The U.N. rights leader has sharply criticized the Taliban, who took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, for their “alarmingly oppressive” treatment of women and girls. The group regained control after battling the Western-supported government for two decades. Since then, they have significantly curtailed the liberties of women and girls, including prohibitions on education and employment.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, expressed to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, “The state of human rights in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly, deeply impacting millions, irrespective of gender or age. The extreme suppression faced by Afghan women and girls is heart-wrenchingly severe.”
This return to power by the Taliban came after the U.S. administration led by President Biden made a contested decision to withdraw. This move witnessed tragic events, including an ISIS-initiated suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 13 U.S. soldiers. Moreover, a flawed U.S. drone operation led to the unfortunate death of 10 Afghan civilians in Kabul. Despite the criticisms, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the withdrawal, emphasizing the commitment of the U.S. to ensure the Taliban upholds women’s and girls’ rights.
In response to these allegations, the Taliban claim they adhere to women’s rights in line with their understanding of Islamic law and regional traditions.
This criticism from Turk is concurrent with a U.N. report spanning March 2022 to August 2023. The report highlighted a noticeable decline in the rule of law and human rights, particularly concerning the rights of women and girls. The documented violations list 324 incidents of violence towards women and girls, including instances of ‘honor killings’, physical assaults, and forced underage marriages.
The report refrained from comparing these figures with those under the governance of U.S.-endorsed President Ashraf Ghani. Yet, it’s worth noting that such incidents were not rare in the nation’s recent past.
It also detailed recurrent situations where women faced harassment or physical assault by Taliban authorities at checkpoints for not appropriately wearing the hijab or were sent back from markets without a male “mahram” (guardian) accompanying them.
In 2021, the 47-member Human Rights Council appointed a U.N. independent investigator to scrutinize rights infringements in Afghanistan. There’s an expectation within the European Union to extend this mandate in the ongoing Geneva session set to conclude on October 13.