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Taliban are unreformed rights abusers – NGOs say

7 October 20210 comments

Claims that the Taliban has reformed itself, abandoning brutal punishment practices while becoming inclusive of women and minority groups, have been dispelled by recent events in the provincial city of Herat.

On September 23, Taliban forces hanged the bullet-ridden bodies of four alleged kidnappers in four different corners of the city. One corpse was filmed hanging from a construction crane in the city centre.

Taliban officials told local media the four had been killed in a gun battle after allegedly abducting a local businessman and his son.

Some social media posts agreed it was “lesson” to other would-be criminals but others condemned what they saw as a barbaric act.

Reports from the same city say the Taliban is committing widespread and serious human rights violations against women and girls.

They have instilled fear among women and girls by searching out high-profile women, denying women freedom of movement outside their homes, imposing compulsory dress codes, severely curtailing access to employment and education, and; restricting the right to peaceful assembly.   

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that women who had been employed outside their homes or were students and played active leadership roles in their community have had their lives curtailed.

“They said that immediately after the Taliban’s arrival, they found themselves trapped indoors, afraid to leave their house without a male family member or because of dress restrictions, with their access to education and employment fundamentally changed or ended entirely,” HRW said.

“They said they faced economic anxieties due to lost income and their inability to work. They also faced distress and other mental health consequences as they contemplated an abrupt end to the dreams they had worked toward for many years,” the groups reported.

The BBC reported that Taliban militants in Afghanistan have shot dead a policewoman in a provincial city.

The woman, named in local media as Banu Negar, was killed at the family home in front of relatives in Firozkoh, the capital of central Ghor province.

The incidents are just two among a flood of reports of escalating repression of women in Afghanistan.

The repression also extends to minority groups with the Taliban evicting more than 800 Hazara families from of their homes in remote Gizab district, and in the provinces of Daykundi and Uruzgan in central Afghanistan, reports say.

Residents of the Hazara-dominated farming community in central Afghanistan have said they have been ordered out of their homes by Taliban fighters doing the bidding of Pashtun landlords who want to seize their crops and stores, the reports say.

In Kabul there have been reports of Taliban militants going door-to-door seeking out former Afghan army soldiers, government officials and others and killing or jailing them.

Afghan doctor Abdulatif Stanikzai, now living in Melbourne, says 16 out 19 immediate family members have gone missing after being taken by Taliban fighters.

Another Afghan recently arrived in Melbourne, a former security guard at the Australian embassy in Kabul, says two of his uncles have recently gone missing.

Other reports say that the Taliban has been searching for at women’s rights activists and high-profile women.

An academic active in women’s rights told HRW: “Now when I go out, I have the veil on. I cover my whole body and I try to be very organized not to be recognised because I heard and I see that the Taliban are in a clash with those women and girls who were previously active and civil society activists, and they do not like those women and girls. They consider those women and girls to be not Muslim.”

Protests by Afghan women against Taliban restrictions began in Herat on September 2 have spread to Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

 On September 4, around 100 women gathered in front of the presidential palace – now the Taliban’s command centre in Kabul – carrying banners and chanting slogans for an equal society

Taliban security forces reacted violently to the protests. In Kabul they stopped the women and beat them.

One young protester told international reporters: “We decided to protest to demand our basic rights: the right to education, to work, and political participation. We want the Taliban to know that they cannot eliminate us from society.”

“The Taliban have told us we have no place in the new order. We told them that we want to continue working, but they say only female nurses and teachers are allowed to work. We are engineers and lawyers and we want to work in our professions, but they say we cannot and should stay at home instead,” the protester said.

But the Taliban rise to power has not been smooth. Division within the group are emerging as ideological differences and bored fighters create headaches for the leadership.

Just days after the Taliban announced the make-up of their interim government. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group’s founders and now a deputy prime minister, is reported to have complained that the new cabinet was stacked with conservatives from the old military hardliners from the Haqqani network, a leading faction in the Taliban’s network of allegiances

Khalil Haqqani, minister for refugees and a senior member of the Haqqani clan, is said to have disagreed, saying it was the military hardliners who had delivered victory and should be rewarded. Some reports say the disagreement descended into angry words but others says it led to fist fights and even gunfire as the leaders’ entourages brawled.

Afterwards, Mullah Baradar retired to Kandahar for a few days, leading to speculation that he had been wounded.

Human rights groups have called on the UN to set an inquiry into Afghanistan’s human rights crisis.

HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said: “What we’re already seeing are signs that despite efforts to pretty up the ugly reality, Taliban 2.0 has many of the same deeply disturbing practices as Taliban 1.0”.

“What we’ve found is deeply disturbing,” he said, citing summary executions, forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of former government officials and security personnel.