HRW: Taliban intensified repressive policies against women and media in Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that the Taliban authorities have intensified their extreme restrictions on the rights of women and girls and on the media since taking control of Afghanistan in August 2021.

In a statement on Thursday, HRW stated that the Taliban have denied women and girls their rights to education, work, movement, and assembly. They have also imposed extensive censorship on the media and access to information, and increased detentions of journalists and other critics.

HRW said that Afghanistan has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 28 million people, two-thirds of the population in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has reported that four million people are acutely malnourished, including 3.2 million children under the age of five.

“People in Afghanistan are living a humanitarian and human rights nightmare under Taliban rule,” stated Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at HRW. “The Taliban leadership needs to urgently reject their abusive rules and policies, and the international community needs to hold them accountable for the current crises,” she added.

According to HRW, the Taliban ban on women working for local and international NGOs, including the UN, has severely harmed women’s livelihoods, as it is impossible to determine whether women are receiving assistance if they are not involved in the distribution and monitoring processes.

“The Taliban’s misogynist policies show a complete disregard for women’s basic rights,” Abbasi said. “Their policies and restrictions not only harm Afghan women who are activists and rights defenders but ordinary women seeking to live a normal life.”

HRW emphasized that the donor countries need to find ways to mitigate the ongoing humanitarian crisis without reinforcing the Taliban’s repressive policies against women.

“The Taliban’s severe restrictions on local media, including blocking international media broadcasting, have hampered access to information in Afghanistan,” the statement reads. “No one inside the country can report critical information without fear of arbitrary arrest and detention.”

According to Human Rights Watch, thousands of Afghanistan citizens who fled the country after the Taliban takeover remain in limbo in third countries, including Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Turkey. Many of these individuals are living in dire conditions, with limited access to food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

HRW called on governments engaged with Afghanistan to uphold their responsibility to ensure that Afghans at risk of persecution or harm have meaningful access to legal and safety pathways. “Governments should fulfill their commitments and resettle these at-risk groups as soon as possible.”

HRW also stated that since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Islamic State (ISIS) affiliates have carried out many attacks on schools and mosques, mostly targeting ethnic Hazara Shia, who receive little security protection or access to medical care and other assistance.