Law students and young lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul reports on how the human rights situation in the country continues to deteriorate. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding our Correspondent’s name. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
Since retaking control in Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have made human rights conditions worse. The Taliban Supreme Leader formally ordered restrictions on Afghan social and political life, which led to illegitimate detentions, torture, and arbitrary arrests. By publicly humiliating those who commit crimes like theft or engage in relationships that go against social norms, as the Taliban perceive Sharia Law, the number of extrajudicial killings has substantially increased. Women and children’s lives are limited, and national and international organizations addressing human rights especially in favor of women and children have been closed by the Taliban.
After the Taliban takeover on August 15, 2021, and June 15, 2022, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (AMA) documented at least 237 extrajudicial executions. The UN documented at least 69 further extrajudicial executions, mostly of former members of the National Security Forces, in December 2022; 48 of these deaths took place in Panjshir province between September 12 and September 14 of the same year.
Inhumane punishment – The Taliban’s guidelines and policies for handling crimes in Afghanistan differ significantly from those of the former Islamic Republic. Hundreds of men and women have reportedly been publicly punished for offenses like theft, illegitimate relationships, and those who the Taliban believed stood against the country’s social laws and regulations, according to human rights organizations and UNAMA, mostly in sports stadiums. In December 2022, in the presence of their deputy prime minister and ministers., the Taliban carried out their first public execution since they seized power in Farah province
UNAMA recorded at least 237 extrajudicial executions between the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021 and 15 June 2022. In December, the UN reported at least another 69 extrajudicial killings primarily of NRF members, 48 of which had occurred between 12 and 14 September in Panjshir province.
Freedom of speech – Afghanistan’s media landscape has seen a significant transformation. The Taliban regulations have caused the majority of local media, including radios, newspapers, TV stations, and journals, to shut down. In reaction to reporting that opposed the Taliban, journalists have been subjected to increasing restrictions, including arbitrary arrest, arbitrary incarceration, and torture, which caused many of them to practice self-censorship. While in custody, journalists experienced beatings and other sorts of abuse. Many journalists fled the country. Female television journalists were compelled to hide their faces almost entirely.
Human rights activists no longer have a place to record and report abuses of human rights. Independent human rights advocates and civil society organizations are unable to operate freely throughout the country. Different Taliban factions still use violence or have outlawed peaceful protests and gatherings.
Women’s rights – One of the Taliban’s initial moves was to dissolve the Ministry of Women Affairs and replace it with the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which has a reputation for implementing harsh laws against women. Despite numerous international discussions, girls are still not allowed to attend secondary schools or higher, and universities are not open to women.
Recently, even UN agencies have been prohibited from hiring or employing women. Women who work in public administrations are pressured to resign or leave their jobs. Currently no women work in any Taliban government agency. Already a poor country, these policies are affecting Afghanistan’s worsening economic situation and leaving no income for families whose female members are the only financial supporter.
The Taliban have retaliated against women who voiced their opposition to these limitations in public or on social media by beating, arresting them, and holding them without legal justification, and even arresting their family members. The applicability of former Islamic Republic law still remains uncertain.
All of the men in charge of the judicial and prosecution systems have solely received training in Sharia law. It is alleged that no Taliban court or other prosecuting agency is hearing women’s petitions, thus destroying women’s access to justice.
Public impunity – Local and international reports indicate that the Taliban carries out extrajudicial executions while there was a general climate of impunity, despite having entirely destroyed the legal system. International and national human rights organizations have seriously questioned the independence of the judicial and prosecutorial institutions. The Taliban courts do not handle extrajudicial executions, and those who carry them out still receive praise.