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Taliban Releases Women’s Rights Activist After Three Months of Captivity

The Taliban has released Zhulia Parsi, a leading women’s rights activist, and her son, who were arrested from their home in Kabul on September 27th.

Ms. Parsi was leading the Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women in the city, where she and her colleagues organized peaceful protests against the discriminatory treatment and deprivations experienced by women and girls under Taliban rule.

According to the sources, the Taliban have imposed several restrictions on Ms. Parsi upon her release. These include a ban on media interviews and a requirement for both her and her son to visit local Taliban authorities weekly.

Last week, the Taliban released Neda Parawni, another women’s rights activist, alongside her husband and child, following four months of detainment. Reports indicate Ms. Parawni’s health significantly deteriorated during her captivity, necessitating immediate hospitalization upon release.

At least two women rights activists, Manizha Seddiqi and Parisa Azada, are remaining in Taliban custody. Ms. Seddiqi, affiliated with the Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women, was detained in Kabul on September 24th. Meanwhile, Parisa Azada, a member of the Women’s Movement for Freedom and Justice, was apprehended by Taliban intelligence agents on November 14th in Kabul. A Human Rights Watch report suggests additional unnamed activists are also being held by the Taliban.

Human rights organizations and defenders have been vocally demanding the release of detained women rights defenders. On International Human Rights Day, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, urged the Taliban to release all detained human rights activists, especially the women activists apprehended since September 2023. He emphasized that nobody should face detention simply for advocating for human rights.

In its latest report on human rights in the country, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed concern over the increasingly severe restrictions imposed on women by the Taliban. “The de facto authorities continue to arrest human rights defenders, particularly women’s rights activists and media workers, without disclosing reasons,” the report noted. UNAMA urged the Taliban to guarantee access to healthcare, family visits, and legal representation for all detainees. “UNAMA reiterates that freedom of opinion and expression must be upheld, in accordance with international human rights obligations,” the organization stated.

Since seizing power, the Taliban has implemented sweeping restrictions on women and girls, effectively barring them from education, employment, and public life with few exceptions. Women are mandated to adhere to a strict Islamic dress code and are required to be accompanied by male guardians when traveling. These restrictions extended to leisure activities, with women banned from parks and public baths, reflecting the Taliban’s stringent interpretation of Islamic law.