghanistan is one of the most serious women’s rights crises in the world. “The independent assessment could guide a more effective international response to this dire situation, but to do so, it needs to give priority to women and girls and other survivors of rights violations,” she emphasized.

HRW pointed out the Taliban’s recent decision in banning women’s beauty salons and noted that the suppression of women’s rights is overwhelming, adding to the devastating human rights crisis in Afghanistan. “The independent assessment should aim to urgently redirect the international community’s response to the situation in Afghanistan, which so far has been inconsistent, ineffective, and insufficiently focused on human rights,” Barr added.

Human Rights Watch further emphasized that the assessment team should ensure that they hear from people who have personally experienced human rights violations, and the family members and associates of those arbitrarily detained forcibly disappeared, or extrajudicial killed.

The assessment team should actively consult with women’s rights defenders, including women protesters, and also engage with girls, members of Hazara and Shia communities, LGBT people, journalists, and other local humanitarian groups to gather diverse perspectives.

“Afghan women and girls and others suffering under Taliban repression feel abandoned by the world,” Barr said, emphasizing that the independent assessment should not only draw global attention back to Afghanistan but also propose concrete tools to hold the Taliban and other human rights violators accountable.

The Taliban has been widely accused of violating human rights, particularly women’s rights, since returning to power in Afghanistan. The group has banned women from education and work, restricted their ability to travel without a mahram (male guardian), and prohibited them from visiting amusement parks and restaurants.

In the latest development, the Taliban has closed all women’s beauty salons across Afghanistan, citing them as being in violation of Sharia law. Despite international outcry and condemnation, the group has refused to reverse or ease the restrictions.